Q&A: Strength Training for Runners

If I want to incorporate weight training, are there any lifts that are better for runners? Or are there any exercises to avoid?

Strength training is a great way to maximize performance and minimize injury for runners. Running involves repetitive movement and is done mostly in a straight line. Incorporating a strength training program that focuses on the lateral and rotational stabilizers of the core and hips is critical for efficiency and injury prevention. There are a few key points to think about when planning a strength-training program.

Begin with core-strengthening exercises, starting on the mat and working your way to a standing position. Work on planks, side planks, and bridges first before attempting higher-level exercises. This will help build endurance and stability in your core and your glutes to set a strong foundation.
You can then progress to half-kneeling exercises like Pallof presses, as well as chops and lifts, to build rotational stability and control. After that, move into standing exercises such as monster walks and clocks to build lateral strength, along with standing chop and lift variations to develop rotational and core stability further.

After working on the core foundation, we want to build strength correctly and safely. Running is a sport performed on one leg; with that being said, the majority of strength exercises should be done unilaterally, concentrating on one leg at a time. The main focus of strength exercises should be maintaining hip, knee, and foot alignment for muscle health and efficiency. Exercises like step-ups, step-downs, and single-leg Romanian deadlifts will help build lower-body strength.

Next, adding in plyometrics that focus on the same key areas—hips, knees, and feet—will tie everything together. Focusing on jumping or plyometric exercises that emphasize lateral and rotational stabilization and power will be the key to success! Exercises like speed skaters, split-squat jumps, and single-leg bounding will help build power and explosiveness with the same emphasis on alignment and form.

Finally, be sure to choose exercises that are appropriate for your current fitness level and strength. If you are new to strength training, start with body weight and work your way up to adding weights. Start with higher repetitions and lighter weight to master proper form before challenging strength with higher loads and fewer repetitions. And if you are not quite sure where to start, seek out a fitness professional to help assess and guide your program!


Jamie Osmak

Jamie Osmak is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a member of the Sports Rehabilitation team at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance. He is also a USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach and corrective exercise specialist with a degree in exercise science from Rutgers University.

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