Does Lifting Weights Help Runners? (A Coach Explains)

Athletes who are looking to improve their running performance instinctively turn to add more mileage or increase the intensity of runs in training. However, more and more runners are starting to add weight lifting to their training regimen. But the question is, does lifting weights really help runners?

Research suggests that lifting weights improves running performance by improving strength, posture, running economy, and muscle endurance. Runners who lift weights regularly were shown to perform better in both sprint and long-distance running. 

Ahead, we will look at how lifting weights help improve running performance in closer detail. We’ll also look at the type of strength training runners should do to maximize the benefits of strength training.

How Lifting Weights Help Runners

Optimizes Performance

Improvement of the running economy should be part of any runner’s objectives and goals as it is considered an important physiological measure for endurance athlete.

A runner with a good running economy wastes less energy and runs at a faster pace. This means that they are less likely to tire when traversing long distances. Furthermore, they are more consistent with their speed.

A 2014 study on the effects of strength training for endurance athletes found that regular strength training improved the time trial performance, economy, and VO2 max of competitive athletes compared to those who did not do a strength program. 

That said, lifting weights is clearly a vital part of a runner’s program.

Reduce Risk of Injuries

Because of the nature of running, runners, especially those who run long distances, are at risk of overuse injuries ranging from plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, runner’s knee, and more.

The most common culprit for these kinds of injuries is muscle imbalances, improper running posture, and muscle weakness. All of these can be prevented by lifting weights regularly.

Research shows that even just a 10% increase in strength training volume reduces the risk of overuse injuries by more than 4%. 

That said, if you’re constantly experiencing various pains and aches throughout your body, lifting weights and strengthening the key muscles is key to preventing injuries.

The glutes are one of the most important muscles for running and posture, however, it is often neglected by runners. If you’re one of those runners, I highly recommend the Glute Kickstarter Program by James Dunne. It will show you various glute activation technique and strengthening that is vital for longevity and performance.

What Type of Weight Training Is Best for Runners?

Endurance Training

Endurance training is one of the best types of training for a runner to do. After all, runners are endurance athletes and must focus on how they can last more on the track without wasting too much energy.

Endurance training improves slow-twitch muscle fibers when repeated movements are applied. Slow-twitch fibers sustain force for long periods of time. They evenly distribute energy and activate first during running. Long-distance runners benefit from such muscles since training them lowers fatigue and muscle pains. 

To train for muscle endurance, aim for 15 repetitions or more on muscles commonly used for running. This includes the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

Power Training

The goal of power training is to increase the body’s capacity in doing a maximum power movement in a very short period. Examples include giving it your all when jumping vertically or even launching into a very quick and fast sprint. While they generate a lot more power than slow-twitch, their energy levels are also quick to deplete. 

Power training is related to fast-twitch muscle fibers during high-intensity sets. Short-distance runners benefit from the “burst and explosiveness” that these fibers have. However, long-distance runners also use them during hill climbs, race endings, as well as quick speed surges. 

Power training is usually done in small reps with high loads. Lifting heavy weights also improves core strength, posture, and running economy.

How much weight training should you do to improve running?


For strength or weight training to be effective, you must be ready to do it 2-3 times every week. This produces the best results in the long run. But, if you can only do it once a week, then don’t hesitate to do so. 

Why only 2-3 days? That’s because your primary goal as a runner is to increase mileage and/or run faster. Focusing more on the strength parts takes away the time and energy that you could’ve spent training for speed or mileage.


Runners are often conflicted about whether they should run or lift first (see full article). While there is no single answer that fits all situations, there are certain things you can consider to time your strength training.

Ideally, you should lift weights on light days or on rest days. But if you have to lift weights on the same day as your hard training day, I recommend that you split the sessions. For example, you can do your run training in the morning and strength training in the afternoon.

This way, you’re giving your body enough time to recover before engaging in another strenuous activity. This allows you to execute the movements better. If, however, splitting the sessions seems impossible, lift weights first before running. Always go for progressive overload as it will challenge your musculoskeletal system in the long run.

Other Benefits of lifting weights for runners

Running Form

As mentioned, lifting weights does improve your core strength which in turn improves your running posture. Proper running posture is essential for proper running form as it ensures that the work is equally distributed to the involved muscles.

Muscle Reflexes

Strength training is also very beneficial for reflexes and our neural system. Muscle activation, or how fast our muscles switch on or off, is enhanced by repeated movement and progressive overloading. 

Hence, runners who strength train are more likely to have the muscle memory needed to recruit certain muscle groups into action.

The result is a body that is more receptive to the neural response of the brain to induce motion. This leads to better reflexes, reaction time, and perception on track. Not only that but you will also be assured that you are making use of the optimal muscle groups in each movement.

What to Avoid


Everybody wants to see improvements as soon as possible. However, as runners, we must be disciplined to know when and where to stop on our weight-lifting routine. 

We should never exert more than we can handle at any given time. Do not be too intense in your workouts! It is better to see gradual gains than to shock your body into injury just because you lifted more than what you can handle.

Also, too much weight-lifting can lead to unnecessary muscle aches, hindering your running training. Take extra time to learn the basic forms and postures of your lifts to achieve great success.

Overexerting doesn’t only apply to lifting weights but also to running. If you want to learn more about rest days and how it affects your performance, I made another article that talks about rest days in detail.


Although bodybuilding does build strength, runners should never do a bodybuilding program. That’s because a bodybuilding program focuses on hypertrophy which aims to increase muscle mass rather than just gaining strength.

Instead, runners should focus on strength building which aims to increase strength without necessarily bulking up (although some mass gain is inevitable).

The difference between the programming is that hypertrophy training emphasizes time under tension and ranges between 10-15 reps with low to medium weight. Strength training, on the other hand, emphasizes the intensity (load) and ranges only within 1-5 reps.

if you want more information on muscle building and how it affects running, I made another article that focuses on that topic.

Inconsistency in Training

Having 5 average training days a week is better than 2 great days a week. The best program in the world cannot make you a better runner if you don’t train consistently.

One of the most common reasons why runners don’t train consistently is burning out as a result of training too intensely a few days a week. To prevent this, I recommend you start with a conservative training program and gradually increase your way up.

If you decide to start weight training, start doing strengthening exercises twice a week using only light weights. But do it every week until you feel confident to do it thrice a week.

Best Strengthening Exercises for Runners

  • Squats – Squats are one of the most foundational movements in any sport. Primarily, it strengthens your squads and glutes, but it also increases your core strength and your overall strength.
  • Deadlifts – Deadlifts are not only a good way to strengthen your hamstrings, lower back, and glutes, but it’s also great for your posture. The deadlift is also the most foundational movement as it is associated with picking heavy things from the ground.
  • Kettlebell Swings – Another great exercise for runners is the kettlebell swings. It emphasizes power and glute activation. Furthermore, kettlebell swings also increase endurance.

Final Thoughts

Powering through a routine with running and weight-lifting may seem difficult, but it will benefit you in the long run. You will eventually feel good about your body, and people will notice the positive changes in your form, posture, and gains. Incorporate these exercises, and you will have a better experience in and out of the track!

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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