A Weight Training Guide for Runners

Weight training helps runners develop muscle and increase bone density, which reduces your chance of injury by helping you maintain balance and stability during exercise.

Weight training can also help runners improve their cardiovascular endurance, which is important for runners because it helps them recover from strenuous workouts and races.

Another great bonus of incorporating weight training into your workout: research has shown that resistance training helps increase V02 max (the maximum amount of oxygen consumed during vigorous exercise), which means you’ll be able to run faster and longer without losing your breath.

How to Start Weight Training as a Runner

You may already have a great runner’s workout plan, but throwing weights into the mix can completely throw you off course. The first thing we advise is to get your priorities straight:

When it comes to weights, runners should focus on strength, not stamina.

Instead of worrying about how quickly you can lift, think about the muscles you’re using, how they’re engaging, and whether you’re using them properly.

Because running naturally gives you plenty of cardio, it’s important to focus more on resistance training and less on any programs that simultaneously get your heart pumping.

Now, let’s dive into some of the details.

Choosing the Right Exercises

Compound, full-body strength training is ideal for runners. By building greater body awareness by activating various muscles at once, you can also increase your balance and mobility.

Even your own body can serve as weight – try planking or bridges. They’re great for helping you learn to tune into your body.

Push-ups are another great choice. The classic exercise works well for runners by helping them build upper-body strength while also increasing core stability. You can use push-ups to slightly increase muscle mass and improve your running form.

Dips are a very effective way to work on your chest, triceps, and shoulder strength. They’re also great for runners because they activate multiple muscles at once, which is easier on your joints than focusing on one area of the body at a time.

These moves also make a great leg workout for runners:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Jumps
  • Single-leg deadlifts

How much weight should a runner lift?

Because you want to concentrate on strengths, not gains, you can lift heavier weights with fewer reps, or lighter weights with more reps. A recent study found that lifting 75% of your maximum limit at least twice a week leads to great results.

Generally, weights for runners are meant to be heavy and lifted slowly, in concentrated, low-rep sessions. You don’t need to use them every day to get the maximum benefit. Several times a week should be enough to achieve noticeable results in a few weeks’ time.

But don’t rush into things. When it comes to proper weight training, practice makes perfect. Start with a lightweight that you can easily complete 10 reps within good form.

Once you can do 12 reps without sacrificing form, increase the weight by a few pounds and start back at 10 reps. Give yourself time, and don’t be afraid to scale back if you notice an increase is too hard on your muscles. It just means you need some more practice!

How much strength training should runners do?

No more than two or three sessions a week. If you lift weights too frequently or perform a lot of resistance training exercises, you’ll likely put on more muscle than you’d like. This will increase your overall body weight, which impacts speed and agility.

Make sure that when you work out, you incorporate multiple weight exercises that activate your entire body. We’re talking head-to-toe here. Just make sure that you respect your limits. Runners are used to pushing through the burn, but when it comes to weights, you have to be patient and recognize when your muscles have had enough.

The easiest way to approach strength training as a runner is to think of your journey like a new type of run; you’ll start off with a light job, which doesn’t strain you too much, but still gives you a good workout. As you build endurance, you can work up to an 8 or 9 without too much of a problem. You’re being challenged, but not dangerously so. That’s where you want to be with your weights.

The Bottom Line

Strength training is an important part of every runner’s fitness regimen, but it can be easy to get carried away with it. With these guidelines in mind, you’ll be able to use runners exercises to your advantage safely, and get all the benefits that come from regularly lifting weights.

The most important thing to do prior to commencing any exercise program is to consult a doctor or exercise professional.