Attention, runners seeking to unleash their inner powerhouse! Get ready to dive headfirst into the ultimate treasure trove of weight training wisdom specifically designed to elevate your running game!
In this post, I’m about to unravel the full-fledged guide that will revolutionize the way you approach weight training. Get ready to embark on a journey thatwill take you from novice to seasoned pro, leaving no stone unturned.
By the time we cross the finish line, your mind will be filled with an abundance of knowledge.
Brace yourself to discover the incredible benefits of weightlifting tailored to runners like yourself.
We’ll explore the latest cutting-edge research, unveiling the secrets behind strength training as the ultimate shield against those pesky injuries that threaten to derail your running dreams.
Let’s get started.
What’s Strength Training?
Imagine yourself as a runner on a long-distance race. You’ve been training for months, but as you hit the halfway mark, you feel the fatigue setting in. Your muscles ache, your form starts to falter, and your pace slows down. But what if I told you that there’s a way to break through that plateau and reach your running goals faster? Enter strength training.
Strength training is the secret weapon for runners looking to improve their speed, efficiency, and endurance. It involves using external resistance, such as weights or resistance bands, to challenge your muscles to adapt and get stronger. And the benefits are not just limited to physical performance.
Research on Strength Training for runners And Injury Prevention
Studies have shown that weightlifting can reduce injury risks and fix muscle imbalances caused by the repetitive motion of running.
In fact, a study published by the National Strength & Conditioning Association found that weightlifting strengthens muscles and joints, leading to proper form, improved running time, and reduced injury risks. Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning revealed that exercises like squats and single-leg hops not only help reduce injury risks but also improve performance.
But that’s not all. Strength training can also help you burn more calories. Many runners turn to running as a means of weight loss, but as their bodies adapt, they start burning fewer calories. Incorporating strength training into your routine can help increase your lean muscle mass, which in turn boosts your body’s ability to shed more calories.
Resistance training puts stress on your body, forcing it to adapt to boost its ability to withstand the extra load.
Over time, with regular training, these stress-induced adaptations can have an enormous impact on your running speed, efficiency, and endurance.
So, for instance, the stronger your leg muscles get, the more force you can generate on each stride and the more distance you can travel on each foot strike.
Plus, stronger shoulders and arms are essential in increasing your speed and form efficiency.
Fix Muscle Imbalances
Running is one-directional action, meaning it works some muscles more than others, leading to the onset of muscle imbalances.
This places excessive pressure on ligaments and tendons, reducing stride efficiency, limiting running economy, and increasing the risks of injury.
Research shows that, often than not, many runners nagging issues, such as shin splints, runners knee, Achilles tendinitis, etc., stem from muscle imbalances.
With all that being said, the good news is, as little as six weeks of proper weight training can reduce, or completely alleviate knee pain, according to a study.
Burns More Calories
Many runners took up running as means of weight loss. And as my experience dictates, running is helpful for shedding the pounds—especially during the first few months of training.
That said, once your body gets used to running (especially if you lack variety in your training), it’ll start to burn fewer calories.
For that reason, you might want to back up your running for weight loss training with a well-rounded and intense strength training schedule.
As a matter of fact, by increasing your lean muscle mass, you’ll boost your body’s ability to shed more calories.
Build Stronger Bones
In addition to helping you prevent injury, improve running performance, build muscle, and lose fat, weight lifting also improves bone density.
This can be typically measured using a DEXA scan, which is similar to an x-ray but more thorough.
But how does strength training make bones stronger?
It’s actually quite simple.
By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density, therefore, reducing the risks of bone-related issues.
This is especially the case for us runners as stress fractures—a common overuse injury—is every runner’s worst nightmare.
For the full scope on a stress fracture, check my full guide here.
Have you ever tried running without using your arms? It’s not a good idea.
Swinging your arms faster automatically increases your step frequency, and vice versa.
We pump our arms as we run, and the stronger our arms are, the more powerful the forward drive, and the faster we move forward.
That’s no secret.
Be More Efficient
Running doesn’t just involve relying on the leg for forward propulsion, but we’re also using our core, back, arms, shoulders, and chest to balance and improve efficiency.
When the legs are exhausted, we use the upper body more because of the kinetic chain.
Everything is working together in one interlocked system.
Your running form can ultimately make or break you as a runner.
That’s why if you can’t hold proper form throughout your runs, you’ll never reach your full running potential.
Improving your upper body strength can make your posture more efficient and help you keep a consistent form, especially as fatigue starts to set in.
Fortunately, improving upper-body strength can upgrade your technique and help you keep consistent form.
Signs of a bad form may include:
- Rounding the shoulders,
- Shrugging the shoulder near the ears,
- Holding on to tension,
- Swinging the arms too widely,
- Holding a cell phone or water bottle,
But when you keep your posture straight, head held high, shoulder loose and square, and your arms functioning properly, you’ll ensure that you won’t get hurt.
A stronger upper body, especially a well-developed back, and core muscles help protect your spine from the impact of running.
Additional Resource – Here’s another strength training program for runners to check out
It Requires Little Time
You don’t need to train like an elite bodybuilder or CrossFitter to reap the benefits of strength training.
In fact, all you need is no more than a 30- to 45-minute session two to three times per week, to reap the benefits of strength training as a runner.
Here is the full guide on starting strength training for runners.
Note: Strength training should be performed according to your fitness level and training goals.
For that reason, you need to opt for a well-rounded strength program designed specifically to meet your running needs.
This is why a sprinter strength routine can look so different from a long-distance athlete program.
Are you looking for a way to take your running to the next level? Look no further than strength training! And the best part? It doesn’t require hours upon hours of time in the gym. In fact, all you need is 30-45 minutes, two to three times per week, to start seeing the benefits of strength training as a runner.
Your body is a complicated piece of machinery, and muscles are a huge part of what’s driving it.
According to experts, five main groups of muscles are used while running—quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteals, and calf muscles.
Your body also uses secondary muscles to keep you going forward, such as the core and upper body muscles.
These typically provide stability throughout the gait cycle and improve speed and running economy.
The quadriceps, the muscles on the front of the thighs, are in charge of forward leg movement. Also known as the quads, these run from the hips down to the kneecap and are composed of four muscles:
- The Vastus Medialis,
- Lateralus, and
- Rectus Femoris.
The hamstrings consist of a single large tendon located at the back of the thigh and play a key role in standing, walking, or running, as well as hip extension and knee flexion. These muscles are comprised of
- The biceps femoris,
- The Semitendinosus, and
- The Semimembranosus.
Consisting of a group of three muscles, the gluteals are located in the buttocks and are responsible for hip extension, posture and proper knee alignment, and leg stability. The glutes consist of the following:
- The Gluteus Maximus,
- The Gluteus medius, and
- The Gluteus minimus.
The Hip Flexors
The hip flexors, while smaller in size, play a crucial role in our everyday movements. From walking to squatting, these muscles are constantly activated, which is why it’s important to keep them strong and flexible.
Tight hip flexors can lead to discomfort and even pain, while a strong and healthy hip flexor group can improve posture, stability, and overall athletic performance.
Located on the back of the lower leg, just below the knees, the calves are another supercritical running muscles.
Why? These provide spring in your step, extend and flex each foot as you land and push off, and maintain lower body balance and coordination. The calves consist of:
- The large gastrocnemius, or outer calf; and
- The smaller soleus, or inner calf.
Research has shown that incorporating exercises that specifically target these muscle groups can have a significant impact on running performance. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that a six-week strength training program targeting the glutes and hip flexors led to improved running economy and performance in female distance runners.
The Best Strength Exercises For Runners
Try adding this powerful routine to 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 in a big payoff.
I’ve also provided you with YouTube tutorials showing you exactly how to do each exercise. Proper form is king! For a better grip, try out this liquid chalk.
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.
- Lie on your stomach
- Prop yourself up on your elbow with feet slightly apart, toes hip distance apart with shoulders directly above the elbows
- Aim to straighten your whole body, so it’s forming a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.
- 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.
2. 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.
- 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.
- Hold the weight in front of your body while keeping your back straight.
- 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.
3. 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.
- 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.
- While holding the weight directly overhead, step forward with your right leg into a deep lunge position, bending both your knees.
- 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.
4. 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.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart with your toes facing forward
- 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
- Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- 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.
- Start by holding two dumbbells or a weighted bar in front of your body.
- While standing tall, shift your weight to your right foot
- 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
- Lower the weight while keeping it close to the tops of the legs.
- 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.
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.
- Standing tall, balance on your right foot,
- Squat down by bending at the knee and sitting your hips back.
- Once your right knee is at about a 90-degree angle, push back up by extending your leg to starting position.s
7. Rotational Shoulder Press
This move is ideal for targeting your upper body muscles, with the emphasis on the shoulder and core muscles.
- While standing tall with your feet hip-width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders.
- As you press the weights up with your right hand, rotate your body to the right side.
- 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.
Weight Lifting For Runners – The Conclusion
There you have it ! The above weight training for runners guidelines all you need to help you prevent overuse injuries and increase athletic performance without logging in more miles. The rest is up to you.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post
Keep Running Strong
Hello, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.
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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
I used the videos as demonstration for the exercises. Just writing more about the subject is not going to send my message across. Don’t you think?
Being lazy is something we have both in common 😉
Thank you very much for the training tips.
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!
What is the man’s name of the runner at the top of this post?
I’m the runner in shot at the top of the article. Care to drop me a line… Jason@FitnessScience.ca
Here’s an article I wrote on the same topic a while back. A few different exercise options and a different workout structure to consider too.
Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to
create a really good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate
a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.
the man is runner at the top of this post is wonderful
This article has some great functional exercises for running. Worth reading all the way through. I did.
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.
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.
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.
A couple of times per week will do the trick, but keep recovery the priority
Thank you for the helpful comment