two people running through the woods with trees and rocks behind them

Strength Training for Runners

Getting stronger makes you a more durable, better runner.

You run. You’re gaining strength with every step you take. So why do you need to do more?

It’s not that you need to strength train, but after reading this you very well may want to. And you don’t need to become a gym rat to reap the benefits. You can integrate exercises that use only your body weight into your weekly routine. Here’s what you stand to gain.  

Injury Prevention

It’s no secret: running, though great, can be hard on your body. The repetitive motion (again, wonderfully meditative) can cause overuse injuries and sideline you. Strength training is a fantastic way for runners to become more durable.

Strength training fortifies muscles and connective tissue—the ligaments and tendons holding your bones and muscles together—and increases your mobility and overall range-of-motion. Strength training also improves your balance.

For runners who tend to feel out of alignment, or suffer from frequent injuries, strength training is like preventative physical therapy. It can help rehab aches or pains, and add a level of injury protection to help maintain healthy running form.

Improved Running

Increased all-over body strength can actually make you a better runner.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that low- to high-intensity resistance training and plyometrics sessions done two to three times a week for 8 to 10 weeks improved running economy (running faster with less effort) for highly trained athletes.

A 2018 study in the Sports Medicine Journal found that adding two or three strength training sessions per week was “likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners.”

With increased strength, our bodies don’t have to work as hard to maintain certain paces. Basically, the stronger we are, the easier running can feel.

A man does a plank exercise in his living room Photo: Eggeeggjiew

How to Train for Strength

Running itself strengthens your major leg muscles. But strengthening muscles and connective tissues that are not directly involved in running is important too. Here’s what to focus on; determine which exercises are best for you and incorporate them into your routine, two to three times per week. Make sure you’re doing all movements with proper form (consider joining a class or getting a trainer to start).

Lower Body

Air squats, lunges, calf raises, and single-leg deadlifts are all effective and are easy to do at home or in a park, using just your body weight. You can increase the challenge by adding weighted squats (front squats or back squats), weighted calf-raises, weighted lunges, and weighted deadlifts.

Upper Body

It may be tempting to skip your upper body, but we use our arms, chests, shoulders, and upper back muscles with every arm swing for forward momentum when we run. Strengthening those muscles and connective tissues helps power your stride.

Bodyweight exercises like pushups, planks, and tricep dips work the upper body muscles. Weighted tricep dips or extensions, biceps curls, rows, and inverted flys add another layer of strength. Cross-training exercise, like yoga, swimming, surfing, or cross-country skiing also add strength to the upper body that can benefit running.


Don’t neglect this all-important area—without a strong core, we put ourselves at risk for all sorts of injuries, especially under the demands of running. Fortifying core exercises include planks, crunches, leg lifts, and hollow core holds. Air squats and lunges also strengthen core muscles.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.