How can distance runners improve fitness in the weight room?

Distance runners can improve their fitness in the weight room by incorporating circuit training with weights into their weekly program. Distance runners need to be strong and fit from head to toe just like any other track and field athlete, but there is less emphasis on power and muscle hypertrophy (size increase) during workouts and more on strength and endurance. The stronger a muscle is, the more endurance it will have because it will take longer for it to fatigue. A circuit consisting of five lower-body exercises and three upper-body exercises is the perfect blend for a distance runner. A distance runner circuit can consist of three sets of 20 repetitions of walking lunges, seated rows, box step-ups, back extensions, pull-ups, leg press, military press, and single-leg Romanian deadlifts, all done with a thirty seconds recovery. A different circuit variation can be completed in the mornings or evenings two to three times per week.

You may also want to consider using the off season to build back some of the muscle lost during the season. Runners run a lot and all that cardio will probably cost you some muscle density.

A nice option may be to take a three month break or so and work with some heavy weight to build back some lost muscle. December thru February is a good time for this cycle. Bonus you get to eat a little more too. Then cycle back into running with a little more muscle and a little more body fat and run, run, run.

In the world of fitness, “CORE” is a magical word, and rightfully so, because without a strong core your limbs are useless. The core consists of all trunk muscles; glutes, hips, abs, and lower back. Ensure you engage your core by pulling your belly button back toward your spine at all times. Each time that you notice your stomach is sticking out, it is imperative that you pull it back in, especially when exercising. If you desire a firm strong midsection, understand that balance=belly. The more you utilize balance, the stronger your core muscles become.

 Your resistance-training program must include core and balance exercises. In order to maintain balance, your core must engage and recruit muscles. For example, if your goal includes working on your core, then do your bicep curls while standing on one foot. This will force your body to maintain good form and prevent cheating, while exercising your muscles from head to toe. If you require your body to balance as it performs many of your exercises or tasks, you will work your core muscles more often, reduce your risk of falling, and save precious time, as well. For example, if you are on the phone at home, don’t just stand there; do balance exercises. Balance pods, foam rollers, DynaDiscs®, and balance boards are all exercise tools designed to make your workouts more challenging. My personal favorite is the BOSU®. It is a fantastic tool for developing better balance and provides a more challenging workout while working your core muscles the entire time you are using it! I recommend that you choose at least one exercise for your lower back, glute, hip, obliques, and abdominals, performed in this order. 

     If you enjoy running, choose exercises that will enhance your skills.  My favorite exercises for runners are:  

    Triceps: prone extensions, rope cable extensions, reverse grip extensions

    Back: face pulls, rear delt pulls, rows, superman crisscross

    Abdominals: cable rotations, med ball ax chops, bicycle, windmills

    Lats: straight bar and single arm pullovers, med ball pullovers

    Hips: hello dollies, side-lying hip abduction, prone scissors

To improve overall fitness for distance runners the key is to be effective in your strength training. Strength training in Lower extremity, Upper and extremity and core is essential to be effective in distance runs. Lower body exercises such as barbell or smith machine squats, dumbell lunges, leg press, single leg squats and touch downs. For upper extremity; lat pull downs, cable rows, dumbell shoulder press(single leg or on both feet) cable tricep and bicep curls. For core; focus on diaphramic breathing(navel breathing), physioball crunches, floor cobras and planks are excellent to develop core conditioning. As your strength in Lower, Upper extremity and core increases your overall fitness and conditioning in long distance runs will improve exponentially. 
JC Pinzon
Core training, stability, balance training and flexibility are the most important components of fitness for a runner. Core training in all planes with different angles and speeds. Stability of ankle, knee and hip muscles can be achieved with balance exercises using a systematic progression of exercises. Flexibility must be incorporated in a program to avoid muscular imbalances. The exercises should only focus on high repetitions to build endurance and proper breathing techniques.
A big misconceptional with distance athletes is there is no need for strength training.  Distance athletes traditionally have great cardiorespiratory conditioning but may be deconditioned in other areas which may lead to injury.  Strength, joint stability, and balance are vital components to any distance athlete.  These athletic mechanisms can be improved with a well structured weight training routine.

Strength training for distance runners is a very important part of training. Beside building muscle in the legs, which gives you a better endurance, strength training helps you build an overall stronger body and core.

Good posture, strong core, balance and a fit mind is a must for runners.

Here are some exercises that helps you improve your fitness in the weight room:


- floor bridge

- stability ball bridge

- side plank

- asymmetrical kettlebell carry



- single leg balance reach on a BOSU

- 3 dimensional lunges ( frontal, sagittal and transverse plains )


- mini band side steps

- dumbbell squats

- single leg Romanian deadlifts

- squat to row

- stability ball hamstring curl

- single leg squats


Remember proper form and execution of the exercises is key to the success and prevention of injury.


Improving strength can help to improve endurance. It's incredibly important to have a well-rounded fitness routine that includes strength training to help build endurance and limit risk of injury. A solid weight training program can help build muscle and ultitmately store more glycogen, making it possible for you to run further. 

It is important to cycle your training no matter what sport you are in. Making use of stage training will help to keep your body optimally conditioned. If you run marathons, you don't do the distance of a marathon every time you train, you cycle through distances. When your training requires rest from running it is a good time to work on your balance, core, strength and flexibility. A well-balanced program will keep your muscles strong, making distance running easier. 

Core, arm, and leg strength will help propel you forward while running, this will increase your speed and the added leg strength will help with endurance.

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