From the 6-minute miler to the recreational runner who is doing good to break a 10-minute pace, one thing that seems to be neglected by many runners is weight training.  Some runners can’t, or simply don’t want to, make time for it.  Others believe that resistance training will cause them to bulk and thus slow their running time.  In reality just the opposite is true.  Weight training, if implemented properly, can increase muscle strength and stamina, improve posture, and prevent injuries.

In order to get the most out of your weight training, here are a few quick tips for your next trip to the gym:

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Repetition Range

For the most part, runners need to stick to a moderate rep range for most exercises.  This range is between 8 and 20 reps per movement.  The lower end (8-10) will lead to more strength gains, while the higher end (15-20) will result in more muscle endurance and stamina.

Whether you are training for strength or endurance, the last 4-5 reps of each set should be challenging for you.  My general rule is that the weight should be heavy enough to prevent you from carrying on a conversation during the exercise.  With that said, however, we don’t want any aneurisms in the weight room.  Don’t make it so heavy that you bust a blood vessel from straining.  Leave just enough in the tank so that you can not only finish your workout, but be ready for your training run the next day.

Full Body Workouts

I am a huge fan of full body workouts.  In fact, I complete full body workouts with every one of my personal training clients.  It’s simple, really.  Runners don’t need to do 10 sets of bench press, but they don’t need to focus completely on the lower body either.  Instead, the focus should be primarily on the major muscles of the legs, upper body, and core.  With that in mind, however, the secondary muscles shouldn’t be neglected.  Start your workout with the larger muscles (chest, back, quads, hamstrings, etc.) and finish with the smaller muscles (abdominals, obliques, hip flexors, etc.)

Short/Off Days

If you’re a runner, then it makes sense that your primary focus should be on running.  Keep that in mind, and don’t let weights interfere with your training.  The best way to do this is to add weight training on days that you have a shorter run or rest already planned.  If you have 2-3 short or off days during the week, then add 2 days of weight training.  If you only have 1-2 short or off days, then add in 1 day of weight training.  You still need at least one full day of rest, so plan your training runs and weights ahead of time.

To give you a little idea of what an appropriate running-specific weight training session would look like, I have put together a few for you.  These workouts not only hit most of the major muscle groups, but target some of the smaller areas that are important for runners.

Three Sample Full-Body Workouts

Workout 1

  1. Dumbbell or Barbell Squat – 3×15
  2. Dumbbell or Barbell Bench Press – 3×15
  3. Dumbbell Walking Lunge – 3×15(each leg)
  4. Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 3×15
  5. Dumbbell Front Raise – 3×20
  6. Tricep Dip – 3×10-20
  7. Situps – 4×25
  8. Prone Single Leg Raise (Hip Flexor) 4×25

Workout 2

  1. Barbell Deadlift – 3×10
  2. Barbell or Dumbbell Bent Over Row – 3×15
  3. Box Step Up – 3×15(each leg)
  4. Seated Leg Extension – 3×15
  5. Seated Row/Pulldown – 3×15
  6. DB Lateral Raise – 3×20
  7. Pushups – 3×20 (elevate feet for added difficulty)
  8. Prone Leg Raise – 3×20-25
  9. Plank Hold – 3×1-2 Min

Workout 3

  1. Barbell Straight Leg Deadlift (SLDL) – 3×15
  2. Dumbbell or Barbell Squat and Press (Thruster) – 3×15
  3. Dumbbell Chest Press – 3×15
  4. Dumbbell Walking Lunge – 3×10 (each leg)
  5. Dumbbell Bicep Curl and Shoulder Press – 3×15
  6. Seated Hamstring Curl – 3×15
  7. Leg Kickback (from hands and knees) – 3×20 (each leg)
  8. Prone Hip Thrust – 3×20 (single leg for added difficulty)
  9. Side Plank Hold – 3×30-45 Seconds (each side)

Post contributed by Brock Jones.  Brock is Co-Owner and Head Trainer with BodyFIT, Inc. in Lexington, KY. He holds a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  You can read more of Brock’s posts about fitness and exercise on the BodyFIT Punch Blog.