Strength training for distance runners is a non-negotiable part of building endurance. Your maximum distance is all determined by your strength and cardio capacity—and running alone doesn’t build sufficient endurance to take you the distance.
Runners are usually resistant to anything that takes them away from getting in the miles, and that includes strength training. We’re here to show you how three of our favorite workouts can actually benefit your running and how easily you can incorporate them into your training plan. From injury prevention to increased speed to building endurance, strength training for distance runners is a worthy practice.
Below, we’ll walk you through the best workouts for long-distance runners and weight training routines you can incorporate into your weekly schedule.
The following videos will walk you through three short and focused workouts featuring our favorite nine movements. You’ll see a lower-body focus, a dedicated core workout, and a quick full-body workout. Experiment with adding in one workout per week until you’ve gone through all three, then see if you can challenge yourself to add in two per week.
Be sure to save these workouts for your cross-training days, or add them to the end of a shorter run. Preserve your rest days, and avoid adding them on to your weekend long run so you’re not overtraining.
All but one of the nine strength exercises use your bodyweight only, so you can use these strength workouts no matter your fitness level or location. Take them to the park for an extra dose of fresh air or do them in your living room for the ultimate practicality.
This lower-body strength routine will provide great benefits for your running performance. You’ll challenge your mobility and range of motion, your stability, balance, as well as your power output.
A squat is an ideal movement for finding mobility in the hips, knees, and ankles. The demand on those joints as you sink into the bottom position can help undo the impact and tightness that can creep in after putting in the miles. Whether you get in your squats during a quick workout or as a posture reset exercise mid-run, they can improve your leg strength and explosiveness of the hips.
This exercise improves hamstring & glute strength, core control and improves the range of motion in your hips. These benefits help you maintain your stride at any level of fatigue, even on a long-distance run. Not to mention the benefits to your stability on the run, especially for trail runners.
This reliable exercise works to improve your power output as a runner, especially if you take it to the tougher level by performing jumping lunges. Each rep will recruit power from your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps. Basically, your whole lower body will feel the demand.
Complete each movement for 30 seconds, resting for 15 seconds between movements (because they’re tough!) Perform five rounds of the circuit.
No matter the distance you like to run, developing stability in the core will not only help support your upper body and a tall posture on the run, but will also help keep your hips stable with optimal posture and positioning. A core that stays engaged during a run will also help avoid lower back pain, which is a common complaint among distance runners.
This version of a plank will challenge your shoulder mobility, wrist flexibility, and your glute and hamstring engagement as you lift yourself up. Your hip flexors will also get a good stretch as you bridge up.
By taking this plank to a single-arm, you’ll feel extra challenge in your core and hips to not shift side to side. By resisting the rotation you’ll feel your core and obliques firing strongly.
If this variation is too challenging, no problem. Stick with a regular plank and slowly work up to lifting one hand off the floor one inch, two inches, and so on until you can bring your hand up fully.
Challenge your obliques and hips in this variation. Pay attention to your positioning and avoid tipping forward or backward. Squeeze the glute of your lower leg to stay strong and avoid your hips dropping to the ground.
Complete each movement for 30 seconds, performing three to five rounds of the circuit. Give yourself about 10 seconds to transition between moves if you’re setting a timer for yourself.
Last up are some of our favorite moves for a quick full-body workout. You’ll see a dynamic full-body movement as well as an exercise for each of the lower and upper body.
The posterior chain—the back, glutes, and hamstrings—will be the focus of the kettlebell swing. You’ll also practice some power production with the explosive nature of this movement.
Just as we saw in the lower body workout, the lunge is a fantastic movement to build strength, challenge stability, and engage the glutes. Here we won’t be using jumping lunges, but you can up the challenge by adding weight to the movement if you’re ready.
Perhaps the most classic exercise, the push-up is a must-do for any strength training program, including one for runners. By keeping your elbows close to the body during the movement, you’ll be mimicking your running arm swing. You’ll also be strengthening your shoulders and upper back, as well as getting in an extra dose of core training.
Perform each movement consecutively for 20 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest. Complete five rounds of the circuit, adding on or scaling back depending on your fitness level. Remember we’re going for quality, not quantity!
Strength training for distance runners is a critical component of training, but it’s also important for other distances, too. Track athletes need sufficient lower body and core strength to propel them at faster speeds.
Just look at Usain Bolt, and I’ll let you answer the question: Does he do strength training?
For even more strength training and ready-to-go workouts, be sure to download The Run Experience app!