Weight Training for Runners | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Weight Training for Runners

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Jun 30, 2021

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Get the Basics...

  • Mix upper- and lower-body workouts on different days to give your muscles a chance to recover.
  • Your arms help to propel you when you run, and strong arms combined with good form can reduce the stress on the rest of your body as you exercise.
  • Your legs are the stars of the show when you run, so lower body training is critical to help you improve in form and function.

Weight training for runners can help improve your speed and energy, whether you’re looking to improve your run times on a track, cross country, or even just a run around the neighborhood. Adding weights to your training will work all of your muscles to keep your body in balance.

Keep in mind that it is important for each muscle group to receive adequate exercise. In doing so, you may keep all of your muscles growing at about the same rate, avoiding any imbalance.

You can ease into a new weight training program slowly so that you reduce the risk of overtraining right at the start. You want your new strength training workouts to support your running habits, so you can achieve new goals to get you where you want to be. Mix upper- and lower-body workouts on different days to give your muscles a chance to recover.

Sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan today for access to goal-specific weight training programs, and see just how much it can help your running!

The Benefits of Upper Body Training for Runners

Your arms help to propel you when you run, and strong arms combined with good form can reduce the stress on the rest of your body as you exercise.

You can use your own body weight or free weights to perform a twice-a-week strength workout for your upper body to focus on your arms so that they can give you the support you need.

Resistance bands can be convenient to toss into a suitcase and use in a hotel room when you are traveling and want an impromptu exercise session without having to hit the gym.

Free weights come in various weights to choose from as you work on increasing your sets and reps. Make sure you follow proper form with each exercise and remember to start light and add weights or resistance as you make progress.

The Benefits of Lower Body Training for Runners

Your legs are the stars of the show when you run, so lower body training is critical to help you improve in form and function.

You can add resistance training to your lower body workout to strengthen your legs, which also can help boost your endurance as a runner. This strengthening can also build muscle tone so that you reduce the risk of repetitive stress injury, torn muscles, sprains, or strains.

With each exercise for your legs, you can add sets and reps as you progress. Resistance bands can be powerful tools to work out your leg muscles to encourage growth. Make sure each leg receives equal amounts of exercise to avoid any muscle imbalance.

Strengthening Your Core

Weight training has the added benefit of strengthening your core muscles so that your form and posture can improve, leading to fewer instances of fatigue from a tired back while you are running. For core exercises, work with a training coach to come up with an appropriate number of sets and reps to reduce the risk of injury.

This type of consultation can help tailor your beginning workout. As you progress, you may want to mix or match other types of exercise as you improve and strengthen in form. You can use a combination of weights, such as kettlebells, barbells or medicine balls as part of your core training.

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Know Your Body Type

You may start your weight training and discover that your body responds slowly or quickly to your new routine. Some of this may be attributed to your body type. Consider the three main types of body shapes:

  1. Ectomorphs are small-boned and may find it hard to gain muscle with a high metabolism. These types may have a lot of energy but not a lot of strength, which can affect endurance.
  2. Mesomorphs are muscular and more athletic, but they also can put on the pounds. These types respond quickly to weight training.
  3. Endomorphs generally have soft bodies that are rounded and can gain muscle and fat easily. They are typically on the other end of the fitness scale from the leaner ectomorphs.

You may have a combination body that responds differently to food and exercise as you mix your cardio running with strength training using weights. Take an inventory of your own body shape to help tailor a workout plan that works best for your body, in addition to boosting your running.

Overtraining and DOMS

As you begin your workouts with weights, you will want to avoid over-training. Too much exercise not only can leave you in pain and slow you down on your running routines but also may contribute to a longer-term injury.

Tiny muscle tears from exercise lead to muscle growth as the muscles repair themselves.

This growing cycle also can cause some amount of pain. You can experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, right after a workout or up to 24 to 48 hours later.

You can ease this experience by rotating your workouts so that you alternate the muscles worked, giving each muscle group at least 24 hours to repair.

You may want to perform a lighter week of training every four to six weeks, which can help your body recalibrate and catch up to your training regimen. The lighter week can interrupt a weight-training plateau you may have hit. This strategy can help kick-start your muscles into a growth cycle once you go back to your sets and reps.

You also can change up sets and reps to allow for different levels of intensity in your training. This variation can keep you and your muscles from becoming too settled into a routine.

Back to Basics

Consult with your doctor before beginning any new combination of running and weight training to make sure you are in good health and that the additional training works with your cardio routine.

Apply a basic support structure of good health habits as you work in your new weight-training exercises with your cardio program. It is always important to eat a balanced diet and get enough rest and hydration each day.

Remember to pay attention to your body. If you are feeling tired or begin to experience drops in energy from low blood sugar, or start to cramp from lack of water, take appropriate action.

Also, take the time to do proper stretching before and after any workout. Your muscles will respond better if you add warm-up and cool-down exercises to your routine. This can also ease the effects of DOMS.

Whether you are just starting out with running or you are training for a marathon, proper weight training can go a long way toward improving your cardio workouts. A good mix of strength training spread out through the week can give your muscles the extra boost they need to help you accomplish your running goals.

Remember not to over-do it! This can cause injuries which will only delay your progress. You have to train smarter to be the best you can be!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How many days a week should I exercise?

Three to five workouts a week is recommended for best results.

How do I create my own weight training workout plan?

You can either sign up for an Exercise.com PRO membership or enlist the help of a personal trainer!

What is proper weight training form?

In order to learn proper weight training form, meet with a personal trainer so that they can walk you through the proper technique needed for a wide variety of lifts and exercises.

For even more running challenges and for access to running-specific workouts, certified online personal trainers, and more, sign up for a PRO plan today.

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