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Strength Training for Runners

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

10 years ago, we rarely heard anything about strength training for runners. The conversations were always focused on total miles, frequency, intensity of workouts, etc. These days, it seems like everyone is doing strength training in some form or another.


As a runner getting ready for your upcoming race, it is very important to set a solid foundation now so that you can stay strong and perform at your absolute best come race day. In this blog, we are going to talk about why you should be strength training, how you can implement it into your schedule, and what you should be doing to ensure you are training in a functional way to improve your running.


Why should you be strength training?

There are three reasons that strength training is important for runners:

  1. Injury Prevention: Throughout training, as you increase mileage and intensity, the likelihood of your muscles breaking down and creating imbalances in your body goes up. By strength training on a regular basis, you can mitigate your risk of injury.

  2. Performance: By strength training in a functional way for running, you can make it easier to run. This will then lead to optimal performance come race day.

  3. Avoiding Burnout: Adding strength training into your schedule will likely cause your total volume and intensity of running to drop just a little bit in comparison to past blocks you may have done. Although tough at first, this will leave you wanting more in your running as opposed to getting to the end of the season feeling drained and burnt out.


How do I implement it into my schedule?

Now that we’ve discussed why strength training is important, how do you go about implementing it? There are three things to consider:

  1. How often: A good rule of thumb for the average runner to follow is 1 strength workout for every 3-4 runs (20-60 minutes in length) done in a week.

  2. When: Ideally runners are doing strength workouts after their run for the day.

  3. How Long: Some is better than none, but the typical strength workout should be about 30-60 minutes. The next section will give an example layout.

What should I be doing during my strength workouts?

The best thing to do is to work with a personal trainer that specializes with runners. However, that is not feasible for everyone. If this is not an option for you, here are a few things we must remember.


  1. Fantastic form: Strength training is meant to keep you healthy, not the opposite. Make sure to leave your ego at the door and work on fantastic form. Less is more in the weight room for runners.

  2. Progression of exercises: Try not to jump into the latest trend on Instagram. Instead, start with body weight exercises, progress to bands and Swiss balls, and start incorporating weights when comfortable.

  3. Functional for Runners: The goal in the weight room is to improve your functionality as a runner. Focus on the core, single leg work, spine mobility, foot strength, etc. I like to break down workouts into four stages:

  • 5-10 Minutes: General warm-up that includes foam rolling or something that will get the body warm (treadmill walk, rowing machine, dynamic stretching, etc.)

  • 5-15 Minutes: Specific warm-up that focuses on activating the musculature that will prep the body for the main goal of the day.

  • 15-30 Minutes: 3-5 main exercises to focus on for that day (examples below).

  • 5-10 Minutes: Cool down to let the heart rate come down. Static stretching is great here. More bands or body weight work is also an option.

* Sets and Reps: When it comes to sets and reps, start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps. As you get comfortable in the weight room, increase the sets to 3-4 and drop the reps to a strength/maximal output range of 6-8.


Example strength routine (with weights)

Below is an example of a strength routine you could incorporate if you have access to a gym. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out!


General Warm-Up

Foam rolling of the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.


Specific Warm-Up

2-3 sets of 10 reps per exercise

Strength/Main Goal for the Day

2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise

Cool-Down

60-90 seconds per stretch


Example strength routine (bodyweight)

Below is an example of strength routine you could incorporate if you have access to a gym. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out!

General Warm-Up


Specific Warm-Up

2-3 sets of 10 reps per exercise

Strength/Main Goal for the Day

2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise

Cool-Down

60-90 seconds per stretch


Blog Post written by Jacob Oak | personal trainer, run coach, and gait analyst that works with endurance athletes through Oak Endurance and Performance Running Gym.




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