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, studies show your muscles will be able to perform for a longer time before getting fatigued or cramping up.

Luckily, you don't need heavy weights or even a fancy gym membership to embark on an effective strength training program. In fact, there are ways to do so without any equipment and with a simple routine you can do at home two to three times per week. These are best done on days you are not running, or are doing a short, easy run.

Here are three safe and effective strength training programs (beginner, intermediate, advanced) you can start doing today:

Beginner Strength Training Program

If you have not done strength training before or have never been at a gym, this workout is best for you. Even if you are in relatively good shape or have taken a break from working out, it is often best to start here for the first couple of weeks and increase intensity gradually.

With this and the other workout programs, be sure take a 30-second break between sets.

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 sets of a wall quad sit (holding for 40 seconds)
  • 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 crunch (90 seconds)
  • 12 bird dogs (holding for 10 seconds)
  • Reverse crunch (one minute)
  • 40 push-ups
  • Three Superman abs (holding for three seconds)

Advanced Strength Training Program

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

Lower body:

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

Core work:

  • Front plank (holding for 60 to 90 seconds)
  • Side plank (both sides, holding for 60 to 90 seconds)
  • Bicycle crunch (two minutes)
  • 12 bird dogs (holding for 15 seconds)
  • Reverse crunch (90 seconds)
  • 50 push-ups
  • 10 Superman abs (holding for five to 10 seconds)

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.

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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