The ultimate guide to strength training for runners - Women's Running

The ultimate guide to strength training for runners

Author: Kate Sellers

Read Time:   |  March 18, 2022

Experts tell us why strength training is so important to do alongside running – and exactly how to do it

Right, show of virtual hands – how many of you incorporate strength training into your running routine? If your hand is up right now… you’re great! If your hand is down, don’t worry! Whether you know a thing or two about cross-training or have never thought of doing it before, there’s always plenty to learn about how to add it into your routine and increase your running performance.

Finding the perfect balance between several fitness components is key to becoming a stronger and more empowered runner. Luckily, we managed to speak to experts to tell us how it’s done – read on for their ultimate guide to strength training for runners.


Why should runners also strength train?

Strength work prevents injuries by strengthening connective tissues and muscles. It can improve neuromuscular coordination so you can run faster, and encourages stride efficiency and coordination, so you can run more effectively.

Scientific research supports these benefits further by suggesting that adding weights to your usual exercise routine could boost your speed and maximal oxygen uptake of VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can use when engaged in intense exercise). This is because your muscles won’t have to expend too much energy to attain a certain pace. Additionally, your brain changes its neural recruitment pattern to use muscle fibers that are more resistant to fatigue, so you don’t have to exert too much energy.

What exercises should I do to complement my running?

Before we get into specific exercises triathlon coach Lucy Hurn weighs in on the topic. “Break any additional exercise down into four components: mobility work, stability, strength and power. Mobility work is something you should do pre-run to warm up and get the body moving. For stability, ask yourself, do all your muscles hold you in the right place? You could be squatting heavy weights in the gym, but do your glutes give you the stability you need to run? It’s not necessarily about strength, it’s about whether they can cope with being tired and still work to carry you across the finish line. Building strength will help you get faster and prevent injury.”

Here are a selection of great all-rounder exercises for runners below…

1. Walkouts

Working your whole body and stretching out those all important legs, the walkouts are a brilliant starter exercise to loosen up those muscles.

Do either 10 reps of walkouts or time the exercise for 45-60 seconds.

2. Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers are another great warm up and one to work the whole body. It’s a great one to enhance core stability.

It’s best to time this exercise for around 45-60 seconds.

3. Reverse lunges

Reverse lunges are great for improving your balance and mobility. They work your core, glutes and hamstrings primarily, providing you with a solid framework for running.

Aim for around 10 reps per leg.

4. Squats

No strength training for runners workout is complete without squats! It’s so important to build powerful glutes as a runner because you need those legs to keep moving strong throughout your runs. There are hundreds of squat variations, but a simple squat – with or without weight – will be more than enough to strengthen your legs.

Keep the movement slow and controlled. Aim for 10 reps.

5. Glute bridges

Not only great for your glutes, but also your core – the glute bridge is a powerful glute-activating move that burns. This is also a great exercise to build muscle in your bum, allowing you to grow your glutes and get that peachy bottom! Adding a resistance band and/or weights will also improve the effectiveness of this exercise.

This one is entirely up to you and dependent on whether you’re adding resistance or not. For resistance do 10-15 reps. Without, do 20 reps.

6. Leg raises 

It’s fundamental to have a strong core as a runner. Having a tight and strengthened core allows your form to remain impeccable and avoids injuries, especially involving your lower back.

Keep this movement slow and controlled as you lower your legs. Repeat for 10 reps.

7. Bear crawl

The bear crawl works your upper body beautifully. It’s an exercise that looks pretty simple but trust us, it’s a core-killer! Be sure to avoid twisting your back too much as you move, the more controlled the movement, the more effective the exercise.

Do this exercise for 45-60 seconds.

8. Supermans

Strength. Power. Supermans! Strengthening your back can sometimes be difficult to do without weights, but a great bodyweight exercise to do are supermans, otherwise known as back extensions. They help your lower back to become firmer and stronger, allowing you to keep your form upright whilst running too.

Hold the back extension or superman for three seconds at the top of the movement before returning down. Repeat for 10 reps.

Looking for more strength training for runners? Try 7 moves to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings

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Written by

Kate Sellers

Kate Sellers

Kate loves running for fun, especially on a trail with her dog in tow! She's also a qualified Personal Trainer and yoga teacher, so she knows her stuff about workouts and stretching.

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