Strength for Runners


 As many of you know, I am a post collegiate distance runner and personal trainer. Also, NO my clients do not do what I do or do Run training(unless requested) if that is their focus.

But- for the purpose of this post, I would like to direct my focus to my specialty, my passion, rightfully fellow running pals/teammates/ run nerds, what have you.

Following the recent trend in fitness that claims “Strong Not Skinny” is the way to grow..;) (Fit Pun there);  I would like to agree with that statement and encourage anyone reading this, especially RUNNERS to implement some kind of strength training into your weekly schedule.

I know that “lifting weights” has formerly been thought of as insignificant to distance run training in the past and many younger/less experienced runners tend to shy away from adding this tool to their training. Most runners actually don’t even think about it at all because they simply don’t want to take the time to do anything but run or they just don’t know a solid routine or how to properly do strength training.

To begin let’s just touch on some of the benefits of strength training in general(to even be considered a healthy, functioning individual:

  • To be considered healthy, American Heart Association recommends 2-3 days a week of strength training
  • No brainer– helps you accomplish daily tasks: like getting up off the toilet with ease or out of your office chair at work without issue, being able to lift normal objects by yourself, being able to perform all daily tasks by yourself and not being weak or having muscular atrophy because you neglect your muscles!!
  • Increases BONE DENSITY- our bones weaken and brittle as we age. It’s SO important to control this bone loss process and be STRONG at every age
  • It helps support muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments/all connective tissues that work together to give you daily strength and hold you together when you are tired in a run or workout.
  • Helps maintain weight/ or control weight loss/gain- strength training can add muscle weight depending on your training and diet but if you strength train as you age- you’ll be increasing your fat-free mass instead of storing FAT.
  • INJURY PREVENTION- While increasing bone density which helps prevent stress fractures and other common running injuries; being on a solid strength plan with your run plan will make your body overall stronger and more able to meet the increasing mileage demands or explosive workouts. Strong muscles in tact support sore bodies and hold you up as you fatigue late in a race or long run. Your muscle recruitment will work much more efficiently the fitter and stronger you become.
  • Improves blood flow throughout the body to the large muscle your quads, hammies, glutes..basically everything you need when running..cough* cough*
  • Improves resting heart rate, metabolism, manages stress level, creates “curves” hypertrophy, nice looking shape to the body instead of looking like a potato..-..-

Let’s back up, what is strength training?

Strength training is a number of different exercises imposed on the body that includes resistance training and places contractions on the muscles to build strength and shape to the muscles.

SO, Runners- I recommend that if you are NEW to strength training..start small. Do 2 days a week of strength training WITH your run training..this may mean you have a 2-a day every now and then(the weights part) unless you add it to a run double day; which I like to do sometimes. In that case- you have a 3- a day!! WOOOH baby!!

Start SLOWW! Meaning- Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday or any two day split a week you will do strength(45min to an hour I recommend). Sure you can get a 30 min full body workout in but I wouldn’t make it a habit if you want to improve..with water breaks, warm up, rest intervals it’s very hard and annoying to get a quality strength sesh in 30 minutes. Especially with all the distractions at the gym, unless you have your own set up at home, you can squeeze a quick HITT strength circuit in for sure!!

Newbies- Start with only a few exercises for the large muscle groups and keep it simple with something like- 3×10 of every exercise you do. Take only 45sec-1min rest between sets and try to be quick but efficient with the reps. Focus on form and ROM(range of motion), sloppy won’t help you and will result in injury or improper muscular development.

Once you are consistently implementing a good strength routine into your training, I would encourage you to do it 3 days a week- so M/W/F or T/TH/SAT or something. For runners- I would reccomend FULL BODY each day because we are not body builders building muscle shape or focusing on specific day splits for the body. Our strength training must compliment and assist our training that we do outside and ultimately make us stronger, faster, more efficient runners.

SO, every day you’re in the gym..make it count. Put in the work. Take the time, do the little things, do dynamic flex stretches BEFORE(refer to my previous blog about dynamic vs static stretching if you want to learn more about that), foam roll soreness, stretch after, and do injury prevention drills when needed.

What are some helpful strength training exercises for Runners?(Why I am glad you asked!! I happen to know a quite knowledgeable runner/personal trainer who is oozing with helpful hints! and let’s be real- the only reason you’ve opened this mini novel):

Drum Roll Please…


  • Deadlifts w/ barbell,Dumbell,kettle bell, or body bar
  • Lunges w/ DB or bar
  • Good mornings
  • SQUATS/ Squat Jumps
  • Lateral Leg Lifts
  • Bridges
  • Donkey kicks, fire hydrants, Prone straight leg raises
  • Calf pumps/ machine or standing
  • leg press, hamstring curl
  • balanced hip drop(off steps)
  • TRX!!!(I’ll get into this more in a future post about TRX strength training since I am now teaching this class as well!)


  • Standing or seated shoulder press w/ medball/kettle bell/ barbell/body bar/machine
  • Inverted Push ups/push up on bench/ bosu ball push ups/ One leg-push up
  • bicep curl w/ elastic band/body bar/DB, weight plate, body bar, small child..ect.
  • Overhead triceps extention w/ cable, DB, or Kickbacks
  • Lateral raise to deltoid raise w/ machine or DB
  • Fly/Reverse Fly w/ machines or DB
  • DIPS
  • High pulls/raises w/ kettle bell, DB, Bar
  • Front raise & hold w/ DB
  • TRX!!!!!


  • I hate basic crunches. There I said it. Be creative and also protect your spine..
  • stability ball roll outs/jacknifes-single/double leg
  • bridges/hip ups -single leg/double
  • side lying hip ups
  • clams
  • external oblique rotation w/ med ball or resistance band
  • med ball throws
  • russian twist
  • PLANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • TRX!!!!
  • Leg lifts to in & outs
  • Scissors/ flutter kicks
  • suspended abs/leg lifts/scrunches on machine

These are only a few of the countless number and combinations of strength exercises aimed to strengthen and support your run training. If you’re unsure of what to do first follow this format:

  1. cardio warm up 5-10 min (elliptical/arc/bike)
  2. Dynamic flexibility stretches and needed drills before strength routine
  3. Strength routine-45min-hour(30min if presses for time). Depending on week(mileage, race week? tired body?) listen to your BODY.
  4. break it up into 3×12 or 3×10 for beginners.  I typically do 4×12 of whatever I am doing that day an sometimes switch up my routine to a HIIT circuit with minutes and 2-3 times through a strength circuit of 8-12 different exercises
  5. Focus on doing only a few exercises from each main muscle group: chest, shoulders, back, arms, legs, glutes, core and you’ll be fine.
  6. COOL DOWN. at least 5 minutes and then STRETCH and foam roll. This prevents blood pooling and helps speed up recovery and ease sore muscles. DO IT.

You can certainly split your strength plan into different muscle groups each day and focus on different days, styles, routines for whatever you want. Everyone is different and it may take playing with this a bit to find what works best for you. Also, race weeks and tapering I only do 1-2 days of strength work to ensure I am ready to roll on race day!! I also do core at least 4 days a week now aside from strength at the gym. This is just a basic outline of what your strength work should look similar to and help guide you on what exercises to focus on to improve yourself as a strong runner!

I hope this post has helped a little and I know I didn’t cover absolutely EVERYTHING. But if you are looking for a more in depth look at a runner’s strength plan or want to talk about the way I write and carry out my plans, email me or message me!!! 🙂 I always love giving tips and helping anyone with fitness however I can.

The main takeaway today is- balance, consistency, and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. And have FUNNNN<3


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