Why Strength Training Is Important For Runners

Running makes you feel alive. It strengthens your body and clears your mind. But running faster and longer requires more than just lace-up shoes. You need strength. But do you need strength to run faster?

Strength training builds power in your muscles so you can push harder with each stride. It also prevents injury, so you stay healthy. Today’s post will share the best strength exercises for runners. You will learn moves to do at home, without weights or machines. These exercises target common runner injuries like knee pain.

Similarly, you will see how adding strength workouts 2-3 days a week will make you a better runner. Get ready to run faster and stamp out injuries for good. Strength training creates a resilient body that lets you run stronger for years to come. 

Why Lifting Weights Is Important For Runners

How to run faster? This is the most common question people ask. At the same time, they ask whether strength training has something to do with running. The answer is “Yes.” Strength training is very important for runners, and in this section, we will give you the best strength training exercises to achieve your goals.

Squats Build Lower Body Strength

According to Springer Open, squats should form the foundation of any runner’s strength routine. This exercise strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calf muscles that power you up hills and down finish lines. To perform a proper squat: 

● Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out 

● Inhale as you bend your knees and hips to lower into the squat position 

● Descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor 

● Exhale and drive through heels to return to start 

Aim for 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, 2 to 3 times per week. Add weight by holding dumbbells at your sides or a barbell across your shoulders. Make it harder with jump squats, sumo squats, and single-leg variations.

Lunges Target Balance And Stability

As a unilateral exercise, lunges build strength one leg at a time while improving balance and body control. This helps prevent injury while running on uneven terrain. Lunges also mimic the actual running motion more closely than squats. There are many lunge variations; here is how to perform a basic forward lunge: 

● Stand upright, core engaged, with hands on hips 

● Step forward with one of your leg and then bend both knees to 90 degrees 

● Push back up through the front heel to the starting position 

● Repeat 10-15 times, then switch legs 

Try reverse lunges, lateral lunges, walking lunges, and rear-foot elevated lunges. Shoot for 3 lunge workouts weekly to bolster stability as you log more miles. 

Core Exercises Protect You Against Injury

A strong core connects your upper and lower body, acting like a central pillar of support for runners. A 2020 study published by the National Library of Medicine states that core training prevents back pain and better distribute impact forces to safeguard against knee and ankle injuries. While all squats and lunges engage the core, these exercises specifically target abdominal and back muscles: 

Planks: Hold a push-up position, resting on forearms with legs extended behind. Maintain a neutral spine for 30-90 seconds. 

Crunches: Lie face up with knees bent. Contract abs to lift shoulder blades a few inches off the floor. Lower with control. 

Supermans: Lie down on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched out. Now, slowly raise your arms and legs off the ground while tightening your buttocks. Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower your arms and legs back to the ground. 

Aim for 2 to 3 core sessions weekly. A sturdy core lets you log mileage with better posture and injury prevention. At the same time, it helps you run faster. 

At Home Strength Training for Runners

Do you want to run faster without going to the gym? You don’t need a fancy gym or expensive gear to build strength at home. Use basic bodyweight moves like air squats, lunges, pushups and planks to challenge muscles. Also, utilize household items. For example, you can make your own weights from bottled water or canned goods. 

Stairs or curbs work for step-ups. Resistance bands offer lighter or heavier tension. Mix up footwork by shuffling side to side or running in place. Choose 2 to 3 moves and do 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps about 3 days a week. 

The backbone of a runner’s strength routine is squats, lunges, and planks. These can be modified at home using just bodyweight or adding items for variety and intensity. Here are some ideas: 

For Squats

Use a chair and hover to perform squat holds, or try jump squats and air squats. Hold dumbbells or kettlebells to build mass. Keep weights in a backpack worn on the front or back for weighted squats if available. Add instability with a BOSU ball or folded towel under one foot or hand.

With Lunges

Anchor one end of a resistance band to furniture and the other around the back ankle for a deeper range of motion. Add single-arm rows by holding a dumbbell on the lunging side. Or load on kettlebells (one in each hand) for an extra challenge.

For Planks

Engage abs more deeply by switching from the forearm to the full push-up position. Put feet on an exercise ball to test stability or lift one leg into the air for balance while holding plank form. Wear a backpack or have a partner gently press down on the back for added weight.

How to Create a Home Workout Routine

When designing a home strength plan, first consider your running objectives. Training for a 5K? Focus on endurance-building moves like air squats and lunges, plus core exercises such as planks and crunches. Are you preparing for trail races? Prioritize single-leg stability with exercises like Bulgarian split squats and balance work on BOSU balls. 

Factor in your current fitness level and schedule availability. Beginners should start with 1 to 2 sessions per week of simple bodyweight moves for 10 to 15 reps. Intermediate runners can handle 20 to 30 minutes of mixed conditioning 3 times a week. Adjust volume and difficulty from there. 

Organize a structured plan that sparks consistency but allows for flexibility when needed. Block off-set days for strength training or couple it with easy running days. Having a plan prevents haphazard workouts but doesn’t overload your regimen. Utilize apps, online resources or fitness trackers to follow programmed workouts that align with your goals. 

Moreover, reassess your routine every 4 to 6 weeks. What’s working well? What needs adjustment to keep making progress? Refining your program periodically is key to building strength over the long run.

Warm Up, Cool Down, Stretch and Rest

Just like training runs, home strength sessions should begin with a warm-up to increase blood flow and prep muscles for work. Spend 5 to 10 minutes making dynamic moves like high knees, butt kicks, and bodyweight squats. 

Cooling down and stretching afterward is vital to promote recovery, flexibility and range of motion. Spend 5 minutes bringing your heart rate down with a light jog or walk. Follow with hamstring, hip flexor, and quad stretches held for 30 seconds on each side. 

Listen to your body and take 1 to 2 rest days a week from intense training. Muscles strengthen and grow during downtime, not just during a workout. Foam rolling, an Epsom salt bath or light yoga promote active rest between vigorous efforts.

Strength Training for Runner's Knee

Runner’s knee, also called patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a common running injury. Pain behind or around the kneecap results from repetitive stress to the knee joint. Contributing factors include overuse, muscle imbalances, and poor alignment that put extra pressure on the knee. 

Weak glutes and tight surrounding muscles like the quads and hamstrings can pull the kneecap out of place, creating friction and irritation. Runners will feel dull, aching knee pain during and after running as the cartilage wears down from excessive loads. Managing training mileage and building strength can alleviate this nuisance injury. So, this can prevent you from running faster. 

How Strength Training Can Help Prevent or Heal Runners’ Knee

Targeted strength exercises build up the muscles surrounding the knee joint, providing extra support and stability. Strong quads, hamstrings, hips, and glutes stabilize the kneecap to track appropriately when running. This balanced strength reduces friction and strain that irritates the knee. 

Improving total body strength through compound moves like squats and lunges makes runners more resilient. Increased muscle mass brings better shock absorption, so less force travels through the knees with each footstrike. 

Making time 2 to 3 days a week for knee-friendly strengthening provides the durability to withstand running mileage. If you want to run faster by preventing runners’ knees, here are a few exercises to consider:

Hip Bridges

Lying on your back with knees bent and arms at your sides, drive your heels into the floor to lift your hips and lower back up and off the floor. Squeeze glutes at the top and forcefully contract hamstrings as you lower back down, spine in neutral. This isometric bridging strengthens the glutes, outer thighs, and hamstrings, stabilizing the knee and reducing patellofemoral pain. Do 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 bridging reps 2 to 3 times weekly. 


Lie on one side, knees together and bent 90 degrees, heels in line with spine. Keeping feet touching, lift top knee toward the ceiling while keeping hips stacked. Lower back down with control. Do 1 to 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps per side.

Side Leg Raises

Lie on one side, bottom leg bent for support, top leg hovering straight with foot flexed. Lift the straight leg directly to the side, engaging the glutes and avoiding rotation. Return controlled to hip height. This targets the glute medius and minimus to improve external rotation, combating knee alignment issues. Do 10 to 15 lifts per leg. 

Step Ups

Stand facing a box or stair. Place full foot on the platform and step up by driving through the heel as you stand on the step. Step back down with control, knee in line with toes. Start with body weight, then advance to holding dumbbells for added demand. Do 1 to 3 sets!  

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

A consistent strength routine for runners provides good physical and mental gain with minimal added time commitment. Just 2 strength sessions per week deliver a stronger, more resilient runner. Expect to progress faster in training as strengthened muscles boost speed and efficiency. 

Strength work combats muscle imbalances that commonly lead to overuse injuries like shin splints or a runner’s knee. Mobility and range of motion improve, warding off tightness and strain. Mentally, weight work builds the toughness required during grueling marathon training. 

Research has indicated improved economy, speed, and endurance in distance runners after strength training versus runners who only practiced cardio training. The runners demonstrated powerful 5k time trial performance improvements after 8 weeks of twice-weekly strength workouts. 

Data published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine highlighted up to 50% lower injury rates in recreational runners who coupled their running regimen with supplemental weight training. This was especially apparent with common overuse issues like IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, shin splints and stress fractures. You will have: 

Better Performance

Squats, lunges, and other types of compound moves make muscles more responsive, so each stride gains efficiency and snap. As prime running muscles in the hips, glutes, and legs gain strength, pace, and endurance, naturally follow suit. Strength work also increases stride length and overall gait mechanics, resulting in significant PR drops.

Injury Prevention

Runners often get hurt from doing too much running. It can lead to knee injuries, bone stress fractures, shin splints, and tight IT bands. But strength workouts can protect against these issues. Lifting builds stability and resilience in the muscles and tissues to support joints. Multi-joint lifts allow muscles to share resistance around the knee/ankle instead of joints taking all the force. Single-leg moves help both sides get stronger evenly.

Improved Mental Health

Having good running endurance is key. But weight training also makes you mentally strong. Lifting is an excellent way to build and repair muscles. Slowly doing more reps or weight builds confidence in oneself. 

Runners often quit due to mental fatigue, not physical. But finding inner strength when exhausted creates an unbreakable mindset. So not only do you run faster, but you also feel peace and tranquility.

A Final Recap

Strength training provides substantial benefits for runners looking to improve performance. Two key takeaways: incorporate resistance training 2-3 times per week to build power and prevent injury. Squats, lunges, and core work will strengthen important running muscles. 

Secondly, focus on balance and coordination drills. Single-leg exercises improve stability for faster turnover. With a smart strategy, runners can get stronger and run PRs without adding excess bulk. Integrating strength training into your regimen inevitably contributes to running faster.

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