The Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

By Rebecca Bennion

As a runner, it’s necessary to schedule – or clear your schedule – in order to make sure you have the allotted time it will take to run the mileage you’re aiming for.

benefits-strength-training-runners

On a daily, and weekly, basis we lace up our running shoes and hit the pavement, even if that means something else has to give.  We may sacrifice the comforts of a warm bed in the morning, skip a much-anticipated TV show in the evening or rush through lunch to fit in a run.  

Often we make the time to run, but don’t commit to more than that, even if there’s more we can do to improve our running. 

To run farther, run faster, and be better than we were the day before, we can stretch, take an ice bath, go to a yoga class, get a massage and use a foam roller and lift weights — and those are just a few of our options.  Obviously, we can’t do all those activities on a regular basis.  But of all the items listed, strength training has been shown to improve running performance time and time again. 

I’m biased. I, too, am a firm believer that strength training will help you run more effectively.

Here are some ideas that will create general endurance strength (and not transform your body into the stereotypical body-builder’s physique).  Also, several of these suggestions can be done at home and without any equipment. 

  • It’s true that running works muscles, and not just the heart muscle. However, running works some muscles more than others, which results in muscle imbalances. When opposing muscle (such as quadriceps and hamstrings) imbalances occur, additional pressure is put on tendons and ligaments.  Such pressure may result in instability and loss in running economy, which will increase the energy you’ll need as you run.
  • Resistance training helps your body develop resistance to injury. Fewer injuries mean more running, faster running, and better results.
  • If for no other reason other than to decrease the likelihood of injury, strengthening exercises should be a part of every runner’s routine.
  • Aside from injury prevention, there are other benefits to resistance exercises.  Refining body balance, improving running economy, picking up your end-of-race kick, increasing your metabolic rate and building confidence are just a few other reasons to start building more strength.

So where do you start?  If you were to look up strength-building exercises, you’d find numerous suggestions. To eliminate the confusion, especially for beginners, here are exercises that are ideal for runners.

Most of them can be done with or without weights, bands, or other equipment. As you improve your strength, such implements can be added to your routine. I’ve broken them down into the lower body, upper body, and core. 

These three general segments impact efficient running mechanics and should therefore not be neglected; yes, even the upper body.

Lower Body

Upper Body

Core

Squats

Forward Shoulder Raisers

Forward plank

Lunges

Side Shoulder Raisers

Superman’s

Calf Raisers

Push-ups

Marching Bridge

Single Leg Deadlift

Pull-ups

Russian oblique Twist

Step-ups

Arm Swings

Leg Lifts

Hips

Biceps/triceps

Windshield Wipers

 

Good form is one of the most important components of effective strength training.  Another vital key is occasionally mixing up the sets and reps you perform.  If you do the same training routine over and over your body will stop progressing. 

I recommend doing anywhere from one to four sets of 10 to 20 repetitions on each movement.  I also suggest you do these exercises one to three times per week.  As you incorporate these types of general endurance strength exercises into your routine, you’ll find that running is more enjoyable, you’ll feel stronger during your training sessions, and you’ll enhance your running performance.