Strength Training Workouts for Runners

The plank exercise.
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Whether you are preparing for a marathon, half-marathon, or an obstacle course race, you can benefit from strength training. Strengthening your muscles can translate into greater running efficiency. Moreover, your muscles will be able to perform for a longer time before fatiguing or cramping up.

You don't need heavy weights or even a gym membership to embark on an effective strength training program. You can strength-train without any equipment, using a simple, at-home routine, two to three times per week. These are best done on days you are not running, or are doing a short, easy run.

You can start doing one of these three safe and effective strength training programs (beginner, intermediate, advanced) today. For all three programs, start with a warm-up. Then do the exercises in order, with a 30-second break between each set. Finish with some full-body stretches.

If you aren't sure which training program is right for you, it's best to start with an easier program and work your way up to a more challenging one progressively.

Beginner Strength Training Program

If you have not done strength training before, this workout is best for you. Even if you do have some experience with these types of exercises, it is often best to start here for the first couple of weeks, especially if you have not done any strength-training recently.

Lower Body

Core Work

Intermediate Strength Training Program

The intermediate strength training program amps up the number of sets and adds some variations to increase the workout intensity.

Lower Body

  • Two sets of 15 squats
  • Two sets of 15 lunges (on each side)
  • Three wall quad sits (holding for 40 seconds each)
  • Three sets of 10 heel raises
  • 15 toe raises

Core Work

  • Front plank (holding for 45 seconds)
  • Side plank (both sides, holding for 45 seconds)
  • Bicycle crunches (one 90-second set)
  • 12 bird-dogs (holding for 10 seconds)
  • Reverse crunches (one 60-second set)
  • 40 push-ups
  • Three Superman abs (holding each for three seconds)

Advanced Strength Training Program

With the advanced strength training program, you can build endurance and lean muscle mass by increasing reps and hold times.

Lower Body

  • Three sets of 15 squats
  • Three sets of 10 lunges (on each side)
  • Three wall quad sits (holding for 45 seconds each)
  • Three sets of 10 heel raises
  • Two sets of 10 toe raises

Focus on form and be sure to engage the muscles from the hips all the way up to the neck to ensure your core is rock solid and your back is well protected.

Core Work

  • Front plank (holding for 60 to 90 seconds)
  • Side plank (both sides, holding for 60 to 90 seconds)
  • Bicycle crunches (one two-minute set)
  • 12 bird-dogs (holding for 15 seconds each)
  • Reverse crunches (one 90-second set)
  • 50 push-ups
  • 10 Superman abs (holding each for five to 10 seconds)
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  1. Taipale RS, Mikkola J, Nummela A, et al. Strength training in endurance runners. Int J Sports Med. 2010;31(7):468-76. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1243639