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The best strength workouts for runners

To be a good runner, you need to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine. Here are some excellent workouts you can do at home 

Don't neglect strength training if you want to be a better runner.
Don't neglect strength training if you want to be a better runner. (Istockphoto)

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The ongoing third wave of the covid-19 pandemic has already knocked out the recently revived racing and running events that were slated for January. Chances are many runners might even be scared or nervous about heading out for a run given how hyper-contagious the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is. But that doesn’t mean the end of training for runners. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to take a break from the runs and focus on strength training, which might have taken a backseat as you prepared for races such as Goa River Marathon and Hyderabad Marathon. 

Many runners feel like it’s only their legs that need a workout. However, serious runners know that it’s imperative to train your whole body to run efficiently, says Gagan Arora, coach and founder of Delhi’s Kosmic Fitness. However, both newbies and experienced runners, many a times, aren’t clear as to why strength training is vital for them. Strength training strengthens joints and muscles, thus reducing your injury risk and improving running time, explains Dr Subhash Jangid, director and unit head of the Bone and Joint Institute at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram. Strength training for runners must target flexibility, balance, mobility and strength — areas of fitness you may be neglecting.

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Strength work accomplishes three big goals for runners: It prevents injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues; helps in improving running speed by improving neuromuscular coordination and power; improves running economy by encouraging coordination and stride efficiency, Jangid says. “Working out with weights leads to stronger muscles, which leads to increase in running speed. The body then spends less energy to hit a certain pace because the brain alters its neural recruitment pattern and the most fatigue resistant muscle fibers are recruited to spend less energy in running,” he adds.

However,you don’t need a bodybuilding routine or large amounts of weights to train your muscles for an endurance sport like long distance running, points out Arora. “While dong strength work you must make it a point to address muscle imbalances and muscle atrophy directly related to running. Most runners have an underlying muscle weakness or joint stiffness that can cause overuse injury,” he adds.

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The three core areas that runners must focus on during strength training are the lower body, core and upper body. But, of course, a runner’s legs need to be strong, not like body-builder strong, but endurance athlete strong. Strengthening the core — all the muscles that surround and support the spine — helps us to be a more economical runner, says Jangid. Finally, the arm drive is a big part of running—when our legs get tired, we use our arms more because of the kinetic chain; we can’t have one without the other, explains Jangid. But before any of this comes joint mobility work, says Arora. “It is important to include mobility exercises in your warm-up before loading the body,” he says.

Also Read: How to do ab rollouts properly for a strong core

Base Building (for stability and endurance) 

2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise

Glute Bridges 

Bird Dog 

Elbow Plank

Side Plank 

Clam Shells




Mid-range (for strength and hypertrophy)

Add external resistance with elastic resistance bands or weights 

2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise


Single Leg Deadlift 

Alternate Leg Step ups 

Bench Press / Dumbbell Press 

Shoulder Press 


Bent over rows 

Closer to race day 

Perform heavy strength training once a week and light explosive workout once a week. 


3-5 sets of 4-6 reps for each exercise (warm-up set not included) 



Turkish Get Up 

Clean and Press

One Arm Rows 



3 sets of 15-20 reps for each exercise

Jump Squats

Box Jumps 

Lateral Jump + Burpee 

Medicine Ball Throws 

Push Press / Snatches 

Wood Chops  

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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