Even Runners need to Strength Train: The ‘HOW’…

Following Part 1 we know why runners should include resistance training. , Let’s now take a look at what this program could present as.

The following is a sample program that includes the concepts discussed, but it is very important to remember that programs will vary greatly dependent on individuals training and ability. However, the following will give a great base from which to begin and branch off.

The goal of the program is to continue with running being the overall improvement but to supplement with resistance training that will aid in said improvement.

Any lower extremity based strength program should have squats and deadlifts.

Beautiful Fit Woman Doing Barbell Squats In The Gym

These are the exercises that are the most capable to load up and maximize your body’s strength capability. If you don’t know how to perform the barbell squat and deadlift, it would be very beneficial to contact a competent trainer to learn them.

As always, correct form trumps weight! Your running capability will certainly decrease if you injure yourself performing a lift incorrectly. Intensity can be measured by estimated 1RM (one rep max) or rating of perceived exertion (RPE) on a scale of 1-10, 10 being all out effort.

RPE is better to go by for beginners, and it’s also good to start out lower than that and work your way up as you get more comfortable with the movement pattern.

Exercise sets x reps Intensity (%1RM/RPE) Rest in-between sets


Box jumps 2×8 Medium to High

Jump lunges* 2×20 Medium to High

Bounds* 2×15 Medium to High

Single leg hops* 4×5 Medium to High

Vertical jumps 2×6 Medium to High


Strength/Power lifts

Barbell Squat* 3×5 87%/7-9 2-3 minutes

Barbell Deadlift* 3×5 87%/7-9 2-3 minutes

Barbell Hip Thrust* 3×6-8 87%/7-9 1-2 minutes


Walking lunges*                     2×15 5-7

Lateral lunges  2×10 5-7

Bulgarian Split Squats* 3×10 5-7

Calf/soleus raises* 3×15 5-7

Dumbbell squats 3×12 5-7

Single Leg deadlift  3×10 each 5-7

Single Leg Bridging*  3×12 each 5-7


“Injury Prevention”

Nordic Hamstring Curls* 3×6 7-8

Reverse Nordic Curls* 3×6 7-8

Banded Lateral Walks * 3×12 each 6-8

Spanish Squat 3×15 6-8

Bird dogs 2×10 each 6-8

Psoas March 2×10 each 6-8

Dead Bugs* 2×10 each 6-8

These exercises can be manipulated by holding weights if the intensity is not great enough. Runners should start with workouts that are comfortable and don’t cause too much soreness (1-2 days after a workout is fine as long as you allow yourself to recover) before working up to the commonly used three sets of the exercise at a given intensity.

As a goal, shoot for three days a week that you hit the gym and get in the weight room.


It is also important to note that this is merely a list of great STARTING exercises; it is not meant to be fully completed each and every workout, and there are many variations of great exercises one can substitute.

If you don’t have a training history, start slow with learning form of 3-5 exercises and gradually build up to 8-10. The main strength/power lifts can be split up into different workouts during the week as they should be quite intense.

For the plyometric exercises, start with only 1-2 exercises and progress to 3-4 at the beginning of workouts after a solid warmup. Additionally, stretching tight musculature should be performed after resistance training, unless the restricted range of motion effects exercise form.

Some joint pain may be simply tight musculature. For example, IT band syndrome is sometimes confused with IT band tightness which also causes lateral knee pain due to area of insertion. As gluteus maximus and tensor fascia latae (TFL) both have fibers of insertion into this dense connective tissue, if either one of them is overactive and tight, this could pull through the IT band and cause lateral knee pain.

Sometimes there is a quick fix to a problem, rather than letting it fester and become a bigger issue. Typical muscles that may become tight with running and need to be stretched include quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus, hip flexors and plantar fascia. There are many different ways to stretch these groups that can be researched on your own if the need arises.

Now we have the exercises, where do we go from here?

This is where periodization comes into play. Remember how people sometimes think resistance training doesn’t help running? One of the big reasons for this I believe is because you can’t just throw in resistance training and keep running the amount you normally run training for your 5k, 10k or pleasure runs.

This is a great way to stress your tissues too fast too soon and that’s how injuries or setbacks occur, which is exactly what discourages people from adding resistance training to their program. So you have to meticulously plan how hard you work aerobically and anaerobically. This article will not get into the nitty-gritty of running periodization; that would take a book, however, it will attempt to sum up in two generic steps the beginning of an effective program.

The first step is to pick a competition date. This could be an actual race, or just choose a random date you would like to “peak” your running ability.

Sport and fitness runner man running on road training for marathon run doing high intensity interval training sprint workout outdoors in summer. Male athlete sports model fit and healthy aspirations.

The second step is more of a conceptual understanding. Right before this “peak” date is when you want to focus more on running than resistance training. BUT before that phase, focus primarily on building a base of strength. For example, if you have six months before your “peak”, the first few months should focus on resistance training and less on running.

This would be a great time to go through resistance workouts, and then add in swimming, rowing or biking to get some aerobic training in as well but in different ways.

Remember, don’t go crazy on the aerobic aspect of things at this point; the emphasis needs to be in the weight room. Things like long, slow runs are good here if you don’t like other cardio options to build an aerobic base, and these should be at an intensity that is easy to recover from.

At the third or fourth month in this scenario, the lines start to blur between putting the emphasis on running performance or resistance training.

This means that maybe now you drop back to six or so exercises for two days per week, but continue at a pretty tough intensity for those workouts. (These exercises could be some of the ones starred on the table). The difference is the VOLUME – it is no longer the 8-10 exercises for three or more days per week that the program should be when resistance training is the priority. As you get closer to your peak date, running turns into your priority, and intensity should start to look a little more like your actual event you are training for.

Timing and Priorities

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into a periodized program like this, but the main idea is that way before your event, resistance training should be the priority, and then as your event gets closer you shift gears back into a runner. You will be much stronger, and more capable of sustaining a faster pace than you would have been without resistance training.

Recovery is also a part of correct training; allow your body 1-2 rest days per week and if you start feeling sluggish all the time, cut back the intensity for a whole week before continuing.

These exercises listed and basic concepts on how to implement them should be enough to get you started.

For a more detailed approach, involve a competent professional that can get much more specific with YOU individually. Also, no one is stopping you from doing your own research! A great place to start is NSCA’s Guide to Program Design. Always remember, something is better than nothing! Don’t get wrapped up in the small details; start moving and challenging your body in different ways and most likely you’ll see results!

Connect here with WatchFit Expert Jon Kilian


Arnold, M. J., & Moody, A. L. (2018). Common Running Injuries: Evaluation and Management. American Family Physician, 510-516.

Clark, A. M., Lucett, S. C., & Sutton, B. G. (2014). NASM Essetials of Corrective Exercise Training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Grier, T. L., Canham-Chervak, M., Anderson, M. K., Bushman, T. T., & Jones, B. H. (2018). Effects of Physical Training and Fitness on Running Injuries in Physically Active Young Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 207-216.

Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Anderson, L. B. (2014). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 871-877.

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National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2008). The Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. (T. R. Baechle, & R. W. Earle, Eds.) Champaign: Human Kinetics.

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2011). NSCA’s Guide to Program Design. (J. R. Hoffman, Ed.) Champaign: Human Kinetics.

National Strength and Conditioning Association. (2013). Developing Speed. (I. Jeffreys, Ed.) Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Pollard, C. W., Opar, D. A., Williams, M. D., Bourne, M. N., & Timmins, R. G. (2019). Razor hamstring curl and Nordic hamstring exercise architectural adaptations_ impact of exercise selection and intensity. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 706-715.

van der Horst, N., Smits, D.-W., Petersen, J., Goedhart, E. A., & Backx, F. J. (2015). The Preventive Effect of the Nordic Hamstring Exercise on Hamstring Injuries in Amateur Soccer Players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 1316-1323.

Yamamoto, L. M., Lopez, R. M., Klau, J. F., Casa, D. J., Kraemer, W. J., & Maresh, C. M. (2008). The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2036-2044.




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