How To Implement Full Body Strength Training for Runners (with sample sessions)

Strength training in important for both health and performance for runners of all abilities. Although it is not crucial for success, having a long term strength training practice is going to improve your running economy and help keep you in excellent health through increasing muscle mass

5 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
30/01/24
Last updated
30/01/24
In This Resource
  • How to Implement Strength Training As A Runner
  • Full Body Resistance Training
  • Upper body and Lower Body Splits
  • Sample Weekly Outline
  • Sample Full Body Resistance Training Sessions
  • Upper Body Session
  • Lower Body Session
  • Start Light
  • Differentiate between On Season and Off Season

How to Implement Strength Training As A Runner

Personally I am an avid runner and I also love strength training. This creates a bit of a problem, being a runner often involves being very lean and light while being strong often involves having large amounts of muscle mass. In this article I will not be discussing hybrid training (where we try and maximise both physical attributes) but more how runners specifically use full body resistance training.

When I am training for a specific race, this is how I organise my training, as if I were a runner trying to maximise my performance. The rest of the year I will do much more strength training than a typical runner would. So how does a runner go about introducing full body resistance training into their routine.

Full Body Resistance Training

Firstly we need to define full body resistance training. Full body resistance training is where we are targeting multiple movement categories within a single session. This differs greatly from body building style resistance training where a single muscle group is done for a huge amount of volume (sets and repetitions).

Upper body and Lower Body Splits

Full body resistance training is extremely effective for runners, however it can be better to split your sessions into upper-body and lower-body sessions. This is because how intensive running is on the lower body and the fact that it doesn’t touch the upper body whatsoever. When running with very high volumes I advice doing no more than two resistance session a week, one upper body session and one lower body session. The upper body session will allow you to completely rest all the joints you use during running, so it is perfect to do the day after your long run.

Sample Weekly Outline

Monday - Upper Body Session

Tuesday - Low Intensity Run

Wednesday - Intervals (high intensity run)

Thursday - Off

Friday - Lower Body Session

Saturday - Low Intensity Run

Sunday - Long Fartlek Run

I have found this to be an extremely effective training plan for both my clients and myself. It is important that the dose on the lower body session is correct in order not to create too much fatigue that it negatively effects your Sunday long run. Resistance training is extremely beneficial for running economy, but if we are over stressing ourselves and creating DOMS (delayed onset of muscular soreness then we are negatively impacting our running.

Remember, this is just an example, not a training plan written for you personally, what I am trying to get across is that you need to consider when to apply which stress in an intelligent manner. The long run, especially when preparing for a marathon, can take a big toll on the body, so make sure you are not lifting heavy weights the next day.

Sample Full Body Resistance Training Sessions

Upper Body Session

A1) Bench Press

B1) Barbell Bent Over Row

B2) Tall Kneeling KB Press

C1) Strict Pull Up

C2) Single Arm Farmers Carry

Lower Body Session

A) Back Squat

B) Box Jumps

C1) Barbell Straight Leg Deadlift

C2) KB Squat In Lunge

*see all exercises above, with links to detail descriptions of exercises.

This is not your training plan. This is a sample training plan. It should give you an idea of what physical attributes you should be attempting to gain as a runner. You will need to squat, hinge, push, pull, jump to build a healthy strong body. Two sessions a week like this is enough to maintain current capabilities (unless you are a beginner, then you will see dramatic progress) so do not worry about getting too big or strong from this amount of training. This would be an ideal in season training plan for an elite runner who has experience with all the movement patterns in the weight room.

Start Light

If you are attempting to add full body resistance training into your regime and heave never done it before, you need to start on the light side. When running high volumes, the last thing you want is to be dealing with so much pain in your chest that it hurts to run and it is even worse when it in your hamstrings. Pick weights that you can control and that will cause little soreness yet that will still create an adaptation. This is not an easy sweet spot to hit, but it is what you should be striving for.

Differentiate between On Season and Off Season

For recreational runners, on season just means you are doing a specific training plan for an event, usually in the next 9-12 weeks. Off season might mean slightly lower intensity, lower volume and lower frequency weeks of training. This means that adding a third session into your week can could be a great idea. Using a mixture of upper body and lower body exercises would really help you build muscle and strength.

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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

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