Strong and Fast: Your Guide to Strength Training for Runners
The act of running—moving one leg in front of the other as your arms swing at your sides—is exhilarating, whether you’re out to get exercise or finish a race. You might not realize it as you glide along (unless you trip on a root or curb, of course), but the movements involved with running require a great deal of stability. This is why strength training can be a pivotal tool for runners of all types. Not only can it improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury, it also can boost your overall health.
So, where do you begin?
With so many choices of sets, repetitions, movements, muscle groups, and equipment, strength training can get complicated—fast. In this blog post, we’ll break down the foundations of strength and weight training for runners, so you can easily incorporate it into your routine.
Which strength training movements should you focus on?
The core movements of strength training consist of pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, and stabilizing. Strength training for runners is best done with a combination of single limb and compound exercise. This allows you to better isolate the single-sided weaknesses that can cause subtle areas of tightness and, eventually, injuries. (As you might imagine, strength training for distance runners is especially critical.) Ideally, your strength training routine should be “total body,” meaning it involves different aspects of your upper, lower, and core musculature.
What should you do for sets, reps, and weight?
When beginning your strength training journey, choose two upper body and lower body exercises, and one core strength exercise. This is a great foundation for a total body routine. You can vary your sets and reps, but a good place to start is 3–4 sets and 10–12 repetitions of each movement, or exercise.
If possible, try to complete your exercises in a circuit (i.e., do one set of each exercise and then repeat the sequence). This will allow you to work different muscle groups throughout the workout. Rest intervals are another important aspect of weight training for runners. Try to rest for at least 30–45 seconds between each set, so your muscles are ready to function optimally for the next one. .
Putting strength training into practice
When thinking about which days are best for strength training, the short answer is “it depends.” A good place to start would be on easy run days or cross-training days. For most runners, this will be two days a week. However, the number of days you engage in strength training each week will depend on your background and running discipline.
Now that you’ve put strength training on your calendar, which exercises will you do? Here’s an example of what your strength training workout might involve.
Example of a strength training workout
Warm up: 10 minutes of dynamic mobility or cardiovascular exercises
Cool down: 5 minutes of foam rolling
Ready to power up your run?
Strength training for runners is important for a variety of reasons, and it can be easily incorporated into your weekly routine. Now that you know where to start, make a plan for a home or gym strength workout that you can add into your weekly running routine. Your muscles and joints will thank you for it!