Elevate Your Running Game: The Importance of Weightlifting for Runners

by Onward Physical Therapy | June 28, 2024 |
Elevate Your Running Game: The Importance of Weightlifting for Runners

In the pursuit of better performance, runners often focus solely on logging miles, overlooking the crucial role that strength training plays in achieving peak athletic condition. While pounding the pavement is undeniably essential, integrating weightlifting into your regimen can be a game-changer, offering a myriad of benefits that directly translate to improved running performance.

Why Incorporate Strength Training & Weightlifting as a Runner? What are the Benefits?

Strength training isn’t just about bulking up; it’s about building a resilient body capable of enduring the demands of distance running. By engaging in strength training, runners can improve muscular endurance, power, and efficiency. Additionally, it helps to prevent injuries by fortifying tendons, ligaments, and muscles, leading to a more robust and injury-resistant body.

Tendon and Muscle Strength/Resilience

Tendons and muscles are the unsung heroes of a runner’s anatomy. Through targeted strength training exercises runners can enhance the strength and resilience of these crucial structures. This not only reduces the risk of overuse injuries but also improves overall performance by enabling more powerful and efficient strides.

Frequency Recommendation

To maximize the benefits of strength training, aim for 2-3 sessions per week, with each session lasting between 30-60 minutes. It’s important to allow for adequate recovery between sessions to prevent overtraining and promote optimal adaptation.  An average training cycle for runners will consist of 4-5 days of running. Supplementing with the 2-3 days of strength work will improve the bodies recovery and allow you to hit the pavement more frequently. 

Optimal Load and Repetitions

When it comes to strength training for runners, it’s essential to work with a load of at a minimum 65-% of your one-rep max.   Working up to 75-85% loads. This corresponds to a perceived exertion (RPE) of around 6-8 on a scale of 1-10. Focus on shorter sets of 6-10 repetitions to build strength effectively without compromising your running performance. A common misconception is the requirement to expand all of your strength sets to 15+ repetitions. Remember, your endurance activity is already taken care of with your running, so the goal here is to load the tissues and build strength.

When to Weightlift on Running Days

The timing of strength training sessions in relation to your running schedule is crucial. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, it’s generally recommended to avoid lifting on days when you have high-intensity or long-distance runs scheduled. Instead, opt for lifting on recovery or cross-training days to ensure you’re adequately rested and recovered for your key running workouts. However, if scheduling constraints dictate otherwise, prioritize quality over quantity and consider lifting post-run to take advantage of your body’s heightened state of readiness.

Training Beyond the Sagittal Plane

While running primarily occurs in the sagittal plane, neglecting movements in the transverse and frontal planes can lead to muscular imbalances and compromised performance. Incorporating exercises like side planks, plank dips, bird dog rows, single-leg Paloff press variations, and chops and lifts from a lunge position can help address these deficiencies, enhancing overall stability, mobility, and performance.


Recommended Exercise Ideas

Deadlifts: For posterior chain strength and hip stability.

Romanian Deadlifts (Single-Leg): For posterior chain strength and hip stability.

Side Planks and Plank Dips: Targeting core stability in a static and dynamic fashion.

Bird Dog Rows: Improving coordination and rotational stability while engaging the back and core.

Paloff Press Variations: Strengthening the core and resisting rotational forces.

Superman: Enhancing posterior chain activation and hip stability.

Chops and Lifts from a Lunge Position: Developing strength and stability in multiple planes of motion.


In conclusion, while running will always be the cornerstone of a runner’s training regimen, integrating weightlifting can take your performance to the next level. By prioritizing strength training, you’ll build a stronger, more resilient body capable of withstanding the rigors of training and achieving your running goals. So, lace up your shoes, hit the weights, and prepare to elevate your running game like never before.