Strength Training for Runners (Yes, you need to be doing it!)

I like to imagine that all runners know the importance of strength training, but I still talk with people all the time that assume running up some hills is good enough. It’s not. For runners, even just those that run once or twice a week, the key muscles that you should work on are developing strong glutes and hamstrings, as well as a solid core and posterior chain. Some runners are scared to lift weights, thinking it will make them heavier. But unless you are trying to add mass by lifting very heavy, it’s not likely to happen. Adding strength training to your routine, even one or two times per week, can actually be very beneficial to your training—it can help prevent injuries and help to build up speed. Listed below are a few of the best exercises for runners, including movements that focus on one leg at a time, simulating the demands of running and finding weaknesses.


  • ​​Begin in a standing position with a bar, broomstick, or band in your hands in front of you
  • Keep your back is straight for the entire exercises, suck in your stomach to engage your core, and stand with your feet hip distance apart.
  • Bend forward at the hips, slowly pushing your butt back towards the wall behind you. Your knees should only partially bend which should generate tension in your hamstrings
  • When your hips cannot go any further backwards, pause, and then slowly return to standing by extending the hips

Single Leg Box Squat

  • ​Set up your box or bench so that it is around knee height
  • Stand with your feet hip width apart, suck in your stomach to engage your core and keep your shoulders back
  • Lift your right leg off the ground, keeping the above posture as you balance on the one leg
  • Slowly start bending your left knee, pushing your butt back as if you are about to sit in a chair
  • Get as low as you can, then slowly engage the muscles and start standing up straight again

Lateral Lunge

  • ​Either with or without dumbbells.
  • Step out to your right side, keeping both feet pointing ahead of you
  • Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the ground, keeping your left leg straight
  • Step back to the center and repeat on the other side
  • Focus on keeping your stomach sucked in the entire time. As you have to balance to bring your leg back to standing position, it means that you abs have to do a lot of the work, and in turn they also get a workout!

Dumbbell Single Leg Dead Lifts

  • Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your stomach sucked in tight and your shoulders back
  • Plant your left leg into the ground, this leg is going to be your support on this side
  • Now send your right leg straight back behind you, while at the same time bring the front of you body forward until it is almost parallel to the ground. Without breaking the hips, slowly start leaning forward, allowing the weight to carry you down, while pushing the right leg back towards the wall behind you
  • Now slowly bring yourself back up to standing. You should be feeling this in your core, your left hamstring and your right glute

Overhead Squat

  • ​Hold a barbell, towel, band or broomstick above your head
  • Stand straight with your feet at shoulder width apart and slightly angled at around 45 degrees
  • Slowly squat down, keeping your chest and arms up and your core engaged
  • When you get to your lowest point, engage your core and push yourself back up to standing keeping the band or bar above your head the entire time.

3 Common Weight-Lifting Mistakes

Keep in mind that a runner using weight training to improve your running is different than a weightlifter who also runs. Here are some shares some common weight-lifting mistakes to avoid according to Matt Fitzgerald:

  • Going Too Heavy: The weight room is no place for ego, so check it at the door. “Not every lift has to be superheavy and superhard. Don’t risk injury trying to be a hero in the weight room.”
  • Lifting Too Light: If you’re always lifting low weight for high reps, you’re building endurance in the weight room, but you shouldn’t be. “Runners work on endurance all the time with every run. The goal with weight training needs to be strength and power.”
  • Focusing on Specific Body Parts: “Runners don’t need to lift that often, for as long, nor isolate individual muscles. You can lift full-body twice per week for 30 to 60 minutes, prioritizing strength and power.” You’ll get everything you need with that setup.

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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,

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