Strength Training Exercises For Runners

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Strength training isn’t just for the football team or bodybuilders. Runners can greatly benefit from a well-formatted strength-training program that’s geared toward their specific goals. Despite popular belief, increased muscle mass will not slow you down. In fact, building quality, lean muscle will decrease your chance of injury, improve your performance through speed and flexibility, and improve your functionality.

Strength training exercises
Remember that the purpose of strength training as a runner is to increase functionality. This means you should design your strength program to fit with your running.  Below are some dynamic and functional strength training exercises for runners:

Legs exercises:

  • Barbell step ups
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Back squats
  • Reverse lunges
  • Walking lunges
  • Leg raises
  • Single leg hop
  • Single leg deadlift

Chest exercises:

  • Neutral push-ups
  • Close grip push-ups
  • Chin dips
  • Cable flyes

Shoulder exercises:

  • Push press
  • Military press
  • Standing dumbbell Arnold press
  • Side lateral raise

Back exercises:

  • Neutral grip pull-ups
  • Wide grip pull-ups
  • Dumbbell row
  • 45 degree hyperextension
  • Conventional deadlifts

Abdominal exercises:

  • Russian twist
  • Jack knife
  • Sprinter sit ups
  • Hanging leg raise

Developing a periodization plan
As a runner, you need to plan their strength-training program in order to achieve peak levels of performance. By planning through periodization, or cycling blocks of time devoted to specific levels of training, condition and intensity, you will be able to reach your optimum performance level for your competition.

Strength training for runners should be divided into three time periods:

  • Pre-season
  • Season
  • Post-season

You should make your greatest strength gains during the pre-season. This season allows you to maximize your strength for your upcoming event season because your running demand is lighter. Set your workout volume at its highest intensity during this season to complement your low mileage.

High volume training doesn’t translate into light loads. Work with heavy loads, performing 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions. To determine the amount of weight you need to use, start your workload at a 60% of 1 RM, or 60% of your heaviest lift. Total body training 3 days per week for 45 minutes to 1 hour will be sufficient enough to prepare you for your running season.

Runner’s season
This season takes up most of your year. Depending upon your location, it usually runs from mid-April to mid-October. Regardless whether you race competitively, these are still the best months of the year to run because the weather is nicest.

During season, you may drop your weight training sessions down to 2 per week. You may change your program to lift for 2 sets of 10 to 12 reps, with a slightly lighter load. This will complement your increased mileage.


As a runner, you need 4 weeks of recovery after your season. The last thing you want to do is completely rest. Still train with weights for 2 days per week. Lighten your running load, but don’t quit all together. Deloading after a training season is a crucial part of your running schedule.


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