Strength Training for Runners: 7 Benefits and 6 Exercises


Want to be a better runner? Run faster? Longer? Then you need to be a stronger runner. But how? The answer is strength training for runners.

The stronger your body is, the better your runs will be. I’m not talking about being a bodybuilder. Just building specific muscles will help with endurance and the beating your body takes by running miles. 

What Exactly is Strength Training for Runners?

Some people call it weight training; others call it resistance training. But the bottom line is it’s all strength training—meaning movements that involve physical exercise to improve muscular strength and endurance. 

7 Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

You’re a runner, right? So, you are already the picture of health. Then why is strength training for runners important? Because there are a lot of benefits for your mind, body, and running economy (how efficient you run).

Let’s delve deeper.

  1. Strength training for runners helps prevent injuries.

Just imagine, every time you run a mile, your feet land about 1600 times. The force from every landing is about two times your body weight. Your body takes a tremendous pounding every time you run.

Weight training can prevent overuse injuries by strengthening your body to better endure the impact. It also helps your connective tissues and muscles to tolerate higher loads that balance the overuse and stress on your body. 

  1. Strength training improves your running economy.

Basically, strengthening your muscles improves neuromuscular coordination increasing your ability to run faster. It also increases your stride efficiency. So, the stronger you are, the faster and longer you can run without exhaustion.

  1. Strength training improves your form.

It increases your core stability, supporting your muscles and posture—essential for proper running techniques.

  1. Strength training increases bone density.

The more you weight train, the stronger your bones grow and adapt. 

And because low bone density is common in menopausal women, adding weight-bearing exercise into your routine is crucial. 

When you strength train, your bones adapt to the stress you are putting on your body by building them stronger. The more weight-bearing loads you put on your body, the more bone matrix and minerals it adds to create stronger, healthier bones.

  1. What isn’t strength training good for?

It’s beneficial for everything from reducing cholesterol to blood pressure.

  1. Strength training increases your metabolic rate.

Your metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn in a day. A running workout is catabolic (breaks your body down), but a strength training workout is anabolic (builds your body up). 

The more you build lean muscle mass, the more your body burns through calories and fat. In other words, it elevates your body composition to make it even better for running.  

  1. Strength training can boost your running speed and VO2 max.

The stronger your muscles are, the less energy they’ll expend to keep the pace.   

Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners

This is only the tip of the workout iceberg, but these exercises will get you started without overwhelming you. Additionally, strength training for runners at home is totally doable. No need to join a gym.

Upper Body Strength Training For Runners

Just because running involves a lot of lower body doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strengthen your upper body. 

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Rows work your arms and back. When you run, your upper back help keeps your ribs and lungs open. Pretty crucial for breathing, huh?

How to do a row:

  1. Start on a mat on the floor.
  2. Get onto all fours.
  3. Grab a weight in one hand and pull it up towards your armpit while squeezing your shoulder blade.
  4. Slowly lower while resisting gravity.

Repeat and then switch to the other side. 

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Shoulder Overhead Press

These presses will help improve your arm drive when you run. 

  1. Sit on a stability ball or chair with feet hip distance apart.
  2. Grab a pair of dumbbells and bring them to a goalpost formation (palms facing out).
  3. Press weights up until arms are straight.
  4. Return to goalposts.

Exercises For Lower Body Strength Training For Runners

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No workout is complete without squats. You need strong glutes to keep you stable and resilient. 

How to do a squat:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width.
  2. Bend your knees and push your butt back as if you’re going to sit on a chair. 
  3. Keep your knees behind your toes and your weight in your heels.
  4. Go as low as you can without discomfort, and then push through your heels and slowly stand back up.
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Curtsy Lunge

A strong lower body will prevent injury. A curtsy lunge will sculpt quads, hip adductors, and hamstrings, which help improve stability. Something runners can’t get enough of. 

How to do a curtsy lunge:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Move your right foot until it crosses behind and beyond your left.
  3. Keep your right toe tucked and drop down in a lunge.
  4. Be sure to keep your torso upright.
  5. Slowly return to starting position.

Alternate your feet and repeat

Whole Body Exercises For Runners

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Bird Dog

The bird dog focuses on your abs and back and helps lengthen the posterior chain. It strengthens the glutes, stabilizes the spine, and helps minimize lower back pain, a runner’s Achilles heel. 

How to do a bird dog:

  1. Start by kneeling on the mat on all fours.
  2. Brace your core and keep your hips parallel to the ground.
  3. Lift your right hand and extend it in front of you, parallel to the mat.
  4. At the same time, lengthen the left leg straight behind you.
  5. There should be a direct line from your right fingers to your left toes.
  6. Hold for a few secs, and then alternate your leg and arm.
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Forearm Plank

Core strength isn’t just abs. It’s back as well. Runners need strong core muscles to stabilize their hips and back.

How to do a forearm plank:

  1. Lay face down on the floor with your forearms on the ground.
  2. Brace your core and pelvis, and lift your body in a straight line, so you hover over the mat. Don’t let your hips drop or rise. Your body should be straight from your toes to your head.
  3. Hold as long as you can, up to a minute.  

Find more blogs on movement and exercise here.

FAQ About The Best Strength Training For Runners

  1. Won’t strength training cause me to bulk up and slow down my running?

No, not at all. It’s tough to bulk up. You’d have to weight lift almost every day, eat a zillion calories and really cut back on your cardio, so being a runner inherently stops you from gaining lots of muscle. 

  1. How often should I strength train as a runner?

Two to three times a week is enough to see a difference.

  1. Can I run and strength train on the same day?

Since running is your priority, fitting in a quick strength training sesh twice a week is plenty. 

If you run six days a week, take an easy run in the morning and then a strength training workout at least 6 hours later. 

Don’t do a heavyweight training workout before a run. Your muscles will likely be sore, which could alter your running.

The Final Lap

Now you know the importance of strength training for runners and how to get started on your workout routine. It won’t take long to notice a difference in your body. 

So, what are you waiting for? 

If you are a beginner and would like to try a 7 Day Free Strength Training Challenge created for women over 40, sign up here!

1 Comment

  1. PG

    These are great, thank you. I like the emphasis on lower body strength.

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