Strength Training for Runners

By Lewis Morrison on May 7, 2015 , categorized in Endurance

By Lewis Morrison, MSc, CSEP-CEP, FMS2, Peak Centre for Human Performance

Strength is an often overlooked but very important factor in endurance athletes. There are two main types of strength: absolute strength and strength endurance. Absolute strength represents your ability to lift a maximal weight once (your one repetition max). Strength endurance is creating a sub-maximal force, and repeating it for a required number of repetitions. Running is a sub-maximal exercise and thus, the higher your absolute strength, the easier the repeated movement (your running stride) becomes.

Modern strength training programs for runners often focus on using unstable surfaces and balance training, despite the fact that these types of training have not been shown to improve performance. This type of training can in fact significantly limit strength gains due to the lower force development produced with these movements. Traditional strength training exercises such as the squat, bench press, deadlift, pull ups, and power cleans have been shown to be key to athletic performance time and time again.

To become a better runner, your focus for strength training should be:

  • 8 to 12 whole body exercises
  • 5 to 8 reps of maximum weight for each exercise
  • 2 to 3 sets, with 3 minute rest between sets

It is important to ensure good technique is maintained throughout each movement. If you can’t make 5 reps with good technique, then the weight is too heavy. If you can make more than 9 or more reps, then the weight is too light.

Brand new to strength training? Start here:

If you are not familiar with strength training, it is not recommended you start straight away at the 5 to 8 repetition range. Begin your training at a higher repetition range (10 to 12) with a weight that you can complete with good technique for 3 to 4 weeks. This initial phase of strength training allows your body time to get used to the movements of each exercise so that ligaments and tendons are strong and your technique is good. When you are comfortable with the weight and your technique is good, increase the weight and reduce the repetitions to 8 to 10 for 3 to 4 weeks. Finally reduce the reps down to 5 to 8 reps with a higher weight for the remainder of your training.

10 of our favorite strength exercises for runners:

1. Supine Pull ups

2. Hamstring Curls

3. Step Ups

4. Shoulder Press

5. Stability Ball Wall Squats

6. Push-ups

7. Pull Ups

8. Leg Press

9. Good Mornings

10. Calf Raises

For more instructional strength training videos, visit the Peak Centre YouTube channel.

We recommend that you seek advice from professionals (such as those at the Peak Centre for Human Performance) who can show you the correct and safe technique to complete each movement and ensure your safety through the program.

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Lewis Morrison

From training athletes of all abilities to complete Ironman triathlons, marathons and Gran Fondos, to long-term research on athletes, Lewis has over 12 years of valuable experience in both testing and training elite athletes. Originally from the UK, Lewis completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Sports and Exercise Science at Leeds Metropolitan University, and later achieved a Masters in Sports Science at Loughborough University. He is currently the Director of Sports Science at Peak Centre for Human Performance, Canada’s leader in individualized training solutions. The Peak Centre for Human Performance is Canada's leading private sports science center. Through qualitative individual analysis they have the unique ability to provide the client with a specific exercise evaluation and the appropriate solution in an effort to maximize performance. Learn more about Peak Centre for Human Performance on their website.

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