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Resistance Training For Endurance Athletes


If you’re a runner, what do you spend most of your exercise time doing? The answer is obvious, running! And as well it should be, because your sport and training goal is to run and run fast. Interestingly enough though, running and even running fast won’t necessarily result in a fast race day performance, in fact it may not be enough to even get you to your race.

For most runners the limiting factor to performance isn’t aerobic fitness, its muscular fitness. Most runners are so aerobically trained (because as we established above, that’s what they do), that muscular fitness is neglected. Although runners with high aerobic fitness may have a well-developed heart, lungs, and blood vessels; that’s not enough to run fast (or to run injury free for that matter). You need strong and powerful muscles to truly maximize your performance.

Strong and powerful muscles are resistant to injury, as they can handle the mechanical stress of constant impact with the road. These strong muscles act like a shock absorber to take stress off of tendons (preventing tendonitis) and bones (preventing stress fractures). Strong and powerful muscles also allow you to produce more force (and produce it faster), every time you make contact with the ground. This increase in what is referred to as “RATE of force development” is the key to speed. Developing strength and power in the weight room translates to injury-free speed development on the road.

Here are some simple recommendations for putting together a runner-specific strength training workout:

  • Keep your maximum frequency to 2 days per week, ideally early in your week. Also try not to do it the day before your long run.
  • Train all the major muscles in the body, especially the lower body. Runners will often neglect their lower body in the weight room because they think it is “getting trained” when running. Although that may be true, running only trains the muscle aerobically and we want to train it for strength and power.
  • Use high weight, lower reps, and longer rest periods between sets. This combination does two important things. First, it prevents muscle growth. Although muscle growth might sound good, it actually slows a runner down. Using a high weight, lower rep, long rest structure increases strength by improving “mind-muscle connections.” Secondly this combination will also limit soreness caused by strength training, which is important for productive running workouts.
  • Start slow. Regardless if you’ve strength trained or not before, you should ramp your strength training up slowly. Make sure you have a good understanding of technique and avoid doing any exercise until you physically can’t do it anymore.
  • Train the brakes. Glutes, hamstrings, calves, outer hip, and ankle muscles are all responsible for absorbing impact forces when running. As a result, they should be a big part of your routine.

Beginner Workout (runners with limited formal strength training experience):

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Interval
DB Squats 3 10 to 15 90s
Cable Seated Row 3 10 to 15 90s
Machine Leg Curl 2 10 to 15 90s
DB Bench Press 3 10 to 15 90s
DB 2-Leg Calf Raise 2 10 to 15 75s
DB Bicep Curl 2 10 to 15 75s
V-Bar Tricep Pushdown 2 10 to 15 75s
Modified Planks 3 15-60s 60s
Superman’s 3 10 to 20 60s
3-Way Ankle Prehab 1 15/exercise None


Intermediate Workout (runners with some formal strength training experience)

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Interval
Sled Leg Press 3 6 to 10 90s
Pullups or Lat Pulldown 3 6 to 10 90s
BB or DB RDL 2 6 to 10 90s
Lateral Band Walks 3 8-10/leg 90s
DB 1-Leg Calf Raise 2 6-10/leg 75s
Cable Bicep Curl 2 8 to 12 60s
DB Kickbacks 2 8 to 12 60s
Planks 3 15-60s 60s
Side Planks 3/side 15-60s 60s
3-Way Ankle Prehab 1 15/exercise None


Advanced Workout (runners with extensive formal strength training experience):

Exercise Sets Reps Rest Interval
Long Jumps 3 6 90s
BB Speed Squat 3 6 90s
Bench Split Squat 3 6-8/leg 90s
DB Bench Row 3 6-8/arm 90s
BB Hip Thrust 2 6 to 10 75s
Sled Calf Raise 2 6 to 10 75s
Lateral Band Walks 2 8-10/leg 60s
Cable Crunch 3 6 to 8 60s
Marching Planks 3 15-60s 60s
3-Way Ankle Prehab 1 15/exercise None

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