Resistance Training for Runners. Where to Start?
Updated: Feb 24
Resistance training preps the muscles to undergo the loads and forces of running (2-3 times your bodyweight). Weight training also creates good bone density and connective tissue health.
But where do you start? How many exercises, sets, and reps should you do? There are studies and theories all over the place on this. What we have seen work really well is to begin with moderately heavy weight that you can perform 15 reps of the given exercise. But you've got to be close to failure by that 15th rep. Rest 30 seconds, and repeat two more times. That's 3 sets of 15 reps. This "high-volume" training at the beginning tends to get your connective tissues tolerant to loading and build muscular endurance. It's much safer than jumping straight into heavy weight for 5-6 reps. After about 3-4 weeks of progressive resistance training at the 15-rep range, start reducing your reps to 10 at a weight that fatigues you by that 10th rep. Rest for about 1 minute between sets. Work this range for another few weeks and then try to increase once more and go down to the 6-8 reps range. You can increase weight over the few weeks that you are working at each rep range, just make sure that you are still hitting those reps. Then, cycle back to the 15 rep range and go through the process again. This is a very simple way to do it. There are much more scientific ways, but to get started, this is safe and easy, allowing for good overload of your tissues to get some great strength gains. You should feel quite a bit stronger on your runs after only a few weeks of doing a program like this.
We have worked with so many runners in our clinic, who's exercise program was primarily running and yoga. In general, they've had underdeveloped musculature, which led to overuse injuries and pain. We're not saying yoga is bad; it's great! It just doesn't provide the load needed to prep you for the demands of running.
So our recommendation is to perform some simple exercises as described above:
1. Leg press
2. Hip thrusters (double and single leg)
5. Small step up
6. Small step down
7. Leg extension machine
8. Hamstring curl machine
9. Resisted calf raise machine
10. And don't slack on core work!
You can find video instructions for these and other exercises on our Youtube channel
Written by Dr. Luke Phillips, PT, DPT, OCS