Why strength training is important for runners – and how to do it right

You'll be running better than ever.

When we think of training for a marathon, we often think of improving endurance by running laps around the park, on a treadmill, or even the marathon track itself. But just as important as cardio is: strength training exercises for runners.

What are the benefits of strength training for runners?

There are many benefits to strength training exercises for runners. The top three include enhanced performance, injury resilience and optimised form, according to health and wellness expert Kitty Blomfield.

Enhanced Performance: By improving running economy, boosting power and speed, and increasing endurance, strength training elevates overall running performance,” says Kitty.

Injury Resilience: Strengthening muscles and joints reduces the risk of common running injuries, fostering sustained training and healthier running.”

Optimised Form: Strength training rectifies muscle imbalances and promotes better posture and stability, ultimately refining running efficiency and reducing injury risk.”

What are the best strength training exercises for runners?

Due to the “dynamic nature of running,” the best strength training for runners include exercise variations “within movement patterns that challenge both stability and strength,” says Kitty. Here are five of the best:

  • Squat Movement: Free weight barbell squats or dumbbell squats.
  • Hinge Movement: Free weight barbell or dumbbell deadlifts.
  • Lunge Movement: Free weight barbell or dumbbell lunges.
  • Hip Extension: Free weight barbell or machine-based hip thrusts.
  • Hamstring Isolation: Machine-based seated or lying leg curls.

Toned healthy female training, lifting dumbbells in urban industrial gym with other women working out in background.

How many times a week should a runner strength train?

It depends on their running schedule, goals, and recovery demands, says Kitty.

“It could be anywhere from 1-4 times per week,” she adds. “Taking a phasic approach* to this would make the most sense as being in “peak” running condition isn’t likely to align with “peak” strength for a seasoned runner.

“Focusing on one while dialling back the others will have the greatest benefits in performance in the long term.”

*A phasic approach means breaking down training into phases (weeks to months) that focus on different areas of the body.

How heavy should the weights be?

How can you end up succeeding in bodyweight strength training for runners? The trick is to build your way up.

“In order for strength training to truly benefit a runner, the goal should be to get progressively stronger overtime,” Kitty confirms. “This should be done by using heavier weights in the 4-7 rep range.

“This will focus only on muscular adaptation while reducing oxidative stress and muscle damage. The sorer your muscles, the less output can be applied to your running, and vice versa.”

There you have it – your complete guide to strength training in order to optimise your running performance.

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