Weight Training for Runners

Weight training for runners should focus on movements and weight that compliments running rather than mimic it. So, for starters let's clarify, that the weight training for runners information and workout routines on this page are quite different from those found on the strength training for runners page, which is why these two topics are separated! The term weight training for runners is often used interchangeably with strength training, and while both of course have similar outcomes of activating and building lean muscle tissue, weight training refers to weight bearing exercises. Strength training as it's referred to at meet-your-running-goals are those exercises that make use of the natural forces of gravity versus your own body weight.

There is another more important distinction between weight training and strength training however, and this difference lies more in WHEN you perform what type of training to most benefit you as a runner. I’m referring to ‘periodization’ which is training program language for time period. Periodization, or splitting your training throughout the year into various time periods, ensures that you are providing a balance to your training and allots for build up time, peak time and recovery time. Otherwise, you risk overtraining, injury and usually hand in hand with this, less than ideal performances for your chosen program goals.

Looking at the big picture of your training in any given year, you should be able to separate it into two distinct periods:

  1. In-season training
  2. Off-season training

Considering this, as a runner I recommend leaving weight training for the off season and strength training reserved for your in-season of running. For most of us, the off-season is sandwiched between our last fall marathon or other big peak race and our first spring race or, the winter months.


While it may not be fashionable, I won't hesitate one second to say that I have not come anywhere close to finding a better total body conditioning program in the market today than P90x. The program set of DVDs is simple to use, well rounded (carefully designed with training principles in mind), challenging, motivating, fresh and fun. Best of all, this program works! I would be willing to bet that anyone, runner or non-runner alike that tells you different, has not completely gone through this program. Ever since I incorporated this routine into my winter training I routinely experience a transformation that helps me to re-emerge into spring training stronger, renewed and ready for another running season. I’m confident you’ll have a similar experience if you embark on this journey.

While it’s a 6 day/week commitment, one of the reasons why I love this program so much is the variety of workouts that you get. In addition to resistance workouts 3 times a week, you will get Plyometrics training once a week, which is nothing short of a PHENOMENAL strength and speed development opportunity for running. Top that off with a day of Yoga to promote patience, balance, focus and flexibility. Really, what better cross training benefits could a runner ask for?

As a runner, in the ‘off season’ it’s important to keep your running mileage at least existent so there are a couple of considerations and options if you’re going to tackle the P90 program.

First, you want to pick the ‘doubles’ program, which allots you ‘cardio’ sessions in addition to the regular workouts several times a week. These are added to two of the resistance days. I never add runs to the 'Legs and Back' or 'Plyometrics' day and the reason for this, is both of those workouts hammer all of your muscles below the waist! Once you’ve done the plyo the first time, you’ll feel exactly what I mean.

Second, you don’t want to bulk up, so for the weight bearing exercises you should always shoot for a weight that you can lift 12-16 times. This will promote lean muscle growth along with strength endurance, a beautiful compliment for running. Tony Horton will skilfully and repeatedly coach you more on this aspect.


I personally found the schedule that is provided when you purchase the program a little visually challenging to follow, so I took the liberty of plugging the entire program into this P90x Calendar for Runners. As you'll see this calendar mimics all of my other training programs in a format without dates attached so you can start any time you like. Feel free to print and use it if you think it will help you stay on track and meet your goals!

You’ll also notice though, that I took other liberties that you should be aware of!!! While you don’t want to mess with the training program that has been carefully designed with training principles and your adaptation in mind, runners simply need to continue running! So, notice that Saturdays is a ‘Kenpo’ day where the main objective is 60 minutes of cardio. As a runner, you might find this workout a little sub par when it comes to getting your heart rate up and so at that, in my opinion you will likely get way more return for your time by going for a 60 minute run.

Many other runners that do this program that I know of tend to do the same thing. I also hear complaints that Yoga is too long and for many difficult, but these complaints are due to an utter lack of patience and flexibility. Runners are tight and Yoga will really highlight these weaknesses. All the more reason not to skip Yoga! I would also do the occasional long run on the Saturday instead of the 60 minute workout. If you are a half or full marathoner, you might consider the same thing to keep your base mileage up.

So between substituting Saturday’s Kenpo for a run, and adding two other runs to resistance days as well as your regular plyometrics and leg workouts, you will be strengthening and moving your legs constantly, but still getting a break from your regular in-season running training.

Weight Training for Runners in a Gym/Home

Perhaps you prefer to work out at a gym, or even at home but are not interested in going the P90 route with videos, I also have another weight training program for you to consider. It is a rather well rounded program to hit all of your body and is available to download on my Free Weight Training Program page - it comes complete with a calendar as well as individual workout tracking sheets for each of the 4 workout days. The calendar distributes the workouts over the weeks so that you are getting adequate recovery time for different muscle groups.

Finally, you might only be interested in routines that don’t require weights in which case you can check out all of the various routines that I have on my strength training for runners page!

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