Runners Also Need to LIFT WEIGHTS – Plus a Free Lifting Regimen for Runners

Before I played shot-put back in college, in my first 4 semesters I actually played all the “track” events. At first I thought I was gonna dominate the game. After all I still have all that endurance and limberness that I got from all those Martial Arts training back in high school.

As the games go by, I noticed one thing: I sucked 100%!

It also didn’t help that we were coached by a generic Physical Education teacher who doesn’t know what he’s doing; and later a Karateka practitioner who also doesn’t know his toe from his thumb when it comes to athletics.

Those nutjobs just made us do one thing:

Run and run and jog and jog

We: “Coach, sorry we were ass whipped”

Coach: “Don’t worry; we’ll get them next time. Just keep on doing your ten laps a day!”
“Oh, and run some more!”

It did help, a little – only for the cross-country and long-distance runners. The short and mid distance runners either did not improve or got worse. Anyways the long distance runners did not do wonders anyways but they managed to avoid sucking and trailing too much.

Now if only I have known these training principles that I know right now, I would have probably kicked some runner ass along the way to my 3rd year of college. Now we know that running and running and running would pretty much not cut it at all.

Yes exclusively running is great and it helps you with your “skill” on running. But then again, “running” is the application of that skill. And we all know that any sports involve 25%skill, 25% Pain, sweat and hard work – oh wait, we had all that – but wait, let me finish – the last 50% goes to:


Conditioning is very VERY important especially with sports such as athletics and most especially running and track events where in most cases the bout is decided just by the level of conditioning that the players have. There is not much gameplan, tactics whatsoever involved; because athletics is pretty much straightforward; you go toe to toe with the toughest of the toughest, and whoever among you is the toughest (or fastest), wins – simple, right?

The problem is most runners avoid the weight room like a herpes-ridden whore; ONLY that the latter gets avoided LESS!

Let me tell you this, where do you think Usain Bolt (and these other sprinters) got that kind of physique that you see below:

usain bolt huge muscles


If you think that you can just run and run and run and hit 100 meters in 90 seconds, you are dead wrong! Now this goes beyond short-distance runners – mid and long distance runners will benefit from lifting weights as well.

Stability and core:

As a runner you need to maintain the right form and tense the right muscles at right time. The very moment that you cannot keep the required tension is when your enemies, injury and defeat lurk in every corner. Doing old-school compound moves with the barbell is the most effective way to train your body to become stable and retain the necessary tension and at the same time exert high power muscular force.

With that, weight training will indeed make your running form more solid as your whole body gets stronger. The best types of moves for runners to achieve this goal would be our so called high CNS moves which involve the core heavily such as squats, overhead presses, deadlifts etc. Such lifts will tremendously improve your core stability and as a bonus will lessen you risk for injury.

Explosiveness = Speed

This one is especially for you sprinters out there. We all know that to become fast, you first need to become strong. No amount of running, even sprinting can top the strength gains that you will get from a solid and well planned lifting regimen.

But don’t take my word for it; here’s an explanation offered by Jay Dicharry, the author of Anatomy for Runners:

As you run faster, the amount of time you are in contact with the ground actually decreases. But the flip side of that is that when you have less time in contact with the ground, it is actually harder to run. So your body has to be able to supply more force to the ground quickly.

You have to be able to put out more force in a shorter amount of time to run faster.

With that you will see why you need to incorporate explosive moves such power cleans into your regimen. Running is more like throwing a punch; it’s all about proper transmission of force from one part of the body to another. There is no better way to train for that than with the barbell.

And here’s an entry from a well-known website for runners which discusses the gains that one can get from incorporating resistance training into their track and field training:

Jung starts by describing the three basic types of weight training: circuit workouts, traditional weight lifting, and explosive weight lifting. Circuit training involves short exercises at a high intensity with little or no rest between the various exercises. A circuit might consist of five or ten different exercises, each done once for a certain amount of time or number of repeats.


Traditional weight lifting is just what it sounds like: pumping iron in the gym with slow, controlled weight movements.


Explosive training involves very fast lifts, like the Olympic clean-and-jerk lift or a two-legged bound.


Circuit training seems to benefit the cardiovascular system somewhat, at least in less-experienced athletes. Since there is little or no rest between exercises, your heart rate can jump to as high as 80% of its maximum. Studies among untrained individuals have also found improvements in time-to-exhaustion on a treadmill test and the lactate threshold. There is little evidence as to whether circuit training is beneficial for an experienced distance runner.


Traditional weight lifting, on the other hand, has not shown any benefit to the cardiovascular system. Tests of maximal oxygen consumption, even in untrained individuals, do not change after several-week weight lifting programs. However, they don’t decrease either, which is good news for runners. Additionally, studies using distance athletes have found that traditional weight lifting can lead to improvements in running economy, time-to-exhaustion, and neuromuscular coordination (which has relevance to top speed and may explain the increase in running economy).

Explosive training has been directly connected to improved race performance at 5km. Additionally, it too seems to benefit running economy and neuromuscular coordination. It’s likely that the training stimulus is stronger with explosive work, since exercises like alternate-leg bounding are more sport-specific than lunges or squats with weights.

The point is that even long distance endurance runners, stand to gain a lot from weight training. Thus runners should not avoid the barbell but rather learn that they too can use it wisely to get the ends that they aspire.

How to schedule your regimen in-season:

Off season is pretty much a no brainer. Off season allows you more time to train outside of your habitual outdoor running program in the field. But “in season” and contest season lifting can be a challenge since you would most likely have competitions, classes (if you are a student), tune ups, etc. A great article by CTF touches on this issue:

Map It Out: The first thing you should do is go to your local office supply store and buy a big desk calendar. Don’t be cheap and get a tiny one on sale. Don’t even think about using the calendar in your cell phone either! Get a big calendar with a lot of space to write. On the day you receive your meet schedule for the season, take a red pen and write down on the calendar every meet you will attend. Even if it is a big championship meet that only part of your team will attend, write it down. It is important to be thorough so just go in order day by day and write down the information on the calendar.

Starting with the last meet of the season, count back two days before that meet and in a black pen write “Weight Room” in big letters. Work your way backwards from the last meet of the season all the way to the first meet of the season. There should be one weight training session per week. You may find that as you get closer to the smaller meets at the beginning of the season your weight training day falls on the same day as another meet. If this happens, simply count back one more day and write “Weight Room” in that square.

Now comes the tough part. Finding one day per week to train in the weight room is easy. Finding a second day per week might be a little tricky, but it is certainly doable. Starting again at the end of the season, find the last “Weight Room” session of the year and count back another 2 days. Write “Weight Room” again in that square. As an example, the Rhode Island State Championship track meet was on a Saturday last June. I counted back two days to that Thursday and wrote “Weight Room” in big black letters. I counted back another two days to that Tuesday and wrote “Weight Room” one more time. So the last week leading up to the State Meet my throwers were in the weight room on Tuesday and Thursday.

At the end of the season, this is easy. For the most part all of the bigger invitationals and championship meets are on the weekends. Scheduling in-season weight training should be very easy. Every Tuesday and Thursday leading up to those meets you will be in the weight room. Not too difficult.

Now Here’s the program:

Now that you know the importance of including resistance training into your regular running regimen, and you have already planned out how you can squeeze in your weight room sessions to your busy training schedule; now is the time to learn the program.

2 to three times a week with each session not lasting for more than an hour should be sufficient.

But first off:

Should you accentuate the eccentric (lowering) part of the lifts?

NO! Athletes lifting for explosiveness and athletic performance should have no need to accentuate the eccentric part of the lifts. Yes your lifts must be controlled for safety and you should still avoid using momentum. But all of your lifts should be done EXPLOSIVELY. When you lift think that you are trying to blast the weight up. Then again you lower it in a controlled manner but that should not take you more than a second or two.

Accentuating the negative portion of the reps is effective for bodybuilders who want to intentionally damage their muscle fibres (create micro tears) so that they will grow bigger. For athletes this is not your goal and doing so will only displace the recuperative energy that you will need to fuel the strength gains that you are looking for.

Your goal as a runner should be the same as the one for any athlete or even a weight lifter and that is to be stronger than you look; while bodybuilders will always look stronger than they actually are.

Muscle density that is the effect of lowering the weights really, REALLY slow when you lift and is not a priority for runners and athletes. This is especially true for the ones who play on games which have weight divisions.

BUT keep in mind that you will still experience aesthetic gains nonetheless and you will notice your muscles more once you start lifting weights, but that is more of a secondary effect of your strength and performance regimen. AND that mass that you will gain that way will NOT AFFECT your performance, trust me. You will never grow too much following an athletic lifting program enough to hinder your performance.

These lifts that we will be prescribing below should be done in a 5 reps for 5 sets scheme. Again, execution must be explosive and preferably you should be monitored by your coach or a seasoned weight lifter as you perform them.

Should you reach for failure?

No. For athletic performance, it is best to stop 1 or 2 reps away from muscular failure. Thus the weight that you should use for 5 reps is the weight that you will only be able to handle for 6 or 7 reps before you cannot lift the weight anymore. If you feel that the weight is too light; then increase the poundage.

Choose 3 of these moves and do them for the certain lift day. Preferably you should do at least a type of squats every lifting day and another Olympic lift (labeled accordingly below) to hone your explosive capacity and proper transfer of force. But if you already did one type of lift for the day, let’s say you already did squats on day 1, then it would be redundant if you will do wide stance squats for your second lift of the same day; instead you can do the other squat on day 2 or 3 of the week. But anyways it’s your choice; even if you do redundant moves you will STILL benefit from these as long as you do 3 of them in a day for 5 sets 5 reps each, explosively and each rep stopping just 1 rep shy of failure.

Barbell Squats
-Wide stance squat
-Hack squats
-Overhead barbell squats
Front squats
-Sumo deadlifts
Pull ups or Chins – If your bodyweight is too light then add weight (although this one can be done in the field already if so no need to execute it in the gym)
-Muscle ups (although this one can be done in the field already if so no need to execute it in the gym)
Pushups – If your bodyweight is too light then add weight (although this one can be done in the field already if so no need to execute it in the gym)
-Dips – – If your bodyweight is too light then add weight (although this one can be done in the field already if so no need to execute it in the gym)
-One legged deadlifts (5×5 per side)
-Standing military/shoulder press with barbell
Power cleans (Olympic move)
Jump Shrug (Olympic move)
Hang Clean (Olympic move)

You see there are a lot of moves to choose from that you won’t get bored if choosing just 3 of those per lift day. You should however actively try to increase your numbers especially on the squats, deadlifts and military press. As you get stronger in those lifts you will also notice that you’re also becoming faster and more limber and comfortable with your body.

And above we chose the lifts that will have a HUGE carry over to your sport so take them seriously!

Posterior Chain:

The posterior chain is large group of large muscles that are located in the rear of your body. You would notice that most exercises above focus on and strengthen the posterior chain. That is so because you will not see any high performance star athlete with weak posterior chains. Not to mention that most of your force should come from your hips and your hamstrings when you run. These lifts will also help you train how to properly transfer force from your hips which will greatly improve your performance.

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.

Take this program seriously and I can assure you that you will increase your running performance and the carry over will be huge. Be ready to kick some ass; probably not Usain’s, but it’s gonna be great! Later on you will learn to love the barbell as much as you love your running shoes! Eat your eggs, people!

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