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Strength Training Tips for Runners

Posted March 07, 2023 by Joe Cieszynski, MS AT CSCS

Young man holding weights

Lifting weights is kind of popular now a days. Everyone lifts. Swanky gyms seem to be popping up on every corner. But, you’re a runner and runners don’t lift weights, right? Runners just run, run, run. More miles are better, right? Well, not exactly. More is not always better.

Many health and fitness professionals are touting the benefits of strength training for runners and there is a mountain of research out there backing up those claims that strength training can improve your running experience by reducing injuries, improving neuromuscular coordination and power as well as improving running economy. As a former competitive endurance athlete, strength training was always a part of my training regime. You could count my injuries over a 20-year competitive career of training and competing in Nordic skiing, biathlon, trail running, and Bike racing on one hand. There is no doubt, in my mind, the addition of strength training helped me stay injury free, improve my performance (my best performances where in my late 30s and early 40s), and kept my training fresh. 

However, just like your run training, it needs to be done year round, planned out to be progressive and balanced to be effective. Here are several tips to help you add strength training to your routine:

  • Break down your training year into training blocks with a specific focus for each block. An example of a 4 block program could be Base, Build, Race, and Off Season. Each block should have a different set and rep scheme to coincide with your run training. 
  • Pick multi-joint exercises over single-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises will give you more bang for your buck, are efficient with your time, and are more functional. If you have extra time and are motivated single joint exercises would be ok. Examples of multi-joint exercises would be squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench press and rowing. Bicep curls, leg extensions, tricep presses and calf raises would be considered single joint exercises.  
  • Adding single leg exercises are also a good idea to develop strength and balance between your limbs. Single leg squats and leg presses are excellent exercises.
  • Just like your running progression, start strength training with low volume, lower intensity lifting in your base phase and gradually increase your volume and intensity through the build phase. Finally as you enter your race phase, drop the volume and maintain the intensity to avoid losing those strength gains built over the past several months. The majority of your lifting volume should be done in the off-season.
  • Don’t forget about your “core.” Strengthening up your abdominal, low back, and hip muscles are vital to improved performance and injury prevention. Planks and ball stabilization exercises done in multiple planes are a must in any sound training program.
  • Consider working with a certified strength and conditioning professional who optimally has experience in endurance athletics to help you design a sound program that fits your individual situation. 

So if you have been hesitant to hit the gym to supplement your running, I implore you to do some research, find a gym, and work with a competent strength and conditioning professional to help you optimize your training. Your best performances are ahead of you. Good luck!

Joe Cieszynski, MS AT CSCS

Joe Cieszynski, MS AT CSCS


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