Looking for the best strength training program for runners? Then you’ve come to the right place.

If you have been reading Runners Blueprint for a while, then you know that I’m a strong proponent of for the importance of a strength training program for runners.

Sure, this is a runners’ blog, and I mostly write stuff for the running crowd.

That said, any regular reader (or after checking my cross training page) might be surprised by the number of strength training workouts I shared in the last couple of years.

But this time, I’m not going to share with you another workout.

Instead, in today’s post, I’ll cover the basics of weight lifting for runners.

I’ll show you the exact steps required to design your strength training program, even if you have never touched a dumbbell before.

Even if you’re an experienced runner and strength trainee, I hope you’ll get some value and practical advice from this post.

Something you can take right away and apply it to your training program.

If nothing else, then, at least, I beg you to pass this post along to any other runner who will benefit from the beginner guidelines shared below.

So are you excited?

Then here we go.

What Is Strength Training?

Also known as weight lifting, strength training, or pumping iron, resistance training is any training that causes the muscles to contract against external resistance to increase strength, mass, tone, or endurance.

So if even the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘strength training’ is back-breaking weights and complicated machines, there are many ways to create the resistance that require minimal gear (or not at all!).

The resistance can be created by a dumbbell, kettlebell, a barbell, or your body weight—think push-ups, squats, press-ups, lunges, and so on.

Now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s dive into some of the guidelines for starting a runners resistance workout plan.

The Importance of a Strength Training Program For Runners

Strength training has many fitness and health benefits for trainees of all ages and backgrounds.

Also known as resistance training, this type of training beneficial for increasing muscle mass, expediting weight loss, improving bone strength, etc.

The list goes on.

And when it comes for us runners, strength training is our best ally.

Here are the main reasons to strength train as a runner.

Fix Muscle Imbalances

Regular resistance training can help correct muscle imbalances and mobility issues—the root cause of many an overuse injury.

Said otherwise, strength training can help safeguard your body against trouble.

Here’s your guide to what muscles does running work the most.

Boost Power Output

Strength training improves power and explosive strength throughout the body, which in turn can help you improve your running form and efficiency.

And that’s a good thing if you ask me.

You Won’t Bulk up

If you’re shying away from strength training because you’re afraid of bulking up, then stop it.

The fact is, with the right resistance training program, you’ll able to boost your muscle strength and density with no drastic increases in muscle mass and weight.

Arms Strength And Running

Arms strength is key in a runner’s efficiency. With every foot strike, you’re pumping your arms. The stronger the arms, the more power you generate.

Improved Posture

Strengthening your upper body helps improve posture and keep good form, especially as you tire at the end of the long run.

Your running technique drastically impacts your performance potential. You’ll never run at your best if you can’t maintain proper technique throughout your runs.

It Makes You Stronger In general

Adding strength to your upper body makes you more athletic in general.  Once you start spending more time strengthening your upper body, you’ll be surprised at how easy others’ exercises will get. I’m talking about real technique, not overcompensation which we all know it’s cheating.

Almost every workout you do, from Yoga to HIIT classes, contains upper body exercises, such as push-ups, planks, and press-ups—all of which call for a decent level of upper-body strength.

Prevent Injury

Injuries are an inevitable part of being a runner. The cumulative stress of regularly logging the miles will, sooner or later, take a toll on your body. Soreness, aches, cramps, strains, and inflammation can all plague the neck, arms, shoulders, and back. Again, strengthening your upper body is one step toward helping you keep and improve proper running techniques.

Increased Resting Metabolism

When you build muscle mass, you increase your resting metabolism, and that helps your body shed more calories. Muscle is active tissue. Every pound of muscle burns about six calories per day at rest. In fact, a pound of muscle burns roughly three times as many calories as a pound of fat—that’ quite a lot. That’s why strength training is often recommended for people trying to lose weight.

Of course, don’t take my word for it. Research shows that packing on roughly three pounds of new lean muscle can elevate your resting metabolic rate by roughly seventh percent.

Additional resource – Keeping muscle during marathon training

 It Takes Little Time

As a runner, you do not need to become a full-time Olympic weightlifter to start reaping benefits of resistance training.

Logging in two to three sessions a week (even if it’s just a simple body-weight workout)  is enough for making the most out of your strength training since your main aim is improving running performance, speed, and endurance—not necessarily in that exact order.

Running and Strength Training Schedule for Beginners

When it comes to strength training, there are so many effective ways to get your feet in the door.

That said, the best method is to start in accordance with your current fitness needs, training goals, schedule, and personal preferences.

Your primary purpose with strength training is to focus on correcting muscle imbalances and fixing abnormal and inefficient movement patterns while increasing overall strength and explosive power.


Here is the tricky part of resistance training: finding enough time for it, especially if you’re a serious runner with a busy schedule.

But, as previously stated, I don’t think you need to commit a significant portion of your time to weightlifting.

As a runner, all you need is to invest 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, to reap the full benefits of strength training.

In other words, resistance training does not have to be time-consuming.

Additional resourceShould you be running after leg day?

Running Strength Training Plan – How Many Sessions?

I recommend that you strength train two to three times per week, taking at least 48 hours of rest in between strength training workouts.

Further, space out your strength workouts with, at least, 48 hours recovery time.

For optimum results, you need to let your muscles and connective tissue adapt by providing them with plenty of time to recover from the stimulus and training load of the strength session.

Begin with the Warm-up

You don’t want to start picking up heavyweight cold, nor for your muscles and joints to tighten and be in pain.

Start with a 10-minute warmup of brisk walking, light jogging, and dynamic stretches, such as inch worse, lunges, high knees, and the sort.

When you’re done, take the time to cool down. Stretch your body, and perform a few mobility drills to help increase your flexibility, improve your flexibility and mobility in the specific area, and speed up recovery.

The Importance of Proper Form

Perform the prescribed number of repetitions on each side while maintaining proper form throughout.

This is critical.

You’re better off not training at all if you’re going to train with bad form.

That’s the cardinal rule.

So, please spend some time on learning proper lifting form from day one.

It is much easier and more effective to practice proper form from the get-go than to develop poor habits that are going to take a long time to unlearn later.

In fact, you should spend the first few weeks on a strength training program focusing mainly on learning proper form.

That’s the base you should build on.

In other words, it’s not “practice that makes perfect.” Perfect practice makes perfect.

To build proper form, do the following:

  • Engage your core, stand tall, and head your head in a neutral position.
  • Focus on smooth, slow lifts and equally controlled descent.
  • Move slowly, ensuring that you’re relying on muscles, not moment, to do the lifting.
  • Protect yourjoints by gripping properly
  • Keep your body well aligned and move smoothly through each exercise. Don’t use momentum to swing the weight around.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. Do not shrug. Avoid aligning your ears with your shoulders.
  • That’s where power comes from. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

Consider hiring a personal trainer to teach you proper form for the get-go and learn how to properly complete each exercise.

Can’t afford one?

Study online videos and tutorials to learn proper lifting techniques—there are plenty of sources around.

Additional Guide – Leg workouts for runners

No Cheat Reps

If your form suffers in the last few reps, then you need to lighten up the load next.

Never sacrifice form for a number of reps.

That’s how injury and bad form propagate.

As a result, when your form starts going south, that’s a clear sign that you’re getting tired and might have performed your final rep on a given exercise.

And don’t cheat just to get in a few reps.

That’s just a waste of your time and effort.

Not to mention it increases the risks of injury.

Running and Strength Training Schedule

Here is a common question I get asked a lot by strength newbies.

Should you run first then weight train, or lift weight then hit the pavement?

Here is what I recommend.

If you are a complete newcomer to weightlifting, then during the first few months, do the strength routine first instead of your run.

By doing so, you’ll be able to focus on your technique and form instead of getting distracted by how much exhausted you are from running.

This can help train with proper form, preventing injury in the process.

Once you develop form, strength, and confidence, then re-arrange the order.

But, as long as you’re a newbie, lift first, run later.

That, of course, if you choose to perform both workouts on the same day, or back to back.

Additional resource – Running Vs. Strength training

Strength Training Program for Runners – Start Simple

So what’s the ideal running and strength training weekly schedule?

Perform a routine that targets all muscle groups on two non-consecutive days a week. This will help build a strong base and allow you to get stronger from week to week.

Focus on equipment-free routines first. Practicing different movement patterns before you add extra load, like a dumbbell or barbell, is the priority when starting resistance training.

This helps reduce your risk of injuries and will help you lift more weight down the road.

Practice the following five movements patterns:

  • Squatting
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Hinging, and
  • Core work.

Once you master these, add some resistance. Here are the exercises I’d recommend you start with.

  • Deadlifts
  • Glute bridges
  • Reverse lunge
  • Overhead press
  • Hammer curls
  • Chest presses

As you get fitter, progress to using tools like TRX bands, medicine balls, resistance bands, slider disks, kettlebells, barbells, and weight machines.

Don’t worry if that sounds too technical. Bodyweight exercises are the perfect stepping stone to the world of strength training.

Find the Proper Amount of Weight 

Determining the amount of weight for a given resistance exercise requires trial and error—you’ll also keep adjusting your approach as time passes.

Different exercises will require different loads, but few signposts will help you find the right resistance, whether you’re using your bodyweight, dumbbells, barbell, or kettlebells.

Make it a rule always to start lower than your current ability and build on that. Using momentum or swinging the weight around means that the load is too much, thus, you need to scale down.

If you’re doing three sets of 16 reps of chest presses, your chest and arms should feel fatigued by the last rep and on the brink of breaking point—past the fatigue level—by the last two reps. Control the weight throughout the exercise.

Increase the load when you start breezing through all your reps with good form.

Proper weight choice differs depending on the exercise. If you rely on momentum to finish the last two reps, opt for a lighter weight.

Additional Resource – Your guide to weighted vests for running.

Typical Running and Strength Training Schedule

Here is a basic running/weight lifting schedule.

  • Monday: Interval run
  • Tuesday: Strength workout
  • Wednesday: Easy run
  • Thursday: Strength workout
  • Friday: Long run
  • Saturday: Strength workout
  • Sunday: Rest

The Range Reps

Keep the number of your reps low and the weight challenging enough.

Opt for a weight that you cannot lift for more than eight times.

Do at least three sets of five to eight repetitions per exercise.

Here is a quick overview of the number of reps and its impact on your strength results

  • The 2 to 5 range rep: this builds super dense muscle and strength.
  • The 6 to 12 rep range: This builds both muscular strength and muscular
  • The 12 rep range and above. Ideal for building endurance.

Beginner Strength Running Plan For Beginners

If you are just starting out, take your training slowly and make sure to alternate between weight-lifting and running days.

Do not strength train and run at the same day.

Otherwise, you’re risking overtraining.

And you don’t want that.

As a beginner, start with two strength workouts a week for three to four weeks, then add a third workout on month two.

Shoot for at least 20 to 30 minutes per session, then gradually add time and intensity until you’re lifting hard for 50 to 60 minutes a session.

Don’t Rush

Focus on bodyweight training to improve all-around strength and stability and should wait for at least a couple of months before incorporating heavy weights.

The beginner routines shared below consist of low to medium intensity exercises, with the primary purpose of building a base of core strength and endurance on which to base more challenging exercises.

The beginner training schedule is suitable for runners with less than 8 to 12 weeks of strength or core training experience while following a routine that involves strength training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and running on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday (as shown in the training sample below).

Additional resource – Clamshells for runners

The Concept of Training Split

To schedule your workouts the right way, you need first to determine what weight training split and weekly schedule to opt for.

If you are already familiar with strength training, then you know about splits and how they are used.

If not, then below is a simple explanation and description.

The most common and widely tested is the 3-day full body split.

This simple method is recommended for a beginner with any goal.

Here are some of the best strength exercises for runners.

The Exact Weekly Breakdown

In case you have no idea what that means, here is an example of a training week:

  • Monday: Strength Workout A
  • Tuesday: Run
  • Wednesday: Strength Workout B
  • Thursday: Run
  • Friday: Strength Workout C
  • Saturday: Run
  • Sunday: Rest

Sure, this might sound simplistic, but if you’re serious about achieving consistency during the first few weeks and months, you need to keep your training simple.

Otherwise, if it’s too complicated, or intense, chances are you’re not going to stick with it for the long haul.

The Bodyweight Routine – The Beginner

If you choose bodyweight training, then there is minimal equipment—or none at all—required.

Further, you can train from anywhere, anytime.

As you long you have enough space, a mat (optional), you’re good to go.

Good bodyweight exercises for runners include glute bridges, planks, mountain climbers, bodyweight squats, set-ups, lunges, bird dogs, push-ups, burpees, etc.

For more challenge, you can use tools like TRX bands, medicine balls, resistance bands, sliders disks, kettlebells, and of course, dumbbells.

That said, none of these options are necessary if you are just starting out.

The fact is, you effectively perform bodyweight training without any equipment at all.

Vary the exercises, reps, and progression.

But, once again, stick to basic exercise that feels right to you, and do not push you into bad form territories.

Nonetheless, to get the most out of it, you need to consistently mix things up and play around with the moves’ difficulty and intensity to make sure you’re progressing and getting stronger one week to the next.

To start, pick five basic moves from the suggestions above and perform as many reps as possible, two to three sets of each one.

Here are three exemplary workouts

Workout A: The Upper Body Routine

Perform as many reps as possible with good form of the following exercises

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Planks
  • Dips
  • Set-ups

Repeat three to five times

Workout B: The Lower Body Routine

Perform as many reps as possible with good form of the following exercises

Repeat three to five times

Workout C: The Full Body Routine

Perform as many reps as possible with good form of the following exercises

  • Military push-ups
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Hindu Pushups
  • Burpees
  • Plyo Lunges

Repeat three to five times.

Additional resource – ITBS guide

Strength Training Program For Runners

The Intermediate Running and Strength training Weekly Schedule

The intermediary routines are aimed at runners with 3 to 12 months of strength training experience.

The exercises suggested are mostly of standard and medium intensity.

Aim for at least three days a week for 30 to 45 minutes each session.

This is enough for most runners to reap significant strength gains starting in the first few months

Full body exercises, also known as multi-joint exercise—think deadlifts, squats, and bench presses—are the bread and butter of strength training. And the best way to get more done in less time.

These moves are also functional and hit every major muscle group.

Workout A—The upper Body Workout

Perform 8 to 12 reps of the following exercises:

  • Shoulder presses
  • Standing dumbbell curls
  • Push-ups
  • Bench presses
  • Pull-ups

Complete three sets.

Workout B—The lower body Workout

Perform 8 to 12 reps of the following exercises:

  • Weighted Squats
  • Dumbbell swings
  • Leg presses
  • Weighted Calf Raises
  • Weighted Lunges

Complete three sets.

Workout C: The Full Body Workout

Perform 8 to 12 reps of the following exercises:

  • Deadlifts
  • Tricep Dips
  • Turkish get-ups
  • Plyo box jumps
  • Floor presses

Complete three sets.

The Gym/Equipment Option – Advanced Program

The advanced program is for those with one year, or more, experience in the resistance training world.

Hitting the gym can provide you with a broad range of strength training equipment including free weights, Kettlebells,  and machine using any type movement you can imagine.

But after a few months of bodyweight training, you’ll have to diversify your strength routines and start relying more on free weights and equipment.

You may break your strength workout into doing, for example, chest and back one day, legs and core the other day, then shoulders and arms another day.

Aim to complete at least two to three sets of 8-10 reps of each exercise.

Rest for 60 to 90 seconds between exercises.

The 3-Day Workout Routine

Workout I

Train your triceps, shoulders, and chest

Workout II

Train your core and legs

Workout III

Train your biceps and back.

The 4-Day Workout Routine

After at least 6 to 9 months of strength training, and if you want to really push your strength training, here is a four-day strength workout routine to follow.

Workout I

Back and biceps

Workout II

Chest and Triceps

Workout III

Legs and core

Workout IV


Keep It Consistent

Progress happens the more often you practice.

To make the most out of your resistance training routine, complete three 45 to 60-minute sessions each week. This is the minimum amount of sessions per week required if you’re focusing on total-body exercises during those sessions.

It’s that simple. Show up, work your ass off, and stick to the plan.

I’d suggest that you break your resistance training program into upper and lower body components. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you perform each component two to three times a week.

Don’t Forget to Rest 

Resistance training, as well as other forms of exercise, breaks muscle tissue, causing tears in the fibers. These tears serve a purpose, but only if you grant them time to heal properly. This is one of the main reasons behind post-workout soreness.

As a matter of fact, it’s during the off period that your muscles will get stronger as the tears knit up. In order to reach the full recovery, you’ll need 24 to 48 hours of rest to fully recover between sessions.

Plan one day of rest following a total-body strength session and rest the specific muscle group for up to 48 hours before you hit the same muscle group again.

For example, if you target your chest hard on Tuesday, you should not exercise the chest again until Thursday at the earliest.

I’d recommend that you break up your strength training routine by focusing on your upper body one day and your lower body the next.

And if you don’t want to rest during your non-resistance training days, try doing some form of active recovery, like going for a light jog or taking a yoga class. That way, you keep your body moving without taxing your muscles.

Allow your Routine to Evolve

As you master basic movement patterns (some of which I have already shared with you), start adding new challenges to your routine. 

You can make your resistance workouts more challenging by changing up your weight or reps, choosing different exercises, or switching the order in which you do them.

Feels too easy? Then either add another set of repetitions to your routine or add more resistance, but never both at the same time.

Strive for progress each week. But don’t lose sleep over not making giant leaps overnight.

This is when you start leafing the newbie camp and start calling yourself a true strength training aficionado—maybe after 9 to 12 months of consistent training.

New to Running? Start Here…

If you’re serious about running, getting fit, and staying injury free, then make sure to download my Runners Blueprint Guide!

Inside this guide, you’ll learn how to start running and lose weight weight the easy and painless way. This is, in fact, your ultimate manifesto to becoming a faster and a stronger runner. And you want that, don’t you?

 Click HERE to check out my Runners Blueprint System today!

Don’t miss out! My awesome running plan is just one click away.


There you have it! The above strength training program for runners is enough to get you started on the right foot. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave you comments and questions below.

Have a great day



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here