A lot of runners find that they hit a plateau with their performance after they have been running for a certain amount of time.
This is when they should begin to introduce strength training into their routine. Strength training helps to improve your fitness and build stronger muscles which can move with more speed and power.
If you are used to cardiovascular training and you don’t have much experience with strength training then it can be difficult to know which exercises to do and how to build them into your exercise routine.
If you over do it then you will end up fatiguing your muscles and hindering your running performance, but if you under do it then you won’t get the results that you are looking for.
If you want to find the perfect strength training programme to improve your running then you have come to the right place. We have put together this guide to tell you everything that you need to know. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Covered In This Training Plan?
This is a 30 day programme designed to introduce you to strength training, what exercises you should be doing, and how to slot them into your running routine.
It is simple and easy to follow and will explain what strength training is, why it is important for runners, how much of it you should do, tips for success along with the plan itself.
What Is Strength Training?
There are different types of exercise with different primary goals. The main goal of cardio exercise is to get your heart rate up in order to improve your cardiovascular fitness.
The increased lung capacity and muscle tone is an added benefit. With strength training, the main goal is to build stronger muscles. The added benefits of this is improved anaerobic stamina, fat burning and increased bone density.
There are different ways to strength train – you can use your own bodyweight, resistance bands, or weighted objects like kettlebells and dumbbells.
If you are able to fit a bit of each type into your workout regime then you will see some fantastic results, as this prevents the body from getting used to one type of exercise.
Some people are put off from strength training because they are worried that it will make them too big and bulky, but this is not the case.
If you want to build a lot of muscle and make it very sculpted, you will need an intensive and specialist weight training routine with a very specific diet.
This strength training programme will help you to build strong, lean muscles that will look toned but won’t drastically change the shape of your body.
Why Is It Important For Runners To Do Strength Training?
So how is lifting weights going to make you a better runner? Surely the best way to get better at running is to just run more?
In actual fact, strength training enables your body to build stronger connective tissues and more powerful muscles than if you only trained with running.
The result is increased speed and stamina, so you will be able to run further and faster than you did before.
Another benefit of strength training is that it can help to prevent injuries caused by running. This is because it strengthens your joints and the tendons and ligaments, keeping you more balanced and stable and improving your form.
If you stick to one type of exercise, your body can often become complacent. It learns how much energy is needed for this exercise and the strain it puts on the muscles, and learns to adapt.
If you switch up your training routine and take part in different kinds of exercise, this keeps your body on its toes and shocks your muscles, which in turn leads to better results.
This applies to much more than strength training – going for a bike ride, indoor climbing, swimming, kickboxing – any other exercise you can do will help to improve your fitness.
How Much Strength Training Do Runners Need To Do?
Now comes the tricky part – figuring out how much strength training to include in your exercise regime. This depends on how much running you do per week and how many rest days you need.
Some people like to fit all of their strength training in one day, whereas others prefer to spread it out across several days and work each part of the body separately.
This strength training plan spreads the sessions out across the week. This makes it easier to fit the training in alongside your running sessions and your other commitments, and it prevents your body from getting too worn out by one long session.
It also makes it easier for you to fit in other types of exercise like swimming or cycling as mentioned above.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re still unsure about including strength training in your exercise regime and whether it is right for you, take a look at these frequently asked questions.
Do You Need A Gym Membership For Strength Training?
If you already have a gym membership then you can use the gym for your strength training, but the plan is designed to be suitable for people who don’t go to the gym.
You can do these exercises at home, in your garden, or in a park – wherever suits you. There are some pieces of equipment that you will need to buy if you don’t have them already, like dumbbells and resistance bands.
However, you can also adapt the exercises if you don’t have any equipment.
Do You Need To Train With Weights?
It is entirely up to you whether you feel comfortable using weights in your strength training. The first two weeks of the programme do not require weights at all.
Once you get to week three you can use the weights specified in the programme, or you can use household items in place of weights.
For example, a tin of beans could be used instead of a lightweight, and a large bottle of milk or water instead of a heavier weight. You can also stay away from weighted items entirely if you prefer.
The 30 Day Strength Training Plan
The plan is split into 4 weeks. Week one uses bodyweight exercises, week two uses resistance band exercises, week three uses weights, and week four uses plyometric strength exercises.
Each week is harder than the last, so you will gradually be improving your strength and fitness.
Each week has 6 days of exercise and one day of rest. Each day focuses on a different muscle group so that the muscles can rest and recover in between strength training.
The strength workouts are 20 minutes long or less, which makes it easy to fit them in around your running. You could do it after your warm up and before your run, or after your run and before your cool down.
There is more focus on the core muscles and the leg muscles than the upper body, because these muscles are more important for running.
However, there is still some upper body training for balance. It is very important to strengthen your hips because they help to keep you stable while your legs and core provide the power.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you find the exercises difficult at first. It can take some time to get used to strength training and it will be a shock to your muscles initially.
If you don’t feel ready to move on to the next week then you can repeat the previous week- take it at your own pace.
If there are any exercises that you feel uncomfortable with then you can switch them out for something else. For example, if you have weak knees then squats could be difficult.
Week One – Bodyweight Exercises
All you need for the first week is your body. Your body weight provides the resistance to strengthen your muscles. Complete 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, rest for one minute, then repeat the set. Do this three times.
- Monday – Legs – Squats, reverse lunges, single leg glute bridges, kneel to stands. Couple this with an easy run
- Tuesday – Core – Planks (hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds), russian twists, V-sits, superman pulls. Your run should be speed training.
- Wednesday – Legs – Squat Thrusts, step ups, forward lunges, fire hydrants. This is a cross training day.
- Thursday – Core – bicycle crunches, side planks (hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds on each side), dead bugs, step up planks. This should be coupled with an easy run.
- Friday – Legs – Donkey kicks, calf raises, hip bridges, side lying leg lift. Couple this with an easy run.
- Saturday – Upper Body – Press ups, tricep dips, bicep curls, shoulder raise. You can do a long run on this day
- Sunday – Rest
Week Two – Resistance Bands
This is more challenging than week on, as resistance bands are used to make it more difficult for your muscles. If you don’t have a resistance band then you can complete the exercises without one and it will still be beneficial.
The great thing about resistance band exercises is that they are low impact which is ideal for injury recovery, and they target all the muscles you use to run.
Complete 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, rest for one minute, then repeat the set. Do this three times.
- Monday – Legs – Squats, reverse lunges, single leg glute bridges, kneel to stands. This should be coupled with an easy run.
- Tuesday – Core – Banded lying leg raise, banded bicycle crunch, banded horizontal scissors, banded side plank crunches. This should be a speed training day.
- Wednesday – Hips – banded standing glute kickbacks, banded hip flexor marches, banded hip abduction/adductions, banded clamshells. This should be a cross training day.
- Thursday – Legs – banded side lying leg lift, banded side steps, banded clam shells, banded donkey kickbacks. This should be done alongside an easy run.
- Friday – Legs and Hips – donkey kickbacks, calf raises, hip bridge, side lying leg lift. You can do an easy run on this day.
- Saturday – Upper Body – Seated banded bicep curls, banded overhead stretch, banded back press, banded row. You should do a long run on this day.
- Sunday – Rest
Week Three – Weights
This week the programme steps up a gear by adding weights into the training. Dumbbells are recommended, but you can also use weighted household items like tins of beans or milk cartons, as long as it is safe.
If you don’t feel ready to move on to weights then repeat week two or weeks one and two. Complete each exercise 8 to 12 times and then take a one minute rest. Repeat this three times.
- Monday – Legs – Weighted squat, weighted reverse lunges, weighted overhead squat to overhead press, weighted single leg deadlift. This should be coupled with an easy run.
- Tuesday – Core – Plank (hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds), weighted russian twist, weighted V-sits, superman pulls. You should do a speed training run on this day.
- Wednesday – Legs – Weighted side squat, weighted goblet squat, weighted forward lunge, weighted reverse lunge. You should do cross training on this day.
- Thursday – Core – bicycle crunch, side planks (hold the position for 30 to 45 seconds on each side), dead bugs, weighted renegade row. You should do an easy run on this day.
- Friday – Legs – weighted squat, weighted reverse lunge, weighted squat to overhead press, weighted single leg deadlift. You should do an easy run on this day.
- Saturday – Upper Body – Weighted bicep curl into overhead press, weighted row, weighted lateral raise, weighted overhead press. You should do a long run on this day.
- Sunday – Rest
Week Four – Plyometrics
This is the hardest week of the programme. Plyometric exercises are explosive, high intensity exercises that build muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance.
Whilst the movements are powerful, you need to use your muscles to stay in control of your weight.
These exercises are particularly effective for runners as it helps you to develop explosive power for building speed and momentum when running, whilst staying in control to help prevent injuries.
They also help to improve your stamina. These exercises are high impact so keep that in mind if you have any injuries or vulnerabilities.
Do each exercise for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
Once you have completed all of the exercises, repeat the set two more times to do three sets in total.
- Monday – Legs – Jump squats, power skis, jump lunges, box jumps. You should do an easy run on this day.
- Tuesday – take a rest from strength training and do a speed training run.
- Wednesday – Legs and Core – skater jumps, frog jumps, mountain climbers, jumping jacks. You should do cross training on this day.
- Thursday – Legs And Core – Burpees, high knees, split lunges, reverse lunge into kick stand. You should do an easy run on this day.
Friday – Take a rest from strength training and do an easy run.
- Saturday – Upper Body And Core – Press up, tricep dips, bicep curls into push press, plank sidewalk. You should do a long run on this day.
- Sunday – Rest
Tips For Success
Now that you know all about strength training for runners and the best training plan, here are some top tips to ensure that you will succeed.
Listen To Your Body
Your muscles will ache and it will feel difficult, but you shouldn’t be experiencing any sharp pain or reocurring pain. If you notice anything like this or something doesn’t feel right then stop and rest.
You may need to speak to a doctor or physiotherapist before you continue. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself.
Warm Up And Cool Down
As with any other form of exercise, you never jump straight into weight training. Make sure you warm up your body first with some gentle movement and stretching.
Once you have finished your session, do a nice cool down with plenty of stretching. This will help to prevent injury and increase flexibility. You will feel sore later on in the day and the next day, but the stronger you get the more this will ease.
Cross training is a great way to improve your strength, fitness and running performance.
You can try any kind of exercise, but yoga, swimming and cycling tend to work best for working the right muscles and stretching them out.
Eat The Right Food
Adding strength training to your exercise regime will use up more energy, so you need to make sure that you are providing your body with enough fuel.
Carbohydrates are important for running, but protein is very important for strength training and building muscle. If you don’t get enough protein in your diet then you could consider using a protein supplement.
The amino acids in the protein help your muscles to repair.
Make sure you take small sips of water throughout your strength training workout in order to stay hydrated.
Your body will lose a lot of hydration through sweat, and you will be surprised at how much you will sweat while you are strength training as your muscles will be working very hard.
Be Kind To Yourself
If you have never tried strength training before then it will be a shock for your body and you might find it difficult to begin with. Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a while to get into the swing of it – just keep going.
Including strength training in your workout regime can really improve your running performance. This programme will help you get started with strength training.