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Best Strength Training For Runners

A Trainer and Marathoner Shares the Ultimate Strength-Training Program For Runners

They may seem like completely different modalities of movement, but running and strength training actually go hand in hand. If you want to be a successful, strong runner, you need some solid strength training in your life. Michael Olzinski, Purplepatch endurance coach, Equinox run coach, and ultramarathoner, knows this firsthand, which is why he lifts weights himself and encourages his clients to do the same.

We spoke to Mike about what kind of strength-training program he recommends for runners. "I've found two versions of a very successful formula for two different types of running goal sets," he told POPSUGAR.

If you have "very specific running goals," like wanting to improve your time, run a new distance, or qualify for a race like the Boston marathon, Mike suggests fitting in "two full strength sessions that will blend in with their running training and running loads given the phase you're in." Additionally, Mike said you should do "two much shorter mobility and core workouts that might take 20 to 30 minutes apiece."

As for other runners out there — people who just want to fit in some cardio, enjoy running, or want to get fitter — Mike said, "This person should absolutely hit three full, solid strength sessions a week, with three solid running workouts that are varied in nature."

Best Strength-Training Exercises For Runners

Mike broke it down for us and listed five exercises he thinks every runner should be doing on the regular.

  • Deadlift: This exercise is "insanely beneficial for creating proper hip drive, posterior chain synchronization, core strength, and stability, and it's also the foundation of lots of the other movements." Check out our favorite deadlift variations here.
  • Hang clean: This isn't a beginner weightlifting move, so if you're new to the game, you may want to work on this with a trainer before you try it on your own. But it's worth it, because Mike says hang cleans are great for "develop[ing] more runner-specific power using the posterior chain. It's also a nice movement to connect the movement of lower and upper body nicely, just like you do in running."
  • Single-leg squat or step-up: "Getting the proper balance and single-leg mobility is probably the single most important skill that a runner needs to possess," Mike explained. "For the amount of times that a runner lands and propels off of one foot, if there is even the slightest lack of balance and stability on a leg, the probability of injury skyrockets." Another big plus of doing either of these exercises is a bigger, stronger booty!
  • Hollow body holds: This core exercise is great "to stabilize the trunk between the ribcage and pelvis." Mike says this is important "for runners to avoid any type of compression into the low back." It also strengthens the forward-lean position you need when you're running.
  • Body rows (on the TRX or rings): Mike says it's important not to "forget to work in some good posterior chain-centric upper-body exercises" like this one. "The body row is the perfect blend of strength for the back and stability through the hips and trunk," he said.

Weekly Strength-Training Program For Runners

Now's the time to put it all together. Mike gave us an exclusive weekly strength-training schedule for those runners out there who are just trying to get fit and maybe even lose weight.

Here's your first day:

  • Kettlebell front squat: 3 sets of 8-10 reps "with quickness." You don't need to go very heavy here. This is more for "activation, mobility, and lumbar strength."
  • Hang clean: 4 sets of 6-8 reps. Mike recommends using "enough weight to force proper movement, but not too much that you can't move quickly."
  • Superset of lateral step-up (3 sets of 8 reps on each leg) and body row (3 sets of 10 reps): If you can use weight on your step-ups, go for it! As for the body row, use a "good fast motion up, and slow and controlled on the way down."
  • Superset of back extensions and side plank raises: 3 sets of 10 reps of each.

Your second day looks like this:

  • Reverse lunge: 3 sets of 8 reps on each leg. "Not needed to be very loaded at all."
  • Deadlift: 4 sets of 6-8 reps. "This should be taught very well and learned well enough so that the athlete can truly progress in weight, as any strength athlete would," Mike said. Be sure to work with a trainer if you need some coaching.
  • Single-leg pistol squat: 4 sets of 8 reps on each leg. Use the TRX or rings for assistance, and Mike says this "likely needs to start as an assisted exercise to nail the form, but it's a great one to drill balance and mobility."
  • Superset of dumbbell overhead press and med ball twists: 3 sets of 10 reps for each.
  • Superset of burpees and lateral shuffle: 3 sets of 15 reps for each. For your lateral shuffle, try to move at least 10 yards in distance.

And here's your final day, which is all about core and mobility work. Go through this first bodyweight circuit three times in total:

Finally, complete this circuit two times:

Image Source: Franz Steiner Photography
Product Credit: Model @meagankong
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