PART 2: Strength Training for Runners – 3 mistakes to avoid

In this the second article on Strength Training for Runners we look at the top 3 mistakes runners make when weight training.

In the first blog of this series we examine the fantastic benefits of strength training. If you haven’t had a chance to catch up on this post it can be found HERE.

So now, here it is – our TOP THREE things to avoid when training in the gym:


We know that sprinters have a greater percentage of fast twitch fibres Type II) than those that run longer distances (Type 1). These Type 1 fibres are more suited to endurance events whereas the Type II fibres fatigue more quickly and work better in short bursts.

This knowledge has led to the misconception that if runners are to train with weights then they should be on a high rep (15-25) and low weight program.

However the purpose of weight training runners is to make them stronger to improve ground reaction forces and improve running economy. Working with high reps and low weights will improve muscular endurance (how long the muscle can keep working) but WILL NOT improve strength.

We have also seen in recent years the advent of WODs, F45, CrossFit and the like. These sessions will, most likely, help improve your general fitness, change your body composition and improve muscular endurance BUT WILL NOT improve the force production required to improve your running performance. These workouts are designed around minimal rest, train to exhaustion and are often not designed to progress your strength in a manner which will reduce your chance of injury.

Runners need to train specifically to make the strength and force improvements required to improve running results. The most effective programs will have you regularly working in the 3-6 rep range and completing 4-5 sets of each exercise. Rest breaks can range from 1-3 minutes between sets.

You will at times also venture into the power range – lifting 2-3 reps per set and 5-6 sets of each exercise with even longer breaks in between sets.

You can challenge this even further by adding more explosive work using plyometrics – click HERE to read our early article on how to incorporate plyometrics into your program.


Do runners need to be stable? YES.  

Should stability be the key focus of your training? NO

In recent times the concept of function stability (under various names and guises) has become very popular. The use of Swiss Balls, Bosu Ball and Wobble Boards has become the cornerstone of many programs.

It doesn’t take much googling to find the latest “party” trick – squats standing on a swiss ball. You can even find people who do with a weighted barbell on their shoulders. It does show great balance but… its dangerous (think falling/crashing)  and it DOES NOT improve force production… SO IT DOES NOT IMPROVE RUNNING PERFORMANCE.

I definitely use these stability tools in my athletes’ programmes, especially in rehab but not to the detriment of my number one priority – FORCE PRODUCTION. Training with stability tools WILL NOT improve your ability to produce the type of force needed to improve your running performance.


Despite what your ego may tell you… You want to be a runner not a body builder. Bodybuilders spend 5 to 6 days a week in the gym (sometimes twice in a day). Their goal is to increase muscle mass.

The goal for runners is to increase STRENGTH and FORCE without gaining muscle mass (more weight to carry).

Body Builders like to isolate muscle groups in training. Runners, on the other hand need to train the body to function as a unit and thus training should reflect this. Runners need to get stronger as unit to produce the most force possible with the least effort.


  • Correct strength training WILL IMPROVE running performance
  • Never train with a focus on endurance while lifting
  • Use stability tools for rehab/prehab or when first being introduced to the gym
  • You are not a bodybuilder… don’t train like one

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to

Author: DamnFitSC

Coaching athletes since 1988. Post Graduate qualifications in Sports Coaching. Accredited with Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. Have coached athletes across numerous sports at local, state, national and international level.

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