Strength Training For Runners – The 7 Weight Training Exercises you Need

Flickr - Ron Sombilon

As a runner, strength training is crucial, especially if you’re serious about reaching your full potential. I cannot emphasize this enough!

Why should you lift things up and put them down?

Let me start with my personal experience. As a runner, sticking to a regular strength training program has helped me get faster, fitter and less prone to injury.

Also, as I look around, some of the fittest and healthiest runners I know happen to be regular strength nuts.

When I used to do nothing but run, my endurance was okay, but I also had the upper strength of 10-year old. I couldn’t pick a fairly heavy object even if my life depended on it.

Not only that, as I got serious about running, I started suffering from a slew of overuse injuries. Fortunately, most of these subsided once I committed myself to a regular strength program.

Beyond my personal experience, there’s plenty of research that backs up my claim.  For example, one study published by the National Strength & Conditioning Association showed that weight lifting strengthens the muscles and joints, which, in turn, builds proper form, improves running time, and reduces injury risks. What’s not to like?

The Right Strength Training Strategy for Runners

The primary goal of a strength training routine for runners is to increase power and strength in the muscles of the lower body. These include the shins, calves, and plantar muscles.

I’m not implying you ignore the core and upper body. In fact, you need to train them as hard and as often as you do the lower body.  Well, balanced strength approach will help you build proper form, increase training efficiency, and reduce injury risk.

STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNERS – THE WEIGHT WORKOUT ROUTINE YOU NEED

Here are the seven strength exercises that every runner should do.

Try adding this powerful routine into your easy or cross-training days. The workout will take roughly 45 minutes to complete and can be done twice a week. That’s a small amount of time to invest for a big payoff.

I’ve also provided you with YouTube tutorials showing you exactly how to do each exercise. Proper form is king!

  1. Planks

I always ignored core work. Such a bore. I mean, who wants to do crunches all day long? But I found that as I increased my mileage, I would start to slouch later in my run. That’s when I knew I could no longer ignore proper core work, so I set out to find some exercises that weren’t boring.

One of the core exercises that ended up becoming a staple in my training was the plank. It’s one of the best core exercises because it targets every aspect of the core, as well as the lower back and shoulders.

Proper Form

  1. Lie on your stomach
  2. Prop yourself up on your elbow with feet slightly apart, toes hip distance apart with shoulders directly above the elbows
  3. Aim to straighten your whole body, so it’s forming a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
  4. While engaging your core and keeping a straight line (your butt should not stick up in the air), hold the position for 30 seconds to a full minute.

As you get stronger, you should gradually add more time. You can also make it more challenging for yourself by placing a weight plate on your back.

  1. Russian Twists

The Russian twist targets a bunch of muscles, including the abs, obliques, lower back and your hamstrings as well. You can use a medicine ball or a plate for extra resistance.

Proper Form

  1. Grab a weight, then lie on your back with your upper legs perpendicular to the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Hold the weight in front of your body while keeping your back straight.
  3. Twist your torso as far as you can to the right side, tap the weight on the floor, then reverse your motion to the other side.
  4. Overhead Lunges

The overhead lunge targets the whole body—quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and core muscles. It’s the perfect fit-it-all-in move, so it’s great if you’re pressed for time.

It also increases flexibility and mobility in your hip flexors.

Proper Form

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells or a weighted bar above your shoulder, with your arms straight, and your elbow locked, feet shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent.
  2. While holding the weight directly overhead, step forward with your right leg into a deep lunge position, bending both your knees.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. That’s one repetition.

Do 12 steps on each side to complete one set.

  1. Air Squats

Bodyweight squats are some of the best strength exercises you can do.  These should be an integral part in any runner’s strength-oriented training program.

Squats target a lot of running-specific muscles. They are convenient to do, and can easily be added to your post-run routine.

Proper Form

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart with your toes facing forward
  2. With your arms out in front at shoulder height, squat down by bending your knees, leaning forward at the waist while keeping your back flat and your knees tracking behind your toes
  3. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  4. Press up through your heels to return to starting position.
  5. Single-Leg Deadlifts

The single-leg deadlift is the ideal slow-burn move for building strong hamstrings and glutes, which can help you tackle steep hills with ease. This exercise can also improve your balance and boost your stability.

Proper Form

  1. Start by holding two dumbbells or a weighted bar in front of your body.
  2. While standing tall, shift your weight to your right foot
  3. Hinge forward by slightly bending your right knee and raising your left foot behind you in line with your torso, letting the weights hang down
  4. Lower the weight while keeping it close to the tops of the legs.
  5. Once the weight goes past your knee, pause, then return to the starting position.
  6. The Pistol

Also known as the one-legged squat, the pistol is a powerful squat variation that builds strength and balance in your lower body.

Note: if you have issues with lower body flexibility or mobility, use a chair or a bench for the assisted pistol option. That’s how I got pretty decent at doing pistols.

Proper Form

  1. Standing tall, balance on your right foot,
  2. Squat down by bending at the knee and sitting your hips back.
  3. Once your right knee is at about a 90-degree angle, push back up by extending your leg to starting position.

Strength Training for Runners – The Upper Body Workout

  1. Rotational Shoulder Press

This move is ideal for targeting your upper body muscles, with the emphasis on the shoulder and core muscles.

Proper Form

  1. While standing tall with your feet hip-width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders.
  2. As you press the weights up with your right hand, rotate your body to the right side.
  3. Lower the weights to your shoulder as you rotate back to the center, then rotate to the left as you press your left again upward this time.

Please feel free to comment below and send me all of your questions.

Thank you for your attention.

Image Credit: Ron Sombolion Via Flickr

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems
    as though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You definitely know what youre talking about,
    why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening
    to read?

  2. Great tutorial! I love the videos to show the proper form and I love the 3 Sample Workouts. I printed them off and will definite use them. I am working with a trainer in the gym and he has me do many of these exercises. I’m just starting to run and because I’ve had Achilles Tendon injury in the past, I’m really interested in exercises that will strengthen me so that as I increase my running I don’t subject myself to further injury.

    I’ve also signed up for the updates. Thanks!

  3. Great tutorial, David
    I’m really interested in exercises that will strengthen me so that as I increase my running. Thank you very much for the training tips.

  4. Hi David,

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post of suggested exercises.

    I really appreciate the guidance as having this full structure with not only the exercises, but the suggested workout sessions as well is unbelievably helpful. The videos are also a must as a visual representation of the exercises will be much more helpful than written instructions to 99% of the viewing public. Any complaints about the inclusion of videos are silly at best and possible troll behavior at worst.

    Thank you again for this post. I am looking forward to getting started.

  5. Hi. Great article, I stumbled upon this on Pinterest. How many times a week would you recommend doing these workouts during marathon training? I’m at a volume of 40-60 miles per week.
    Thank you.

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