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person training to become a stronger runner

Strength Training for Runners

If you want to run stronger, faster and maintain healthy joints all the way to the finish line and beyond, it’s time to start lifting.

When we focus on building lean muscle and strong foundations, we improve running efficiency, stamina, posture and prevent injuries.

Whether you’re a big fan of training at home or you’d prefer to hit up the gym, the good news is strength for runners can be done anywhere.

What’s not to love?

What Is Strength Training for Runners?

Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight lifting, increases load to the joints and muscles which builds muscular strength. To build muscular endurance we would perform higher repetitions with lighter weights. We’re greedy (in a good way) so we want to do both.

Resistance training strengthens the muscles and connective tissues which improves both the mobility and stability of the joints. Strong joints equal happy runners (think healthy knees and hips).

An effective strength training for runners programme will be simple and repetitive. Once you get started, you’ll notice how quickly your body adapts to exercises (thank you neuroplasticity). So when exercises start to feel ‘easy’ we add extra resistance or single leg work into the mix to keep things challenging (and fun). Running and lifting weights is a recipe for success.

Benefits Of Strength Training for Runners

Weight training for runners can improve both running performance as well as longevity. You get two for the price of one!

Benefits of a consistent strength training routine:

  • Prevent injuries and improve posture
  • Sustain healthy joints and increase bone density
  • Build mental resistance
  • Boost power and speed
  • Work your coordination
  • Enhance neuroplasticity and neuromuscular adaptation

Running uses more joints than you might think to get you from A to B. So training compound exercises can be beneficial for working multiple joints at the same time which develops numerous muscle groups. Think squats, deadlifts, push ups, pullups.

And if you really want to go for gold, add unilateral compound exercises into your weekly routine to iron out any imbalances and work on your stability and coordination. Think single leg romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, step ups, lunges. These can be a little bit tricky at times, but remember this is as much a mind game as it is a physical challenge. You can do this.

How much strength training do runners need to do?

Tell a runner to lift weights every day and they’ll probably run a mile (or five), but fear not strength training for runners only needs to take up about 2-3 sessions per week. The main piece of the puzzle is consistency.

Depending on your lifestyle and running schedule you can do 2-3 full body strength sessions per week (up to 30-40 mins) or 3-4 little and often strength sessions (up to 20 mins) focusing on load rather than volume.

Consistency is the most important aspect before anything else. Find a buddy to train with and you can laugh, cry and sweat together (maybe not in that order).

When Should Runners Do Strength Training Workouts?

Whether you come alive in the morning or at night, the time of day you train is up to you, but always aim to run first and complete your strength session after. Keep the strength sessions separate from those long run days or days when you might wear a running weight vest so that your body can fully recover.

Rest is key. Park your trainers and give them the night off. You’ll see them again in the morning.

Basic Equipment for Strength Training Workouts

Strength exercises for runners is all about mastering the basics. You need your bodyweight and a few pieces of equipment to get started. It’s a good idea to take it step by step, especially if it’s your first time lifting weights.

Before you add resistance to an exercise, practise it bodyweight first. Do everything with intention (this is a game changer!). Once you’re confident with the exercise, you can increase the load.

Basic Equipment: free weights dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, long and looped resistance bands, ab wheel roller and sliders.

In the beginning you can start with 3 sets x 10 reps for each exercise. As you get stronger, you can increase the load and drop the rep range. Maybe add an extra set if you’re feeling fancy.

Strength Training Plans for Runners

We like our programmes the way we like our bodies, balanced. A good training plan will have a healthy mix of anterior and posterior-chain exercises with room for progression.These exercises can be done with free weights or resistance bands. Ideally one or the other, or both for a super spicy session (proceed with caution).

Lower Body Compound exercises

  • Squats
  • Good Mornings
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Lateral Lunges
  • Step Ups

Upper Body Compound Exercises

  • Pull ups
  • Push ups
  • Bent Over Row
  • Incline Back Extensions

Core

Bands, sliders and ab wheel rollers provide a great core workout for runners. Your core is a network of muscles that loop around the spine, pelvis and hips all the way up to your chest. It
is an energy transfer system that stabilises you as you run.

Core workout for runners:

  • Straight arm plank (isometric)
  • Bear Crawls (dynamic)
  • Reverse table tap resistance band
  • Mountain Climbers with Slider
  • Ab Wheel Roll out (intermediate)

Power and Speed:

Extra cool exercises for the over-achiever:

Single leg band hip flexion – Increases strength of the hip flexors and builds speed and power which translates to your fastest run ever
Slant board squat for bulletproof knees – Train your knees through their full range of motion for joints that can handle impact
Sled Drags (forwards and backwards) – Incredible leg workout for running and building strong hips and power

Remember, this isn’t all about the gains, your core is a 360 degree power house and strengthening your trunk is a vital piece of the puzzle to become a bullet-proof runner. A balanced diet coupled with a simple resistance training routine can see improvement in speed, power, balance and endurance in a matter of weeks.

Now you know your body will be in tip-top racing condition, you’re right on time to book in some races for the 2022-23 season.

Share the excitement!

A born mover, Jax spent her childhood dabbling in dancing, cycling and martial arts. Based in London, Jax spends more time on her hands than her feet! Daily handstands are her ritual and she’s currently brushing up on her gymnastic skills. Jax loves nothing more than educating people to become stronger, healthier and more confident versions of themselves.

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