Runners Strength Training: Where Do I Start?

As runners, we often know where to start with our run training, but what about strength training?

I recommend starting with basic strength exercises and building from there. It’s also important to do your strength workout in an environment you enjoy; the gym, at home, outside or wherever you feel comfortable and confident.

My motto for strength work is to keep it fun and unstructured. I keep the structure and serious stuff for the running.

How long should I work out? 

A critical factor in determining how long you should work out is your running load/intensity. Another factor to consider is your history with strength training. If you’re a seasoned gym goer, it’s likely that you can handle more strength training. It’s important to remember that the more energy you put into your strength training, the less energy you’ll have for your running. For this reason, I advise looking at your running goal and where you are in your training cycle. 

What I recommend is: 

45 – 75mins in Base Training/Off-Season, 2-4 times p/wk. 


20-30mins in high-intensity running phases, 1-3 times p/wk. 

What exercises should I start with? 

I like to do simple well. There are many exercises and lots of different ways to perform them. However, when starting out, it’s good to stick to the simplest way to work the muscle group and the exercise and focus on form before increasing the weight or reps.

Char’s Top Five Runners Exercises 

  1. Deadlifts – Barbell or Kettlebell  
  2. Kettlebell/weighted oblique crunch 
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Squats
  5. Side tap 

What about the upper body?

Yes, doing upper body exercises is essential for runners. Upper body exercises are important for posture and arm power for running. 

A good tip for getting some upper body strength training is to do exercises that include using your lower body too. Here are two exercise examples:

  1. Dumbbell Thrusters/Push Press 
  2. Med Ball Slams 

Char’s Go-To Upper Body Exercises

  1. Lat Pull Down
  2. Cable Face Pulls
  3. Seated Row
  4. Bent Over Row 

What about my abs? 

A six-pack is nice to look at but isn’t crucial for running.

Good core stability (your ability to stabilise your core – a person with more control over the position and movement of their core has good core stability) is vital for runners.   

Char’s Recommend Core Stability Exercises.

  1. Slow Bodyweight Russian Twist
  2. KB/Weighted Oblique Twists 
  3. KB Swings 
  4. Side Taps 
  5. Practising tensing your abs throughout the day or while running. 

What about reps, sets, circuits and supersets?

I like to have fun with my workouts. Personally, I like to dismiss structure and work out according to how my body feels. If I want to shorten the reps, do one more or one less set or add an exercise to my circuit, I do it. With all of this in mind, I do a few things that can provide a good starting point for you.

Reps and Sets

Typically, the number of reps I like to do with each exercise is ten reps over 2-3 sets.

Supersets: This is where you do two or three similar or complementary exercises without any rest in between. I’m a big fan of this approach. It keeps it fun and fast-paced. I find it to be effective.

Circuits: This is where you do a series of exercises for a set time or a number of reps with minimal rest in between. A good tip at the gym is to do rep-based workouts or set your watch to beep at pre-determined intervals.

When I do circuit-based workouts at the gym, I take breaks for the time I feel is necessary and tend to add exercises as I go. I often use structured circuits for HIIT YouTube workouts or with 1:1 clients for EMOM or AMRAP Workouts.

Strength training for runners doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, with new and creative exercises or hard and high-intensity workouts, it can be quite the opposite.
The key is to be consistent. I’ve learnt the most through not planning my workouts and playing around with exercises. I advise you to do the same

A note about the off-season!

As part of our run training @CMF, we like to incorporate an off-season; this is when there are fewer or no races and shorter runs fewer times per week and at a reduced intensity. It’s an excellent time to go a bit harder at the gym and bank the gains for the high-run training periods.

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