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Weight Training for Running

posted by Chris Barber

Weight Training is important for all types of runners, even distance runners.  I’m taking some time off distance running due to an injury, but I’m not taking time off of getting my running body in the best possible shape.  Look out dumbbells!


In order to begin weight training for distance running you first need to decide on what parts of your body you want to focus on.  Upper back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, chest, hamstrings, calves; whatever, they all can help improve your distance running.  Once you decide which areas of your body you want to work on, you need to make a plan, just like your training plan for running.  This can be as detailed as how many reps you do at a certain weight on every exercise or as simple as keeping track mentally of what muscle groups you work out during each session.

For a novice weight lifter there are a couple of important things you should know before starting to weight train.  First is to maintain the proper mechanics to maximize your work out and not injury yourself.  If you aren’t sure how to do an exercise and an example is not posted in the gym, don’t attempt it.  While resting, watch other weight lifters to see how to properly do each exercise.  Just don’t stare too long or they might get offended.

Also while resting, rest.  Resting and recovery are very important for weight lifting.  Unlike running, when weight lifting you are able to rest some body parts while working others.  For instance, you can work out your upper body one day, then your lower body the next day to give your muscles some rest.  When lifting weights you make small micro tears in your muscles which increase strength but need time to heal.  The variety is also good for your muscles.  You need to make sure you change the exercises and weight in order  make micro tears in different muscles and keep your body guessing.  It’s tough to trick muscles, they have ‘muscle memory.’

For long distance runners it is best to lift lower weight with a lot of reps.  That doesn’t mean play around with a bunch of five pounders in front of everyone at the gym.  If you’re going to do that then just stay home.  Exercises such as 4 sets of 10 reps are usually perfect to give you endurance and the strength base you need.  You should be out of breath and not able to lift anymore by your last rep.  As a runner, you want to have muscle balance by working out every part of your body.  When lifting weights I like to put my main focus on the upper body because my lower body gets a good work out from running (when not injured).  I’ll write about specific exercises later…now that I got your all excited about lifting weights.

Lifting weights can really help you get into maximum running endurance and improve your overall body shape.  You may be a long distance runner, but you don’t have to look like one!

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  1. Amy Reinink says:

    Nice post, and good to see you’re using your time off wisely. I swear by my core/hip strengthening routine. It includes some stuff that makes you feel like a badass, like single-leg presses with a good amount of weight. But most of it makes you feel like a fool, and involves balancing in various positions on a BOSU, or using lame-looking ankle weights to do leg lifts a la Jane Fonda. The payoff for such specific, boring training: I’ve been injury-free for at least a couple months now, and actually notice that my form is better on long runs. Net result: TOTALLY worth it!

  2. Chris Barber says:

    Wow, a way to work out when you are injured that helps your form when you come back to running? I like it. I also like the ankle weights. I put on sweatbands to make the outfit complete. It really enhances your work out. You should try it.

  3. I am struggling to perform the Deadlift training. It brings about complications with my muscles the next day. Any strategies? Thanks in advance and good article.

  4. Chris Barber says:

    Deadlifts are probably the toughest exercise to do correctly because it requires so much balance and there are a lot of ways your body can compensate for your legs lifting the weights. Make sure you are not using your back to lift but rather your legs. A good way to do this is to spread your legs about shoulder width apart and watch them as your lift to make sure you are fully bending and then extending. Try using less weight at first to get the proper form down before stepping it up to heavier weight.

  5. [...] parts.  So for trail running specific weight training, it is best to focus on the lower body.  Upper body weight training is more for long distance running.  So if you are running long distances and on trails then [...]