Run Strong

Strength training for runners

September 24, 2021

Strength training for runners

September 24, 2021

Gone are the days of runner’s training at high volume and low resistance in the gym. Nowadays, improving performance is all about lifting heavy weight for low repetitions focusing on compound movements and plyometric exercises. This can seem counterintuitive, especially for distance runners as strength and endurance sit at opposite ends of the spectrum. However, the benefits of this type of training for both short and long-distance running is undeniable.


Strength training is helpful in preventing injury through strengthening muscle and connective tissue, promoting running economy by training the central nervous system (CNS) and increasing speed by improving muscle power and coordination.


Why focus on low reps, heavy weight and plyometrics?


The aim of strength training for runners is to increase muscle force production, resulting in stronger muscle contractions in a shorter amount of time. Mixing heavy weight training and plyometrics gives the ultimate combination for power production, building both muscle strength and speed, resulting in improved running efficiency. Both training methods require large recruitment of muscle fibres which acts as a training stimulus for the CNS. It has been found that heavy-load strength training better conditions the CNS to transmit electrical signals from the brain to muscles, increasing the rate of force development in the muscles. And with increased force production muscle becomes stronger, quicker, and more powerful, translating to better running economy.


Studies show that strength training twice a week, with low volume and plyometrics, can improve both maximal and reactive strength capabilities for runners. During the racing season studies advise reducing this to one session per week to maintain strength qualities while allowing more time for recovery. Runners that cut strength training altogether during racing season were found to experience a negative impact on performance.


Programming your week is key


Any runner looking to improve performance needs to firstly prioritise running itself. Completing consistent easy runs, tempo sessions and long runs are the bread and butter that create specific endurance adaptations in the body. Therefore, it is important that your weekly program is set up to prioritise performance in running training sessions. Keep your strength training sessions to hard-run days, after you have completed your running session. It’s important to keep your easy run days for recovery, allowing time for training adaptations to occur – training strength on recovery days would have the opposite effect.



Monday: Rest day

Tuesday: Tempo run + strength training

Wednesday: Easy run

Thursday: Rest day

Friday: Intervals + strength training

Saturday: Easy run

Sunday: Long run

Example schedule

Remember, it’s not all about the legs: runners require upper body and core strength too!


Developing a strong upper body improves arm drive while the core works to stabilize the entire running motion. Creating stability and strength through the core muscles (chest, back, abdominals and obliques) works to stabilize the torso, making you a more economical runner. Because our arms and legs are attached to the torso, a strong core is the foundation of strength throughout the rest of the body.

Core strength becomes particularly important towards the end of races when the body is fatigued and form tends to decline. As form deteriorates and you slow down, core strength helps to maintain posture and reduce injuries that develop through compensation for weakness.


Try this program for 8 weeks to develop your strength and power:



2 sets x 10 Dead bug core activation

2 sets x 5 Single leg bounds

4 sets x 3-5 Squats

4 sets x 3-5 Pull ups or ring row

3 sets

8 x Single leg step ups

8 x Single leg calf raise



2 sets x 10 Dead bug core activation

2 sets x 5 Depth jumps + broad jumps

4 sets x 3-5 Deadlifts

4 sets x 3-5 Power cleans

3 sets x 8 Hip thrust


Run, Forest, run

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