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Weight-Training Workouts for Distance Runners

author image Trent Salo
Trent Salo has a master's degree in exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. During his time at Kentucky, Salo served as a personal trainer and strength coach while teaching four undergraduate courses in the exercise science department. He is pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy at the University of St. Augustine.
Weight-Training Workouts for Distance Runners
Female athlete running on a dirt road.

Adding weight training to your weekly routine can improve distance running performance. A study by Storen, Stoa and Hoff cited in the June 2008 issue of the "Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" provides evidence that weight training positively affects pace and speed among distance runners. Weight training boosts running ability by increasing relative body strength -- the strength you possess in comparison to your overall body weight. A higher level of relative body strength not only raises your confidence, it also assists in decreasing the amount of force experienced upon each foot strike while increasing the amount of force produced when pushing off to propel yourself forward. Whether you're just beginning your running career or you've been pounding the pavement your entire life, perform weight training to enhance your running performance.

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Young people running outdoors.
Young people running outdoors.

Perform two workouts per week, workout A and workout B. Schedule your weight-training routine on days when higher-intensity running, such as intervals or tempo runs, is also performed. This will allow you to fully recover during the days following weight training, as well as prevent overtraining. Rest 48 to 72 hours in between weight-training sessions.


Middle aged woman using weights.
Middle aged woman using weights.

During running, the joints and muscles of the human body do not operate in isolation. Therefore, select exercises to perform as a part of a weight-training routine that incorporate multiple joints and muscles. Perform the following exercises, in order, for workout A: goblet squats, dumbbell rows, reverse wood chops, single-leg deadlifts, push-ups and exercise ball roll-outs. Perform the following exercises, in order, for workout B: walking lunges, standing dumbbell shoulder presses, farmer's walk, deadlifts, seated rows and Pallof press.

Sets, Repetitions and Rest

Back view of a woman doing a bicep curl.
Back view of a woman doing a bicep curl.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends performing lower repetitions with a heavier weight in order to increase relative body strength. Prior to each training session, complete a five to 10 minute warm-up consisting of light activity followed by dynamic stretching. If you're new to weight training, use a lighter resistance with a higher amount of repetitions in order to master the technique of each exercise prior to using a heavier resistance. Once technique for each exercise is proficient, perform two to four sets of four to six repetitions for each exercise. Rest three to five minutes in between each set.


Doctor checking patient's blood pressure.
Doctor checking patient's blood pressure.

Prior to beginning any exercise program, schedule an examination with a physical therapist or physician. This ensures that your body is able to withstand the stresses placed upon it from training. During the training process, keep track of progress by writing down the amount of weight used for each exercise. An increase in the weight used for each exercise indicates an improvement in your relative body strength, which should result in an improvement in running performance.

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