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The Best Strength Training Plan for Runners – Complete Program

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Strength Training Plan for Runners – Introduction

What is the best strength training plan for runners?

For any workout to be successful, it needs to be specific to the person doing it.

Specificity is one of the most important characteristics of a good workout plan.

But what does that mean?

In simple terms, specificity is essential because your body adapts to the type of workout you do.

So, if you want to get stronger, you need to train with heavy weights.

Similarly, if you want to swim faster, your workouts need to include plenty of fast swimming.

You’re fit for the training you do!

That said, it can be very beneficial to do exercises and workouts that do not exactly match your training goals and, instead, complement them.

Take MMA, for example.

MMA fighters don’t do any running when they’re in the ring, but most fighters do a fair amount of running “road work” to build fitness and control their weight.

In fact, early morning road work has long been a part of combat athletes’ training.

Similarly, more and more runners are turning to strength training to improve their running performance.

From marathon runners to elite Olympic sprinters, lifting weights is one of the ways athletes train to run faster, further, and with fewer injuries.

This article discusses the importance of strength training for runners and provides you with a complete 30-day training plan to follow.

Why Runners Need to Strength Train

Running is a great way to get fit, lose or maintain weight, tone your legs, and improve your health.

If you’re looking for a convenient exercise to transform your body, running is hard to beat.

It’s also a very accessible sport.

Some people even run for a living!

The term running covers a host of activities, from 60m sprints on an indoor track to ultra-marathons of 50 miles or more across barren deserts.

But, for this article, we’re going to focus on recreational long-distance running as that’s what most people tend to do.

While running by itself is an excellent workout, it isn’t perfect.

But, before any runners reading this get offended, that sentiment is true about any workout!

Running is a high-impact activity, causes some muscles to get stronger while others shorten and tighten, does very little for your upper body or core, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass.

Left unchecked, any of these issues could affect your running performance and even lead to chronic injuries.

It’s no coincidence that there are several running-related injuries with the word runner as a prefix, such as runner’s knee and runner’s hip.

The Benefits of Weight Training for Runners

Adding strength training to your running workouts will:

  1. Make you more resilient, so you are less likely to suffer injuries
  2. Fix any muscle imbalances
  3. Make you stronger on the hills
  4. Increase your running speed
  5. Build even greater endurance so you can run for longer
  6. Speed up recovery between runs
  7. Enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance

So, while running is the best exercise for runners, some targeted strength training will help too.

It’s no coincidence that the best runners in the world also lift weights regularly.

And don’t worry – you won’t build bodybuilder-sized muscles by lifting weights.

Bodybuilders train in a specific way (that word again!), and runners should train very differently.

So, while you may gain a little bit of extra muscle mass, it won’t impede your running performance.

30-Day Strength Training Plan for Runners

While you could just tack a few leg strength training exercises onto the end of a run, you’ll get better results if you follow a more structured program.

Design your own or, better yet, take this 30-day strength training for runners program for a spin.

This program is designed to be done alongside your running training.

All you need is two hours a week, a couple of light dumbbells, some resistance bands, somewhere to do pull-ups, and an exercise mat.

As such, it’s ideal for home exercisers, although you could do it in a gym, too.

Each workout is a full-body program built around straightforward super-productive compound exercises to make the best use of your time and energy.

Additionally, they include exercises specifically designed to boost your running performance.

But, before you lay even one finger on your dumbbells, you need to make sure your muscles, joints, and mind are ready for what you’re about to do.

Therefore, you need to warm up.

Because if you don’t have the time to warm up, you don’t have time to work out!

Warm-up

Start with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio, for example,

followed by some mobility and dynamic flexibility exercises for your major muscles and joints.

Examples include leg swings, waist twists, shoulder circles, and shallow lunges, progressing to deeper lunges and squats.

All warmed up and ready to go?

Then let’s begin!

Do each of the following workouts once per week, e.g., Monday and Thursday.

Avoid strength training on consecutive days as your muscles need 48-72 hours or so to recover.

Strength training exercises for runners plan A

#

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Recovery

1

Goblet squat

3

15-20

60 seconds

2

Push-up

3

AMRAP*

60 seconds

3

Pull-up

3

AMRAP*

60 seconds

4

Split squat jump

3

10-12 per leg

60 seconds

5

Plank

3

30-60 seconds

60 seconds

6

Dead bug

3

10-12 per leg

60 seconds

7

Face pull

3

15-20

60 seconds

8

Skydiver

3

15-20

60 seconds

*AMRAP means As Many Reps As Possible, so simply continue until fatigue forces you to stop.

Strength training exercises for runners – Plan B

#

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Recovery

1

Reverse lunge

3

10-12 per leg

60 seconds

2

Dumbbell overhead press

3

15-20

60 seconds

3

Dumbbell bent-over row

3

15-20

60 seconds

4

Squat jump

3

12-15

60 seconds

5

Side plank

3

30-60 seconds per side

60 seconds

6

Mountain climber

3

12-15 per leg

60 seconds

7

Band pull-apart

3

15-20

60 seconds

8

Bird dog

3

10-12 per side

60 seconds

Strength Training Plan for Runners – Exercise Descriptions

While it’s beyond the scope of this article to provide you with detailed instructions for each exercise, here are some basic guidelines for each one to remind you of what to do.

Need more info?

Fire up YouTube, and you’ll easily find some easy-to-follow demonstrations.

Workout A

#1. Goblet squat

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core

Hold your dumbbell in front of your chest and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.

Bend your knees and squat down, taking care not to round your lower back.

Descend until your thighs are about parallel to the floor.

Stand back up and repeat.

#2. Push-up

Muscles worked: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps

Squat down and place your hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart and fingers pointing forward.

Walk your feet back, so your body is straight.

Brace your abs.

Bend your arms and lower your chest down to within an inch of the floor.

Straighten your arms and repeat.

#3. Pull-up

Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, biceps

Hang from an overhead bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.

Without swinging or kicking your legs, bend your arms and pull your chin up and over the bar.

Descend under control and repeat.

#4. Split squat jump

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Take a large step forward and adopt a split stance.

Bend your legs and lower your rear knee down to within an inch of the floor.

Jump up, switch legs, and land with your feet reversed.

Immediately descend into another rep and repeat.

#5. Plank

Muscles worked: Core

Lie on the floor on your stomach.

Support your upper body on your elbows, with your forearms pointing forward.

Lift your hips and, keeping your body completely straight, maintain this position for the specified time.

Do not hold your breath.

#6. Dead bug

Muscles worked: Core

Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees.

Extend your arms toward the ceiling.

Brace your abs.

Straighten your left leg and lower it to one inch above the floor.

Simultaneously extend your right arm overhead and down to the floor.

Return to the start position and then switch sides.

Alternate for the duration of your set.

#7. Face pull

Muscles worked: Trapezius, rhomboids, deltoids, biceps

Attach the middle of your resistance band to a shoulder-high anchor.

Hold one end in each hand.

With your arms straight, step back to tension the band.

Bend your arms and pull your hands into either side of your head.

Extend your arms and repeat.

#8. Skydiver

Muscles worked: Erector spinae, gluteus maximus

Lie on your front with your arms bent, elbows level with your shoulders, and your hands flat on the floor.

Lift your feet, legs, head, shoulders, chest, arms, and hands a few inches so only your stomach, hips, and upper thighs are touching the floor.

Lower back down and repeat.

Workout B

#1. Reverse lunge

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus

Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides.

Take a large step backward, bend your legs, and lower your rear knee down to within an inch of the floor.

Push off your back leg and bring your feet back together.

Repeat with the opposite leg and then alternate sides for the duration of your set.

#2. Dumbbell overhead press

Muscles worked: Deltoids, triceps

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, core braced.

Raise your weights to shoulder height.

Press the dumbbells up and overhead so your arms are straight but not locked.

Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders and repeat.

#3. Dumbbell bent-over row

Muscles worked: Latissimus dorsi, biceps, erector spinae

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, core braced.

Bend your knees slightly and then lean forward, so your upper body is angled to around 45-degrees.

Do not round your lower back.

Let your arms hang down from your shoulders.

Bend your elbows and row the weights up into your ribs.

Extend your arms and repeat.

#4. Squat jump

Muscles worked: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, core

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Squat down and touch the floor between your feet.

Leap up as high as possible into the air.

Land on slightly bent knees and repeat.

#5. Side plank

Muscles worked: Core

Lie on your side, so your legs and body are straight.

Rest your weight on your bent elbow and forearm.

Lift your hips up, so your body forms a straight line.

Hold this position, but not your breath, for the specified time.

Repeat on the opposite side.

#6. Mountain climbers

Muscles worked: Core

Adopt the push-up position with your arms and legs straight.

Brace your abs, bend one leg and pull your knee into your chest.

Extend your leg and swap sides.

Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set.

#7. Band pull-apart

Muscles worked: Trapezius, rhomboids, deltoids

Hold a resistance band with an overhand, slightly narrower than shoulder-width grip.

Raise your arms out in front of you.

Open your arms and stretch the band out across your chest.

Return to the starting position and repeat.

#8. Bird dog

Muscles worked: Core, gluteus maximus, erector spinae

Kneel down on all fours so your hips are directly above your knees and your shoulders are over your hands.

Brace your abs. Extend your left leg back and your right arm forward, so they’re parallel to the floor.

Lower your arm and leg back down and swap sides.

Alternate sides for the required number of reps.

Strength Training for Runners – FAQs

Got a question about strength training for runners?

We’ve got the answers you seek!

#1. What are the best weight training exercises for runners?

While we’ve mainly used easily accessible bodyweight, resistance band, and dumbbell exercises for this workout, barbell and machine exercises can be beneficial too.

Some of the best include:

  • Deadlifts
  • Front and back squats
  • Leg presses
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Power cleans
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Bench presses
  • Overhead presses
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Seated rows

#2. How often should runners lift weights?

The most important type of training for runners is running, so that’s where most of your time and energy should be directed.

All you really need is 2-3 strength workouts per week to complement all those miles you’re running.

Even 30-minutes twice a week will be beneficial.

#3. When is the best time/day to do strength training?

To avoid detracting from your running, you should lift weights on the days in between your runs (running rest days) or before or after days where you have planned for an easy run.

You may need to experiment to find the best time for strength training, as everyone responds differently.

#4. How long should I follow this workout?

While this IS a 30-day plan, there is nothing to stop you from continuing it for 60 or even 90-days.

So long as it’s working, there is no reason to change it.

That said, if you are no longer seeing improvements in your strength or endurance, it’s time for a change, and you should look for a new program to follow.

#5. How do I progress from week to week?

Try to do 1-2 more reps of each exercise as the weeks pass.

So, if you do ten reps during the first week, shoot for 11-12 the next.

But, never sacrifice good form for more reps.

It’s always better to do ten reps correctly than 12 reps sloppily.

Incorrect form can cause injuries.

#6. Why are my muscles aching? I thought I was pretty fit!

New exercises and workouts can sometimes cause delayed onset muscle soreness, called DOMS for short.

This is your body’s response to working harder than usual and is perfectly normal.

You should find that DOMS becomes less severe as the weeks pass.

Minimize DOMS by always warming up before each workout and then doing a few more minutes of easy cardio and stretching afterward.

DOMS should also dissipate as you warm up.

#7. Do I HAVE to strength train for running?

No, but it can be hugely beneficial.

Run further and faster and with fewer injuries?

Who doesn’t want that?!

Strength Training Plan for Runners – Wrapping Up

While there is no denying that running is the most crucial exercise for runners, strength training can help, too.

For example, lifting weights can prevent muscle imbalances that often lead to injuries, and can help you to run faster and further, too.

Strength training is a runner’s secret weapon!

So, do your best to find an extra 1-2 hours a week for strength training, even if it means doing one less run a week.

You don’t even have to join a gym; there are loads of great strength training exercises for runners you can do at home.

After 30-days on our strength training for runners program, you will start to feel the benefits of adding things like goblet squats, push-ups, and planks to your training regimen.

These exercises are “big medicine,” and every runner should do them.

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