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Why Runners Need Strength Training

Why Strength Training is Important For Runners

Strength training is the secret to success if you want to become a better long distance runner. No matter if your maximum distance is a 5K or full marathon, strength training can be beneficial and help you become a stronger, faster runner.

The key is to figure out the types of strength training exercises that you need to do and how often you need to do them.

Keep reading to find out how to add strength exercises to your next training session.

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The Benefits of Strength Training

Improves Running Performance

There have been several studies researching the effect strength training has on long distance running.

They have found that increased strength builds up your fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers which are important for activating muscles for different types of runs.

Strength training can improve your muscle coordination and running economy – the amount of energy needed to complete a run.

Strength training can also help you become a faster runner.

A 2009 study compared runners that used a strength training plan during their 5K training to runners that only focused on running. Those who added strength training had faster 5K times than those that didn’t.

Helps Runners Build (or Keep) Curves

Many people look at long distance runners and immediately think of slender bodies with zero curves. While it’s true that most elite long distance runners have this body shape, it is not the case for the average runner.

Any type of cardio, including running, helps you lose weight because it burns fat AND muscle. In order to keep (or create) your curves, you will need to strength train to build lean muscle.

In order to keep or change the shape of your body, you will need to accompany strength training with running. That way you can create strong legs, a small waist, and still be an efficient runner. Your diet will play a big part in this as well.

Keep reading to find a list of strength training exercises and a quick routine for your next training day.

Decreases Risk of Injury

Running injuries are common, especially for those that are new to running.

In fact, a research study found that for every 1,000 hours of running, there are about 17.8 related injuries whereas experienced runners only experience about 8 running-related injuries.

Most of these injuries are because of overuse (too much running and not enough rest) or putting too much stress on a muscle or bone. Strength training helps prepare your muscles for the increased pressure being put on your body from running.

It’s important that as you increase the amount of time you spend running and your mileage, that you also take the time to keep your body strong and rest appropriately.

Related: Don’t Skip Your Warmup

Increases Calorie Burn

When you begin to do strength training exercises, you will start to build muscle. While most of us may have heard the saying that muscle weighs more than fat, you probably didn’t know that it also burns more calories than fat.

Every pound of muscle in your body burns about 6 calories a day which is three times as much as fat!

Every pound of muscle in your body burns about 6 calories a day which is three times as much as fat.

It’s important that as you increase the amount of time you spend running and your mileage, that you also take the time to keep your body strong and rest appropriately.

Related: How to Measure Weight Loss Without Using a Scale

What Type of Strength Training Should Runners Do?

Bodyweight Exercises For Runners

You don’t have to run out to get a gym membership or head to the store for equipment.

Bodyweight strength training for runners can be very effective as long as you focus on your form and incorporate the right exercises.

It’s important to focus on unilateral moves – or exercises that use one leg or body part at a time. This will help make sure you are equally strong on both sides as many of us tend to favor one side over the other.

Here are a few bodyweight exercises

  • Lunges
  • Single-Leg Squat
  • Single-Leg Bridge
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Swimmers

Resistance Band Exercises For Runners

Resistance training is another great way to increase your strength if you aren’t quite ready to use weights or if you like to workout at home. They are low impact so it won’t put too much strain on your joints as you get used to doing the workouts.

These bands come in many different sizes and resistance such as looped, rings, and long ones for pull-ups. I prefer using the looped bands for most exercises.

If you’re looking for resistance bands, Amazon has great options. I purchased a pack similar to these resistance bands and they have lasted a long time without any tears and minimal roll ups.

resistance bands for strength training

Compare the price of some of these top-rated resistance bands

Here are a few resistance band exercises

  • Standing Hip Abduction
  • Glute Kickbacks
  • Resistance Band Front Raise
  • Dead Bug with Band
  • Hip Flexor Marches

Weight Training For Runners

If you have access to a gym or have dumbbells in your home, you can add weighted exercises to your strength training. Weight training gives you the ability to get stronger by continually adding resistance as you get comfortable in the gym.

Find a reasonable weight where you can do about 8 – 10 reps.

Here are a few exercises that you can use with dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells

  • Hip Thrusts
  • Bulgarian Split Squats
  • Single Arm Row
  • Lateral Arm Raise
  • Hammer Bicep Curls

Watch this video for a quick strength training routine!

How to Schedule Running and Strength Training

When Should Runners Strength Train

It’s best to strength train on days that you are not running. However, if you are running more than 3 days a week, you will have to combine some days to work out and run.

The best way to do this is either separate the two by running in the morning and working out in the evening (or vice versa). If that’s not possible, I recommend doing your strength workouts first before you go running.

Related: How to Create a Training Plan for Runners

How Often Should Runners Strength Train

When you’re first starting to add strength workouts to your training plan, I recommend that you start off slow and only add two days of strength training per week.

These would be two days where you do full-body exercises – meaning you’re working out your upper body, core, and lower body.

Once you get used to having strength workouts as part of your training, then you can increase the days that you train. Once you do more than 3 days of strength workouts, it’s recommended that you split up your focus areas.

For example, if you strength train 4 days a week, have 2 of those days for only lower body workouts (squats, lunges, etc) and the other 2 days for upper body and core (pushups, bicycle crunch, etc).

Be sure to schedule your runs so that you aren’t doing a long run or speed run the same day as a heavy lift day or a leg day.

Final Thoughts on Strength Training For Runners

It’s important for runners to include strength workouts in their training plans. Strength training will help improve your performance, decrease your risk of injury, and build muscle. However, not all exercises are created with runners in mind.

Be sure to follow a program designed for running. If you’re looking for a personalized strength training program, book a consultation with a running coach or personal trainer such as  1% Training or Wimpy Vegan.

Related Training Articles For Runners

Why Strength Training Is Important For Runners

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12 thoughts on “Why Runners Need Strength Training”

  1. This is actually super informative to me! I like to run in the morning and I always wonder when I should be working out my body! Before or after! This gives me so much clarity on not only that, but other strategies too! Thank you so much!

  2. Great post! Thanks for the helpful tips! I often focus so much on cardio that I never give strength training a second thought but I know it’s an area I need to focus on.

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