4 Strength Training Tips for Runners

Fitness Tips:

4 Strength Training Tips for Runners

I have been involved in athletics for decades, actually, since I was 10 years old and I'm still extremely passionate about athletics today. I've always found it surprising how overlooked strength work is for running up to 10km Fun Runs, Half Marathons and Marathons. Even at the elite level, strength based training sessions are still perceived as a session for sprinters.

But with strength, comes power and if a runner can produce more power per stride from their upper and lower body, they're going to finish their running race quicker and achieve their goals.
Here are 4 tips to help add power to your stride through strength training, without muscle-bulk weight gain:

High Knee Stair Runs


So simple and effective, but should never be overlooked for strength and power. Stairs will help each type of runner, from sprinters to distance runners, improve their stride power and length by practicing knee and arm lift strength.

In a runner's stride the higher the arm lift, the higher the knee drive through into the forward stride. This will help core strength as well as improve stride length and pace towards the finish line, which means you'll take less strides and can focus in on your speed towards the finish line.

Josh Harris: 2hr17min Marathon

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Leg Strength

Still in the 21st century this continues to be a significant hole in a distance runners training program. An increase of the kilometers (or miles) in the legs and adding a few hill training sessions or long runs on undulating surfaces will improve a runners leg strength.

Specific leg strength focused training sessions performed on your easier running days of the week will help to become more fatigue resistant and improve your lactic acid tolerance and stride efficiency under fatigue. Performing leg strength training can be as simple as body weight exercises such as burpees, athletic lunges for quadricep strength and power.
Combine these exercises with lunge knee lifts, for calf muscle power to help improve your hip lift during your stride, making it easier to float above the ground as you run, creating a longer more efficient stride.

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Upper Body Strength

Earlier I touched on 'arm drive' in a runners stride and how a more efficient arm lift and technique can improve a runners stride length and power, especially toward the finish line. Upper body strength and lactic acid tolerance is another area in which many distance runners fall short in their training program.

A little upper body strength goes a long way, reducing your arms from fatiguing through the shoulders on long runs so you feel more comfortable and remain efficient. Additionally, the ability to drive your arms straight up and forward to your eye-line in a surge to the finish line, without fatiguing your upper body means a longer stride at a quicker pace into the finish line.
Upper body strength at the finish line could mean the difference between running a 50-minute 10 second 10km run or bragging to all your friends that you ran 'under 50 minutes' with a 49-minutes and 50 seconds. Let's face it, a sprint to the finish line after a hard run is simply 100% satisfying. Exercises like pushups, dips and 1-legged running arms will all improve your upper body strength endurance.

Runners 6-pack Core Stability

Core Strength

Core stability is one of the most common strength training sessions for distance runners. A strong core will help improve any issues related to shoulder rotations in a runners stride.

Think of an average distance runners stride from around 1.2-1.5 meters per stride, for 10 kilometers. Then, if you add any shoulder rotation to this stride it will unnecessarily cut it short by say, 2 centimeters per stride.
Although it doesn't sound like much, this can add up to cutting your stride short by up to 500 meters over 10kms, and that could definitely mean the difference between breaking the 50-minute barrier or smashing it to 47-mins 30 sec (taking the 2cm example per stride, equaling up to 500 meters less in distance running at 5-minutes a kilometer. This could be a 2mins 30 secs difference).
So the numbers do add up for core strength and stability. Exercises such as planks, sit and twist and the 1-legged running arms will all help improve core stability in a quick and simply session.

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