After years of preaching about the need for runners to add weights to their marathon training plan, I’m finally seeing more of you do it. And do it consistently!
Which thrills this running coach.
I know that early in my running life no one talked about strength. Which meant a lot of runners are left feeling a bit confused on where to start with a full body workout for runners.
Luckily for you, I’m both a certified personal trainer and a running coach with over a decade of experience!
For that reason, I actually put together a number of complete programs you can follow:
But today, I want to give you some free workouts as well! I’m not going to go in to all the reasons you need to strength training because I’ve done that before… so let’s just dive in to what you need to know.
In the first workout, I’m going to give you some additional tips around WHY we need to work certain areas. The more you know, the more motivated you’ll be to stick to it.
3 Full Body Workout for Runners
When it comes to strength training there are a lot of different options from body weight to dumbells, from upper body only days to full body days.
What you need is going to depend a lot on your training schedule and your current level of strength training.
But when it is best to strength train for distance runners? Should I run after lifting?
Here’s my secret: Strategic strength moves BEFORE you set out for your run — as a warm up.
That’s right a lot of the moves we do for strength are perfect in our warm up to activate the hips and glutes for stronger running. However, once you start adding in weights the ideal scenario is to space out your run and strength.
Studies have shown that 8-10 hours in between the two is ideal to get the most from each. But I’m more concerned with you getting it done! So if they need to be back to back then you do the higher priority workout first.
That means during base building you lift then run. Running on tired legs is great training.
During race training, you would run and then lift.
#1 At Home Full Body Workout
5 of strength training for runners at home exercises. Each move targets a different muscle group — and a different aspect of your running form.
- Perform each move, in order without any rest between.
- Aim for 8-10 reps of each move, but remember that FORM is key.
- Rest 1-2 minutes and repeat the entire circuit 2-3 times.
- It’s best to add this into your weekly training plan 1-2 times a week on a medium distance or difficulty day.
If you can do 5 reps with great form and then need a break before doing 4-5 more – do that. Sloppy form isn’t going to get you stronger.
Beginners can do the moves exactly as pictured, with no weight. If you’re more comfortable with weights you can add 5-8 lbs to the lunge, squat, and marching bridge. This ensures that you keep your easy days easy!
1. Plank Knee Tuck
What it works – hip flexors and rectus abdominis [core!].
From a plank position, engage your core and pull one knee up to your chest as far as you can. Once you’ve got your knee tucked, round the back lifting the hips and knee.
Note your arms should not shift back (like a down dog position).
The amount of movement in this exercise is small but mighty.
Why it’s important?
Good running form is not just about pushing off the ground. That’s only half of it.
The other half is strong hip flexors that can pull the knee up and forward. Not only does this help take stress off your lower leg, it helps to get that coveted “mid foot strike” all the pros are talking about.
Having a strong and engaged core is crucial to this movement.
Does your run feel like a shuffle in those last miles? Do this move to help improve core and hip flexor strength.
2. Reverse Lounge
What it works – Isolates the glutes and replicates the “push off” motion from running. Will also work the qauds.
Stand with feet hips distance apart. Step back with your right foot into a lunge position, using your left glute and quad for most of the power.
Both knees should be at 90 degrees and back knee does not touch the ground. Using your left glute/quad push off the ground to bring right leg forward. The front leg is doing the work in this move, not the back.
Why it’s important?
If you want to get faster a more efficient stride and effective push off are key. But If you have weak glutes all the power to push off is going to come from below the knee.
Do you frequently have tight calves, or tightness in the Achilles or bottom of the foot? You may need this move!
The glute is a MUCH larger muscle, so making it stronger will not only give you more power in your stride but take some stress off your lower legs.
3. Triceps Lower Down / Push Up
What it works – back muscles [lats] and triceps.
From a plank position, shift forward on your toes. Bend the elbows, keeping them tucked tightly to the sides and lowering your body down. Elbows should be pointing backwards not to the sides.
If your elbows are bending to the sides try rotating your hand placement slightly so that pointed fingers are at 1 and 11 (on a clock) instead of straight ahead at 12. This will help to rotate the elbow joint.
Beginners lower down all the way to the ground, and use knees to help get back up to start position.
More advanced lower almost to the ground and then using the triceps and back push back up to start position.
Why it’s important?
Your lats are responsible for pulling your arm backwards – like when you’re running!
Strong back muscles are also important for maintaining good posture while running. If you feel like Quasimodo at the end of a long run – you need to work on those lat muscles! And of course your core. The muscle fatigue is part of what’s causing your form to deteriorate.
4. Squats to Side Leg Lift
What it works – quads, glute max, glue med, abductors.
Stand with feet hips width apart and lower down into a squat. Think of pushing the booty backwards instead of lowering your body down. This helps to engage the glutes.
Push back up into a standing position and at the top of the motion lift your left leg out to the side, squeezing the abductors as you lift. Lower back down and go right into the next squat.
Alternate, lifting your right leg on the next upward motion.
**Add a mini band to make this even better!
Why it’s important?
Glute Med & smaller abductor muscles are important stabilizers that can keep your feet and legs from rotating inwards as you run.
Do you ever feet your sneakers graze against each other while you’re running? Especially when you’re tired? Weak or un-engaged abductors are the culprit.
5. Marching Bridge
What it works – Glute max, hamstrings.
Lying face up with knees bent and feet flat on the ground, lift hips until torso forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Glutes will stay engaged the entire time.
Lift right foot off the ground and bring knee to chest without hips dipping or twisting. Lower back down to the ground & repeat with left foot.
Why it’s important?
Similar to the above two exercises that help isolate and activate glutes, this is another move that helps target those muscles in a slightly different way.
Thanks to Sara Lizabeth for doing the photos of this workout!
You can see a video demonstration of the workout here!
#2 Body Weight Workout for Runners
This workout is also going to remain focused on body weight. The goal is to eliminate all excuses and get you to start making strength training a consistent part of your routine! Then we’ll add weights and do more complex stuff.
A lot of progress can be made with just body weight.
- Note that everything can be modified (ie I kept one foot on the ground for the single leg squat)
- 2-3 rounds
- 10-12 reps
- Focus on what muscle you want to activate.
Watch the video for a demo and a reminder that you can make it happen in tiny spaces!!
Beginner full body workout for runners, this routine includes the following moves
- Single Leg Squat
- Side Plank with Rotation
- Reverse Plank
- Push up and back (place hands on bench to modify)
- Single leg reach (really engage glutes and core)
- Sumo Squat
- Tricep Dips
- Focused Plank
- Hip Bridge March
You’ll also notice this video is from 5 years ago. I STILL use these moves, but I’m way stronger now and can also do heavy weights or have a lot better push up form.
#3 Weight Lifting Routine for Runners
All right, now we’re assuming you’ve got a base going and are ready to start adding some weights. We know that there are massive benefits to picking up heavy things, but one day one you gotta focus on form first.
This is still a beginner weight lifting routine, but we are adding in more compound movements.
That means a single move which hits multiple muscle groups and thus saves time! I love doing one legged movements to force core engagement.
- The workout is demonstrated in this video, starting at 2:00
- 3 Rounds
- 12-15 reps
Moves included in this workout:
- Side lung to side raise
- Bicep curl to shoulder press
- Alternating front raise to side raise
- Shoulder pull up
- Deadlift to row
- Single leg tricep kickback
All right now you have not one, not two, but three full body workouts for runners. This gives you a great starting point and if you need more definitely checkout our full courses!
Have more strength training questions, let me know!
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