Strength Training for Runners

Guest blog by

Damaris Kangai Musera

BSc. Sports and Exercise Science (UWC);
BSc (Med) (Hons) Biokinetics (UCT)
Founder of Kangai Kinetics

Not only is Damaris extremely experienced in her field as referenced above to all her incredible accolades, she is also an avid runner.

Follow her here on Instagram for more of her great tips and knowledge.

Strength Training: Why?

Long gone are the days where runners just ran. If you are a weekend warrior trying to beat your 5k PB, a seasoned athlete trying to shed 1 minute of your 10k time, a human that wants to stop feeling like death on hills or a three time Olympian, this post is for you. Strength training for runners has become more popular as it has shown to be a beneficial supplement. It is used to build tolerance to muscles, bones, tendons and joints to improve performance.

Some of the (very convincing) benefits of strength training on endurance performance include:

Improved speed

Reduced or delayed fatigue

Improved maximal strength and rate of force development (RFD)

Improved running economy


The How:

If running is your primary activity, strength sessions should be an accompaniment to your training schedule. The focus remains on running. Strength sessions are recommended to be performed 2-3 times a week at intensities of > 60% 1 RM (Repetition Maximum) or 7-8/10 RPE effort (Rate of Perceived Exertion).

5 Strength Training Exercises for Runners

With that said, here are five exercises that you can add to your strength training program.

Perform 2-5 rounds at >8 reps of each exercise

1.  The Pyro to Toe Taps

Push the leg on the wall ‘into’ the wall. Bend the knee on the ground to about 20 -40°.

Hold for 10-30 sec. Perform toe taps of > 8 reps

Progression: Add a band above your knees to provide resistance.

Regression: Place the leg that was on the wall on the ground with its heel off the floor.

2. Single Leg RDL with Hip drive

Begin in the hip drive position. While performing the RDL, ensure that the leg on the ground is slightly bent at the knee (not locked), go as far as you can while maintaining a neutral pelvis (cue: point your toes toward the ground) and drive back up.

 Progression: Perform the exercise on a balance pad/ add weights.

Regression: Hold a wall or pole to support you during the movements.


3. Single Leg Step Down

Use a bench/chair/stool/any elevated position.

Begin with all the weight on one leg and ensure that your pelvis is neutral. With your torso slightly bent forward, flex your hips and knees as if you are going to step down on the floor and then extend your leg back up to the start position.

Progression: Add weights like a barbell on your shoulders

Regression: Use a smaller step and land on the ground gently/ hold a wall for support

4. Bent Calf Raises

Begin with both feet on the floor and your knees at a 30°-45° angle. Raise your heels off the ground and go back down to the starting position.

Progression: Add weights on both hands or perform the calf raises on an elevated step.

Regression: Perform the exercise seated.

5. High plank with banded row

Begin in a high plank position with one arm grabbing the band and row while the other hand supports your body. Try and maintain a neutral pelvis as much as possible.

Progression: Use a heavier resistance band/ weight

Regression: Begin in a half-push up position with your knees on the floor and row.


Balsalobre-Fernández, V., Carlos; Santos-Concejero, V., Jordan; Grivas, V., Gerasimos. (2016). Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(8), 2361-2368.

Ronnestad, B. R., & Mujika, I. (2014). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 24(4), 603-612. doi:10.1111/sms.12104


June 04, 2020 — Bianca Asher
Tags: Training

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