Strength Training for Marathon Runners 

This Strength Training for Marathon Runners is a commissioned Guest post

Strength Training for Marathon Runners

Unlike what popular opinion dictates, running long distances is not only about having cardiovascular endurance. Even though it’s vital, it’s not the only physical quality an athlete should have in order to be able to run marathons and achieve good results. Having strong muscles in the core and legs, as well as overall mobility and flexibility, will help you become faster while keeping yourself injury-free. 

As we want to help any future or current marathon runners improve, in the next paragraphs, we’re going to talk about strength training and Olympic weightlifting for marathon runners in particular – why it’s necessary, how often it should be done, and what the main benefits are. So, if you’re currently training for your first marathon or you simply want to improve your performance, then keep on reading. 

Why is Strength Training Important for Runners? 

When people hear the term strength training, they most immediately imagine people like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Olympic weightlifters – aka huge, bulky, and muscular men. However, that’s not the kind of training you’re expected to do as a marathon runner; instead, the focus is on a combination of targeted and more general exercises done with little additional weight or with your body weight that aim to help you become stronger, faster and protect your body against potential injuries. 

strenght training to avoid injury

If we have to narrow it down, the main benefits of strength training for runners include injury prevention, better performance, and quicker recovery times. With that said, in order to get good results, you have to carefully plan out the way you train – otherwise, you risk overtraining the body and causing more damage. 

How Often Should You Do Strength Training? 

When training for a marathon, it’s clear that the focus is on running more miles and also finding time to let the legs rest and recover. By knowing that, for most runners, it’s hard to imagine how they could possibly fit additional training into their already busy schedules, but thankfully, there’s a way for that to be done.


If you’re a beginner runner without a background in fitness, then it’s good to start a 50/50 training split – meaning you do two sessions in the gym and two sessions running. By doing so, you’re giving your muscles enough time to recover from each workout, and you’re able to maximize the results. 



As you get more advanced, however, you might start changing the split, depending on where you’re in your training cycle. For example, if you know that your next race is in 3 or more months, you can use that time to focus on building strength and gradually ramp up the running session as the competition day comes closer. 

Which Weights

You have to keep in mind that when we talk about strength training for runners, we’re not referring to you lifting extremely heavy weights; instead, the goal is to use moderate to light weights in a carefully design program that helps you maximize results.


In most cases, strength training is not only about gaining more power and explosiveness but is also key for injury prevention. Usually, runners have very well-developed upper posterior muscles and quads because they’re regularly stressed through training. 

On the other hand, the hamstrings and glutes are left behind, which can create a huge imbalance around the knees and hips, leading to injuries such as runner’s knee or patellofemoral. And so by doing work in the gym and strengthening the glutes and hamstring, runners can negate these natural imbalances that occur thanks to running and ensure they’re less injury-prone during a training block.

What Exercises Should You Be Doing? 

Unlike bodybuilders, who like to divide the body into muscle groups and train each one on specific days of the week, you should be more focused on functional work as a runner. That means thinking of your workouts as “movement patterns” rather than as chest day, arms day, and so on, as you will want to ensure better performance and not bulky muscles for the summer. Typically, the focus for runners should be on compound lifts (those that include multiple muscle groups at once) such as deadlifts, lunges, rows, squats, and presses. 

weight lifting

The main purpose of such exercises is to strengthen your core and provide strong, functional glutes, which are the foundation of a better running performance. 


According to some specialists, doing contrast training and deadlifts are easy ways to quickly improve, and this method consists of doing a heavy lift for 1-3 reps and then follow immediately with a plyometric exercise that follows the same movement pattern. 

For example, you can do 1-3 reps of heavy back squats and then follow it up with 1-3 reps of box jumps. Other good exercises for runners include the Single-leg Romanian deadlift, which is terrific for strengthening the hamstrings while allowing you to work on any muscle imbalances between your dominant and non-dominant leg. 

Traditional deadlifts are also recommended, as they target the entire posterior chain of muscles and help you build overall stamina and power. 

It’s important here not to overdo the gym work – you want to give your body adequate time to recover, so it’s good to plan out your workouts on days before slow/recovery runs so that you know your legs will have time to rest. 

In Conclusion

Hopefully, this article helped you to understand all the basics surrounding strength training for marathon runners and why it’s recommended and beneficial. 

Even though we’re used to thinking of marathon runners as skinny and quick and of Olympic weightlifters as bulky and muscular, the reality is that all athletes have to build a foundation of both cardiovascular and muscular endurance. And so, even if you plan on running marathons, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up lifting weights or forget about strength training. 

All runners benefit from having stronger muscles, especially in the lower body and the core, as they help marathon runners not only become faster but also prevent potential future injuries. 

You may also be interested in my Ultimate List of Fundraising ideas for Your Marathon Charity

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