Strength Training for Runners


Strength training is an essential part of a runner’s routine since it helps build endurance and improves efficiency and speed. Essentially, it helps runners achieve three main goals:

  1. prevent injuries by strengthening connective tissues and muscles
  2. boost power and neuromuscular coordination, thus helping you run faster
  3. promote stride efficiency, thereby improving your running economy.

A common misconception is that strength training builds bulky muscles that can slow a runner down. But unless you lift frequently and consume tons of additional calories, you are unlikely to put on the extra weight that will impact your speed. Fast runners are not weak, so it is very important to build strength before challenging yourself to achieve new levels.

What Does Strength Training for Runners Involve?

Also referred to as weight training, strength training for runners involves performing specific exercises with some type of resistance to increase muscular power, strength, endurance, or size. This can include working out with barbells, dumbbells, bands, kettlebells, weight machines, sandbags, or even your body weight, provided that it puts your muscles under some load. Even though you can do strength training in a gym with the help of fancy suspension straps, resistance machines, medicine balls, and kettlebells, it is also feasible to work out in your living room with a couple of resistance bands, dumbbells, and your body weight. Here are some of the best exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine if you wish to build strength as a runner.

 How Often Should Runners Strength Train?

Runners should generally keep their strength training workouts to 2 to 3 times per week. However, some prefer more frequent yet shorter sessions (3 to 5 times) each week, and some can only manage 1 workout per week.

There is no hard and fast rule about how much you should be training. Instead, create a routine that works best for you. A comprehensive strength training routine for runners doesn’t have to be long; it should be no more than 20 minutes max.

As a runner, you should schedule your strength training sessions on days when you are loaded with a hard workout or a long run. Combining strength training and an existing strenuous workout can become too much for the body.

A strength training workout can affect how your legs feel and perform on the run immediately after the session and during the day or the next day. Due to this, it is generally recommended to do your run first and then begin the exercise in the evening or afternoon. Doing so will ensure you are not performing through a run with fatigued legs.

Best Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Silhouette of a man lifting dumbbells on a white background.Countless exercises are ideal for strength training, but below are some picks that have proven to be more effective for runners.

  • Squats
  • Lateral lunges
  • Reverse and forward lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Planks
  • Dead bugs
  • Reverse fly
  • V-ups
  • Pallof Press
  • Bird dog
  • Deadlifts
  • Calf raises
  • Glute bridges
  • Banded side steps/clam shells
  • Hamstring curls
  • One-leg Romanian deadlifts
  • Triceps dips
  • Walking lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Superman/back extension
  • Leg raises

Top Tips for Runners when Strength Training

Know your Limits

Generally, runners are looking to feel the burn. This makes it easy for them to sometimes go overboard before adding any resistance to a workout and mastering perfect form with their body weight. If you are a novice strength trainer, add a weight that you know will be too easy. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps and examine how your body feels afterward. If your body responds well, slowly add more weight from there onward. You can add additional weight on a bi-weekly basis, just like you add your running mileage.

Focus on your Form

Proper form is of utmost importance for two main reasons. First, it prevents injuries while exercising, and second, it ensures that your moves are effective. If you are unable to maintain the proper form throughout the reps in a set, switch to a lighter weight or halt the workout early.


You might be tempted to hold your breath when strength training, but avoid doing that. Exhale when you lift the weight and inhale deeply when you put it down.

Keep Changing your Routine

Just like the body should change your running pace and routes, changing your strength training sessions by adding different forms and exercises of resistance will allow you to get stronger quicker and more effectively. As your body becomes more robust, raise the difficulty level of your workouts to keep challenging it.

Make your Training Fun

A fun strength training routine will allow you to stay with it for longer. Add upbeat music or ask a friend to join who can hold you accountable when you feel lazy. Put up motivational posters in your home gym or use an app that will keep you grounded and focused on your goals. Remember that it is okay to take a day off once in a while, but don’t let that become a habit.

The Don’ts of Strength Training for Runners

Now that you know the dos of strength running, it is essential to know the don’ts.

  • Do not skip the warm-up, as cold muscles are more likely to get injured than warm muscles. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes before you start training.
  • Do not rush through your training session with hurried and uncontrolled motions. Instead, take your time lifting the weights or doing specific movements, as this will prevent you from relying on momentum. Take 1-minute breaks between each exercise.
  • Do not overlook the pain. If a workout is inducing pain, stop immediately. Try to adjust the weight or switch to a different exercise.
  • Do not forget to wear the right shoes. Invest in shoes that provide good traction and protection to your feet and can prevent you from slipping and injuring yourself.


Strength training is essential for runners, and the above-mentioned dos and don’ts will help you make the most of your workout sessions. Over time, as your strength builds, so will your endurance. This will allow you to run longer and/or faster. Don’t forget your rest/recovery days. Those are just as important!

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