Strength Training for Runners: Workouts to Include in Your Exercise Routines

7 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
Written by
Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

Why do runners need strength training? Strength training makes your muscles and connective tissues stronger. Not just your running muscles, but all your major muscle groups. Because of this, it helps reduce the risk of injuries.

But that’s not all. Strength training for runners can improve your neuromuscular coordination and power, making you run faster. And it can help you develop better stride efficiency and coordination, which improves your running economy.

Some strength workouts are more efficient for runners than others. So, what are the best strength workouts for runners?

Strength Training Workout Routine

Many runners ask themselves, “Is weight lifting any good for runners? Won’t it add bulk to your body that will slow down your running?”.

Weight workouts for runners don’t have to mean intense and daunting bench presses and other heavy exercises. Instead, you want to follow a strength training program for runners that focuses on body-weight exercises.

Important: You can explore different workouts and stick to the ones you enjoy the most. Remember – to see results, you need to do them regularly.

The best strength training for runners helps you develop all your major muscle groups without exhausting you. Or slowing down your runs. Strength training for distance runners can involve a wide range of body-weight and other exercises.

You can perform strength workouts for runners alongside running exercises. Running and strength training complement each other well, allowing you to have a varied and interesting training plan. But don’t forget to incorporate rest days into your training plan.

Tip: For best results with strength training for runners, follow a training plan that’s personalized according to your fitness level and running goals.

Core Workouts for Runners

A weak core is linked to most running injuries. Core strength workouts are some of the best exercises for runners. They improve balance and posture and make you stronger all-around. You don’t need any special gear to do them.

You only need an exercise mat for all the following core workouts for runners. But even a mat is optional. You can do these exercises directly on the floor too.

Glute Bridges

1. Lie on a mat with your face up.

2. Bend your knees and lay your feet so that your soles are flat on the ground. Stretch your arms at your sides, palms down.

3. Lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes and keeping your abs engaged. Your knees, hips, and shoulders should be aligned.

4. Maintain the bridge position for several seconds before lying back down in the initial position to complete a rep.

How many: 2 sets of 10 reps each are a good start.

Russian Twists

1. Sit on the mat and bring your legs together off the ground so that your ankles are touching.

2. Maintaining the position of your legs, clench your hands in front of your abdomen.

3. Twist your torso from side to side, moving your clenched hands left and right with it.

How many: Start with 2 sets of 10 reps each.

Plank and Its Variations

1. Lie face down with your toes and forearms on the floor, facing forward, and elbows under your shoulders. Look down at the floor.

2. Engage your abs and keep your torso straight so that your body forms a straight line from your ears to your toes.

3. Maintain the position for 10 seconds.

Note: Avoid arching your back, sagging your hips, or straining the neck by tilting it up.

Here are a few other plank variations you can try.

Plank Walk-Ups

1. Start from the basic blank position.

2. Lift yourself into a pushup position using one arm at a time and straighten your elbows.

3. Squeeze your glutes and keep your spine straight.

4. Lower your elbows back to the ground, one arm at a time.

How many: 3 sets of up to 8 reps each.

Plank with Leg Lift

1. Start in the standard plank position. Your toes and forearms should be on the floor.

2. Raise one leg off the floor. Perform the movement slowly.

3. Maintain the position for two seconds, then lower your leg to the floor.

4. Repeat with the other leg.

How many: 2 sets of 10 reps each.

Workouts for Legs

Leg workouts are crucial to build strength for running. Your leg muscles need to be strong to support the rest of your body as you run. Impact forces on your legs when running are high. The following exercises focus on your upper legs.

Squats

1. Stand with feet apart, hip wide.

2. Bring your hips down like you do when sitting while at the same time moving your arms forward and bending them at the elbow.

3. Your knees shouldn’t bend beyond your toes.

4. Return to the initial position to complete one repetition.

How many: 1 set of 10 reps.

Tip: You can add weights to make squats more challenging (think dumbbells).

Jump Squats

1. Stand with feet apart, shoulder wide.

2. Do a regular squat, engaging your core.

3. Make an explosive jump, using your hands to propel yourself up.

4. Land gently into a squatting position with both your feet on the ground.

5. Return to the initial position to complete a repetition.

How many: 2 sets of 10 reps.

Single-Leg Deadlifts

For this exercise, you will need a kettlebell.

1. Stand straight with hands hanging in front of you.

2. Shift your weight to your right leg.

3. Slide your left leg back while hinging your upper body forward.

4. Reach for the kettlebell handle and grip it.

5. Pull the weight with your backside muscles.

6. Return your body to its upright position, with the support leg straight.

7. Maintain balance for a moment, and then lower the kettlebell back to the floor to complete a rep.

How many: 2 sets of 5 reps.

Lunges and Its Variations

1. Stand with feet at hip-width.

2. Take a step forward, bending both your knees at a 90-degree angle until your back knee is close to the floor. Keep your back straight and core engaged.

3. Shift your weight forward.

4. Return to the starting position, pushing yourself back to complete a rep.

5. Repeat with the other leg.

How many: 10 reps per leg.

Reverse Lunge

1. Stand with your feet at shoulder width.

2. Take a step back and lower your hips to the ground.

3. Return to the standing position by pushing forward with your back leg.

4. Repeat with the other leg.

How many: 10 reps per leg.

Dumbbell Lunge

For this variation, you will need two lightweight dumbbells. You can progressively increase the weight to make the exercise more challenging.

1. Begin in the standard lunge position holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms resting at your sides.

2. Shift your weight forward on one leg while bending both knees. Maintain your balance.

3. Return to the starting position to complete a rep.

4. Repeat with the other leg.

How many: 10 reps per leg.

Workouts for Ankles and Calves

Strength training for runners should include exercises for your lower legs, ankles, and calves.

One-Legged Heel Raise

1. Stand before a wall, doorframe, or another strong structure with your legs straight and arms at your sides.

2. Support yourself with your hands against the wall or doorframe, lift one foot, bending it at the knee.

3. Stand with your weight on the other foot and your knee straight.

4. Rise on your toes and maintain the position for five seconds before lowering your foot back on the ground.

How many: 3 sets of 10 reps each.

One-Legged Hops

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-wide apart.

2. Lift your left leg so that you stand on your right and put your hands on your hips.

3. Bend your other knee and hop up from the ground with an explosive push.

4. Upon impact, bend your right knee to soften the impact.

5. Do all reps with one leg and then switch to the other.

Workouts for IT Band

Iliotibial band syndrome pain is common among runners. It occurs when fibers extending from your hips and thighs to your knees and shinbone become too tight due to friction from repetitive movements.

The following exercises can help you recover from IT band syndrome once the pain goes away. To carry them out, you’ll need an exercise band.

Clam Shells

1. Lie on your side on a gym mat with the exercise band above your knees.

2. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle to your torso.

3. Open and close your legs like a clamshell while holding your feet together. Use your glutes to perform the movement.

4. Do all the reps on one side and then switch to the other side.

How many: Do 20 reps on each side.

Side Shuffles

1. Place an exercise band around your ankles and stand with your feet apart at hip-width.

2. Take 10 steps to the right. The IT band should stay tight and provide resistance.

3. Then, take 10 steps to the left.

How many: Do 20 reps on each side.

Full-Body Workouts

The following two workouts work most of the major muscles in your body. Despite their rather funny names, they are challenging.

Burpees

1. Begin in a squat position with feet at shoulder width. Your knees should be bent and your back straight.

2. Lower your hands to the floor until they are inside your feet.

3. Kick your feet back so that you’re in a pushup position.

4. Do a pushup, keeping your whole body straight.

5. Jump your feet back and do a frog kick.

6. Stand and move your arms over your head.

7. Jump into the air and land with knees bent.

8. After you land, get back into a squat position to complete a rep.

How many: Do 10 reps or less if you find it too challenging.

Speed Skaters

1. Stand with feet at shoulder width. Bend your knees and lean forward.

2. Leap on alternating feet from side to side, pumping your arms as you jump. Land on the balls of your feet.

3. Throw your back foot behind your standing leg. Your toes shouldn’t touch the floor. Also, keep your back straight.

How many: Do 10 reps or more.

Takeaways

With so many strength workouts for runners to try, you’re probably excited to get started. But first, here are a few things to remember:

  • Strength training for runners can make you a faster runner, boost your running economy, and reduce your risk of injury.
  • You don’t have to lift heavy weights to increase your strength as a runner. 
  • Use strength workouts to strengthen and develop all your major muscle groups for best results.
  • Seek to train your core and entire body in addition to your upper and lower legs.
  • Choose fun exercises you enjoy doing that are challenging without getting exhausted. You need to keep doing them to see results.

Start running today

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