It might seem logical that if you want to increase your strength and running speed, hand weights will do the trick. After all, if you get used to training while lugging around excess weight, you're sure to take off like a shot when you drop those weights. While carrying weights when running will strengthen your forearms, shoulders and biceps, most experts agree that there are better ways to increase intensity and challenge yourself when running.
Advice Against Running With Hand Weights
Carrying heavy weights in your hands when you run can alter your stride and affect your running style. The way you swing your arms when you run is directly connected to the length of the strides you take, so the heavier your arms are, the more likely you are to overstride. Also, holding hand weights when running or walking can increase blood pressure, making it a dangerous practice for anyone with heart disease or hypertension. And there's always the consideration of the stress that carrying additional weight can put on your wrists, elbows and shoulders.
There are a few benefits that hand weights can add to running, provided you don't have a medical or physical condition that would keep you from using them. Carrying hand weights when running increases the amount of energy you use, so it can increase the intensity of your run, improving your arm strength and endurance and boosting your metabolism. Also, if you're a sprinter, the strength that training with hand weights can add to your upper body will help you at the end of a race when you pour on the speed and need to pump your arms effectively.
If You Must
If you feel the need to carry hand weights when running, carry light weights, no more than 3 pounds. Hand grips that are adjustable and can have weight added or taken off are a useful option, as are plastic water containers. You can fill them up to the weight you desire with water or your favorite sports drink for a double benefit.
If intensity and strength building is what you're looking for, consider wearing a weighted vest during your run. They're especially effective when used for running and are cool and thin, so they won't cause you to overheat during your workout. Another benefit is that these weighted vests are adjustable, so you can increase and decrease the amount of weight you run with as necessary.
- American Council on Exercise: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks if Individuals Hold Dumbbells in Their Hands While Doing Step Aerobics or Other Cardio Activities?
- Runners World: Running With Hand or Ankle Weights
- Ultimate Training; Gary Null, Ph.D. and Howard Robins, M.D.
- Essentials of Exercise Physiology; William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch and Victor L. Katch
- American Council on Exercise: Hyper Vest Pro
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.