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Why Strength Training is So Important for Runners

You probably hear this ALL the time and know that you “should” strength train. The thing is, you are a runner and you like to run. How am I supposed to fit in strength training? Why would I skip a run to go to the gym? What type of training would I do anyway? Am I going to get bulky? Won’t that slow me down? These questions sound familiar?

I know, I know. I’m a runner too. I get it - for a while, I loathed the idea of lifting weights. Until…I gave into the pressure of a friend and tried CrossFIT. I was shocked at how much faster my run mile time became after just 3 months of strength training (plus plyometric work). I finally understood the value because I felt it.

This experience parallelled the science about muscle fiber type and I was excited to finally get a few more Type II fibers in my system. Just so I don’t lose you mentioning the word “science”, let me share 3 reasons why strength training helps runners.

  1. It can reduce your risk of injury. Running may make your muscles stronger at first but it primarily works to develop your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Once your body adapts to running, you make minimal strength gains. Specialized strength training for runners, will work on building the strength and muscle capacity your body needs to meet the demands of running. Without this, your risk of injury is higher, especially if you want to change things up and run further, faster or do harder things like hill workouts.

  2. It can help you run faster. Strength training helps to build our fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers which is what our body relies on to run faster. Endurance training (aka running) builds our slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers. These fibers are amazing for attaining our distance goals. But, if you want to cross that finish line ahead of your last PR, strength training is key.

  3. It can help you attain and/or maintain a better running form. Many runners slouch or have been told that their form needs to improve. Maybe your knees cave inward, your arches collapse or your hips drop when running. Although there is no “perfect” form, improving some inefficiencies can help reduce injury and improve your tolerance to running. The only way to improve these things is through building specific muscle strength and, of course, brain training to correct and maintain a new form once capable of doing so.

The next question that typically comes up when a runner is thinking about strength training, is “What exercises should I do?”. This is a very good question because a runner will get the most benefit from doing exercises that are specialized for them.

My research friends have sifted through the literature and discovered that certain muscles work harder than others when running. And, different muscles are the primary leaders depending on how fast you run.

[BTW, I love to geek out on this stuff and won’t bore you with the details. BUT, I do love it when people learn some anatomy and have found that the more you know about your body, the better it seems to work for you.]

So, here are the top working muscles when you run at 7:42 pace or slower (Ranked from most active to least):





Gluteus Medius

Gluteus Maximus

If you run fast (especially when you sprint), you rely on your hips and hamstrings 25% more.

Based on this information, I’ve put together my top 5 favorite exercises specialized to endurance runners who run primarily at or slower than 7:42 pace.

  1. Combo gastroc and soleus raises (Soleus & Gastrocs)

  2. Heels Raises with Knees Flexed (Soleus & Quads)

  3. Split Squat (Quads)

  4. Single Leg RDL (Hamstrings & Gluteus Medius & Maximus)

  5. Side Plank with Resisted Clam (Gluteus Medius)



Join us this summer for our 8-week "Fit for the Long Run" Summer Strength Training Program! Grab a running partner and enjoy run-specific progressive weekly in-person training with our personal trainer! Plus, receive a 2nd home workout and a T-shirt for FREE!

Click HERE for our program flyer!


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