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Should Runners Strength Train?

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Strength Training for Runners

It’s common for some runners to believe that strength training isn’t worth their time. “It isn’t running, so how would it improve my running?”, “I don’t need to waste my time doing upper body exercises – running focuses on legs”, or “Won’t adding muscle mass could slow me down though?!” Garage1880 is here to clear up the confusion.

Runners can greatly benefit from regular strength training. Although benefits can be received by strength training as little as 1x per week, we recommend strength training 2-3x per week to get the most bang for your buck.


Strength training in general has a multitude of benefits that can take running training to the next level. Runners can specifically benefit because strength training can improve running economy, increase speed, enhance running form, and improve efficiency (PMID: 26694507). Strength training can help build strength, endurance, and muscle. Although building muscle, which can potentially increase weight, is often worrisome to some runners, adding muscle is not to be feared. Building muscle could allow a runner to move quicker and more efficiently with more ease. Additionally, considering stress fractures are one of the most common injuries in runners, strength training can also improve and maintain bone density (PMID: 23147022).



As a general programming recommendation, runners will want to start their strength training workout with a full body warm-up. The warm-up will want to address any areas that are regularly tight, overactive, or underactive. Examples could include: Cat Cow for thoracic spine , Resistance Band Pull Aparts for lower traps, Resistance Band Knee Raises for hip flexors, and Resistance Band Lateral Walks for gluteus medius.

Strength Training Workout

The bulk of the strength workout will follow the warm-up. If a runner is strength training 2-3x/week, a full body workout split is recommended. Full body workouts include all muscle groups. Runners use both their upper body and lower body to propel themselves forward, so contrary to popular belief, upper body strength is greatly beneficial.

Consider programming exercises such as squats, deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, presses, planks, dead bugs, rotational/anti-rotational core, carries, and the unilateral (single-sided) versions of those. Exercises like calf raises often get overlooked, but we highly recommend doing them as they are used with every stride taken.

Training Timing

We recommend runners to run and strength train on separate days if at all possible. If it’s not possible, aim to space out the run and strength session by at least 6 hours. If it’s possible, do whichever form of exercise is the current main priority. For example, if endurance is the main priority, run first, then strength train. If gaining strength is the main priority, strength train first, then run.

Seasonal Considerations

Depending on where a runner is at in their running training cycle (in-season or off-season), the strength training phase will reflect that. Generally an in-season runner will be focusing more on power and endurance, whereas an off-season runner will be focusing more on strength. Regardless of the training phase, it should be noted that the goal of strength training is not to raise the heart rate. This doesn’t mean a person's heart rate won’t rise in strength training, but it is not the goal. Leave the heart rate training to the cardio sessions.


For strength training for runners, sign up for a free consultation with one of our expert personal trainers.


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