Strength training for running

May 2, 2019

Running appears to be more popular than ever. With an influx in local running clubs, opening and park run being organised, it’s attracting individuals of all ages and fitness levels. People are starting to push themselves more and more, setting goals from just the occasional 5km to training for half marathons, full marathons and obstacle courses.

Despite this increase in popularity in the sport, many runners are surprised to hear that running alone is not enough to improve performance and push their bodies to the next level. People can be put off by the mention of strength training as it can be associated with bulking up – something that runners generally want to avoid, along with the aching or stiff muscles that can follow.

However, for runners, strength training doesn’t have to mean bulking up. Training should be centred on strength as opposed to muscle gain, and because of the miles put into running, any increases in muscle mass are relatively low.


In reality, there are many benefits of strength training for runners. The main three accomplishments are:

  1. Preventing injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissue
  2. Increasing running speed by improving neuromuscular coordination and power
  3. Improving running economy by encouraging coordination and stride efficiency

In an interview with The Guardian, Mo Farah explained that squatting 200lb and doing core work had made a significant difference to his running. A study in 2008, carried out by Storen et al, looked at runners that performed heavy squats three times a week, alongside runners who performed only their normal distance training. The findings showed that runners doing the squats improved their running economy and time-to-exhaustion at maximum aerobic speed without any change in their body weight.

Strength training further makes your body more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy, decreasing recovery time following long runs. Regular strength training can also help to correct muscle imbalances and weaknesses that are common in modern life, especially for runners who take up the sport as adults and spend their non-running hours at a desk.


Ideally, you should strength train three times a week, but even just once per week is better than nothing. Strength training is meant to help your running, not detract from it, so incorporate it into your regular run training routine. You can do strength and submaximal run sessions on the same day providing you leave a six-hour window between sessions.

And importantly, always ensure you have rest days. It’s essential to give your body time to recover and to ensure you’re stretching effectively.

Below, we’ve included some strength training exercises for runners. They target the upper body, lower body and core. If you have specific imbalances or recurrent injuries it’s best to arrange a full assessment with a professional. We can help with this kind of assessment at W5Physio and will design a tailored programme for you – get in touch with us here.


1. Single leg squat

2. Romanian single deadlift

3. Single leg bridge

4. Squats with weight

5. Lateral band walk

6. Side plank

7. Plank

8. Bird dogs with tucks

9. Burpees

10. Push-ups

11. Bent over rows

12. Rotational shoulder press

These exercises target the upper body, core and lower body. Choose a few in each area to create a full-body workout or simply concentrate on one area at a time. For best results add them to your easy or cross-training days. And remember if you’d like further advice, contact us – we’re here to help!

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