Should I Strength Train if I Want To Improve My Running?

does strength training help running

You lace up those running shoes and head out the door, ready to log some miles. But as much as you love those long runs, you know you could use a little more power and endurance.

So you’ve been wondering—should you add in some strength training too? You’re not trying to bulk up and join a bodybuilding competition. But maybe a little time in the weight room could help you shave some seconds off your pace.

In this article, we’ll go over what strength training is, the major benefits it offers runners, and how much you really need to do to see improvements. You’ll learn simple ways to incorporate resistance exercises into your existing routine without overdoing it.

And we’ll give you a sample strength workout made just for runners like you. So keep reading to find out if picking up some weights could be your ticket to new PRs.

Does Strength Training Help Running?

does strength training help running

Absolutely! Strength training offers several benefits for runners. By building stronger muscles, tendons, and joints, strength training helps prevent injuries and makes you a more powerful runner.

Builds Resilience

Strength training helps build stronger bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments—all of which reduce your risk of injury from the high-impact forces of running. Squats, lunges, pushups, and core work are especially helpful for injury prevention.

Improves Power and Speed

does strength training help running endurance and power

Having stronger legs will give you the capacity to run faster while keeping a good run form. Just like in running, the main power sources at your legs and glutes should be exercised with the squats, deadlifts, lunges, and calf raises. Proper leg strength with powerful strides obviously can reduce some seconds from your time.

Better Endurance

While cardio exercise improves your endurance, strength training also plays a role. Stronger muscles are more efficient, so they require less effort to move. This allows you to run longer at the same pace before fatiguing. Core and back exercises also improve your posture and efficiency.

The ideal amount of strength training for runners is 2 to 3 sessions of 30 to 60 minutes per week, focusing on legs, core, back, and injury prevention. Start light, focus on proper form, and build up weight and difficulty over time as your muscles adapt. On running days, do your strength training after your run when your legs are already warmed up.

Related: Why Is Cardiovascular Fitness Important?

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

benefits of strength training for runners

Strength training offers several benefits for runners. It can improve your performance, prevent injuries, and make you a stronger, faster runner.

Improved Running Performance

strength training improves runners, running speed and power

Strength training helps build stronger muscles and connective tissues, which allows you to run faster and for longer periods of time. Stronger legs, core, and glutes will give you more power and endurance. You’ll also improve your running economy, meaning you can run at the same pace using less energy.

Related: Runners, Click Here For Ideal Running Pace Per Mile

Injury Prevention

strength training also keep runners safe from running injuries

Runners are prone to overuse injuries like stress fractures, tendonitis, and muscle strains. Strength training helps build stronger bones and connective tissue, reducing injury risk. It also corrects muscle imbalances that can lead to injury. Focus on exercises that strengthen your hips, legs, core, and glutes.

Increased Power and Speed

Stronger muscles generate more power and speed. Exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and plyometrics will make you a faster, more powerful runner. You’ll be able to accelerate quicker and run at higher speeds. Power training also helps improve your running stride, making you a smoother, more efficient runner.

Improved Balance and Coordination

Many strength exercises require balance, flexibility, and coordination. This enhances your body awareness and posture, which translates directly to better running form and efficiency. Exercises like single-leg squats, bridges, and planks are great for improving balance and core stability.

While strength training offers many benefits, you only need to do it 2-3 times a week for 30-45 minutes. Start light, focus on compound exercises, and build up the weight and difficulty over time as your strength improves. Be sure to give your body rest days for the best results.

Tip

Combining strength and cardio training will make you a faster, stronger, and healthier runner.

How Much Strength Training Do Runners Need to Do?

How Much Strength Training Do Runners Need to Do for best running performance?

As a runner, you need to incorporate some strength training into your routine to improve your performance and prevent injuries. The good news is that you don’t need to spend hours pumping iron to reap the benefits.

Focus on Functionality

The key is to focus on exercises that improve your running function, not just building muscle mass. Prioritize moves like squats, lunges, pushups, and planks that strengthen your core and legs. These areas are essential for powering your runs. Add in exercises that improve flexibility and balance, like calf raises and hip openers.

Start Light and Build Up

start slow and light if a runner is new to add strength training for his runs

When you first start strength training, begin with just bodyweight exercises. This allows you to learn the proper form before adding extra weight. Start with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. As your strength improves over weeks and months, you can hold dumbbells or a barbell to increase the intensity.

Don’t Overdo It

While strength training is important for runners, don’t overdo it, especially if you have a race coming up. Increase your strength training volume and intensity slowly over time.

Give yourself adequate rest days in between strength and high-intensity running workouts. If your legs feel overly fatigued, cut back. The last thing you want is to get injured or develop overuse injuries like stress fractures.

In summary, a little bit of targeted strength training goes a long way for runners. Focus on exercises that improve your running function, start light and build up slowly, and avoid overdoing them.

How Heavy Is Heavy Enough?

For strength training to benefit your running, the weight needs to be heavy enough to challenge your muscles. But how heavy is heavy enough? The answer depends on your current fitness level and strength training experience.

Finding the Right Weight

find your right weight for good strength training

For dumbbell exercises like shoulder presses or rows, choose a weight that you can lift with good form for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. If that feels easy, go a little heavier. Increase weight and decrease reps over time as your muscles adapt. But don’t sacrifice good form for heavier weights. It’s better to use a lighter weight and do an extra set.

When It’s Too Heavy

You know a weight is too heavy if:

  • Your form breaks down. Your back arches, you lock your joints, or you use momentum to move the weight.
  • You can’t complete the desired number of reps in good form. For example, if you’re aiming for 3 sets of 10 reps but can only do 6 or 7 reps with good form.
  • The weight causes pain during exercise. Muscle fatigue and soreness afterward are normal, but sharp pain means the weight is too much.
  • You struggle to control and stabilize your weight. The weight should move smoothly through the full range of motion for each rep. If it’s jerky or uneven, it’s too heavy.

The most important thing is using proper form and technique. Start light, build up the weight gradually, and always put safety first. Strength training will make you a stronger, better runner, but overdoing the weight can easily lead to injury. Increase weight and decrease reps over time, but do so cautiously and stay within limits.

Strength Training Exercises for Runners

As a runner, strength training should absolutely be part of your routine. Not only will it make you a better runner, but it will also help prevent injuries. The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to reap the benefits. Just two or three strength sessions a week of 30 to 45 minutes can provide huge payoffs.

Bodyweight Exercises

Some of the best strength exercises for runners don’t require any equipment at all. Things like squats, lunges, pushups, sit-ups, and calf raises can be done anywhere and provide targeted work for your major running muscles. Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise, 2 to 3 times a week.

Free Weights

Once you’ve built up some strength with bodyweight moves, add in some free weights like dumbbells and resistance bands. Exercises like step-ups while holding dumbbells, bicep curls, triceps extensions, and seated rows are great for runners.

Start with a lighter weight and higher reps, around 2 to 3 pounds and 15 to 20 reps. Build up the weight and decrease the reps over time as your muscles strengthen.

Weight Machines

For some runners, weight machines at the gym provide an easy way to get into strength training. Leg press, hamstring curl, and quad extension machines are particularly useful for runners. These provide resistance through the full range of motion for your major leg muscles.

Start with a lighter weight and aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, a few times a week. The most important thing is just getting started. Even one extra strength session a week can improve your power and speed as a runner, as well as boost your endurance.

Over time, you’ll build stronger muscles and connective tissues, allowing you to run faster and farther. Make strength training a habit, and you’ll be crushing your running goals in no time!

Ways to Add Strength Training to Your Routine

Runners can add strength training in their workout plan to boost their running performance

Strength training for runners is highly recommended to improve performance and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend hours pumping iron to reap the benefits. Just two or three strength sessions a week can provide huge rewards.

One of the easiest ways to build strength is to add bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, and planks to your routine. Begin with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise, 2 to 3 times a week.

No special equipment is needed, and it can be done just about anywhere. Over time, you can hold dumbbells or a medicine ball to make them more challenging and if you don’t wanna go outside then you can just order through our affiliate link.

If you have access to a gym, use weight machines like leg presses, calf raises, and hamstring curls to strengthen your lower body. Even starting with just the weight of the machine is beneficial. For your upper body, do lat pulldowns, shoulder presses, and rows. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps on each machine.

Freeweights like dumbbells and barbells are also great for building strength. Exercises like dumbbell squats, step-ups, Romanian deadlifts, bench presses, and bent-over rows directly translate to improved running performance. Start light, around 5 to 10 pounds per dumbbell, and practice the movements before getting heavier.

You can also try high intensity interval or circuit training. This involves quickly moving between strength exercises with little rest in between. For example, do a set of squats, then immediately do a set of pushups, then lunges, then shoulder presses. Repeat the circuit 2-3 times. This type of training increases your heart rate and muscular endurance.

Related: Demystifying Maximum Heart Rate Secret

The key is to start slowly and build up your strength over time as your muscles adapt. Even adding one or two strength sessions a week can help reduce injury risk, improve your running form, and boost your performance. Consistency is key, so find strength exercises you genuinely enjoy and stick with them long-term.

Will Strength Training Make Me Bulky? Slow?

adding strength training does not make a runner bulky or slow

Strength training will not make you bulky or slow you down as a runner. The myth that strength training will add pounds of muscle and reduce your speed and endurance is simply not true.

When done properly, strength training, focuses on building lean muscle to improve power, balance, and efficiency, not bulk. The key is to use lighter weights and higher reps—around 2-3 sets of 12–15 reps for each exercise.

This helps build endurance in your muscles without adding size. You also want to focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once, like squats, lunges, pushups, and rows. Isolating single muscles is more likely to lead to hypertrophy (muscle gain).

Related: How to Go from Skinny to Muscular in 2 Months

In fact, strength training provides many benefits for runners. It helps prevent injuries by building stronger joints, tendons, and ligaments. It improves your running form and efficiency by strengthening your core, glutes, and hips.

While strength training, be sure to start light, focus on controlled movements, and stop if anything hurts. You only need 2-3 strength sessions per week, with rest days in between, for the best results. Start with just 10–15 minutes a few times a week and build up slowly.

Keep your runs and strength training separate and avoid “leg days” right before long runs. The bottom line is that strength training in moderation will make you a better, faster, and more powerful runner. It provides so many benefits for runners when done properly.

Strength Training Workout Plan for Runners

strength training workout plan for runners to boost their running performance

Monday: Strength train upper body/core

Tuesday: Tempo run

Wednesday: Easy run; Strength train lower body

Thursday: Rest day

Friday: Tempo run

Saturday: Easy run

Sunday: Long run

My Thoughts

In my opinion strength training, when done right, offers a lot of benefits for runners at all levels. From preventing injuries to improving your running economy, adding some focused strength workouts to your routine a few days a week can really take your running up a notch.

Don’t go overboard trying to bulk up; remember that balance is key. Focus on the major muscle groups, like your core, glutes, and legs. Start slow and listen to your body. Be patient and stick with it.

In no time, you’ll be feeling stronger, running faster, and staying injury-free on your road to race day. Now get out there, be smart, and start reaping the rewards that strength training has to offer!

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