Best Weight Training Exercises for Long Distance Runners

Best Weight Training Exercises for Long Distance Runners

Exercise & Program Recommendations for Long Distance Runners


Runners do not necessarily enjoy – or welcome – resistance training into their lives because it represents time away from what we love to do – run!

However, based upon my own experience over the past two decades, I am convinced we could ALL benefit from some resistance training in our athletic lives.

To prevent major injuries, maintain a balanced approach to training, and strengthening our “psychology” – as well as our bodies – resistance training pays off in spades, especially for long distance runners.

In my years as a long distance runner I have found the stronger I am, the better I can train as a runner. Strength gains can happen in a relatively short period of time (30 days if we are consistent) and will enliven and encourage us as we embark on a new adventure in running – and exercise – for a life of fitness and fun!


Resistance / weight training can be accomplished in a wide variety of ways and through a varied menu of exercises thanks to major advancements in technology and science based research – allowing us a relatively safe and effective way to access its many benefits.

In the days I trained at Syracuse University with the football team (1964-1968), we had only free weights and simple tools (like a climbing rope) at our disposal. It is in this environment that I learned the principles that would later become more advanced thinking in the value of weight training. It now applies to anyone who wishes to gain strength and slow the advancement of infirmity and reverse the effects of weakening muscles and joints due to inactivity.

Weight Training Exercise Recommendations for Long Distance Runners

Weight Training Exercise Recommendations for Long Distance RunnersHere is my list of exercises – by body part – that I have used – or are using today – to help me maintain my strength as an athlete – and long distance runner:


  1. Squats – the “gold standard”
  2. Lunges – walking and standing
  3. Leg extensions – “quad” development
  4. Leg curls – Hamstrings
  5. Calf extensions – standing, seated, with weight and without
  6. Adduction – seated – inner thighs
  7. Abduction – seated – outer thighs
  8. Leg press – standing – incline – seated


  1. Butterfly – machines, dumbbells, cable
  2. Bench press – barbells
  3. Chest press – machine, cable, dumbbells
  4. Incline press – free weights, machines
  5. Decline press – free weights, machines
  6. Pushups – body weight


  1. Lat pull – machine
  2. Seated row – cable, machines
  3. Upright/incline row – dumbbells, machines
  4. Decline row – machines
  5. Low back extension – machines
  6. Reverse fly – dumbbells, machines


  1. Shoulder press – free weights, machines, rubber tubing
  2. Lateral raise – dumbbells, machines, cable, rubber tubing
  3. Front raise – dumbbells, bar, cable, rubber tubing
  4. Pull ups – body weight – hands face away from you, (on any pull up “set up”)
  5. Chin ups – hands face toward you (on any available overhead bar)


  1. Curls – machines, barbell, dumbbells
  2. Triceps extension – machines, reverse pushups, dumbbell extension (“press backs”)
  3. Wrist curls – dumbbells, bar, rubber tubing
  4. Reverse curls – hands face away for curl to train forearms

Weight Training Exercise Program Recommendations for Long Distance Runners

Weight Training Exercise Program Recommendations for Long Distance RunnersBeginner Runners:

3 sets of ten exercises combining the major muscle groups – 2 back exercises, 1 chest exercise, 4 leg exercises, 2 arm exercises, 1 shoulder exercise (overhead press)– 3 times per weeks – plus an abdominal crunch program to strengthen the core, followed by basic stretching and flexibility work. Weights selected – light – sets of 10-15 reps each. These will build more endurance and some strength.

Intermediate Runners:

3 – 5 sets of 13 exercises combining the major muscle groups – 3 back, 2 chest, 4 leg exercises, 2 arm exercises, 2 shoulder exercises – 2 times per week – plus abdominal exercises with variation to strengthen the core, followed by stretching and flexibility  work. Weights selected – moderate – sets of 8-12 reps each. These will develop strength and some power using the pyramid and ladder (increase weight consecutively by exercise).

Advanced Runners:

3-5 (plus) sets of 13-15 exercises (my current program) combining the major muscle groups – 3-4 back exercises, 2-3 chest exercises, 4 leg exercises, 2 arm exercises, 2 shoulder exercises, and an abdominal program with varied exercises to maximize abdominal strength (hanging “knee ups”, crunches etc.) followed by stretching and flexibility work. Weights selected moderate to heavy – 4-8-12 reps each. These will develop BOTH power and strength – particularly in the legs if you so choose. I do bench press, leg press/ extension, calf extension, arm curls, lateral raise, shoulder press, lat pull, seated row, cable row, incline pull, upright row, abdominal crunches, “dips” (hanging – press up with arms) – for my upper body strength overall.

The Bottom Line

long distance runner performing drillWeight training for runners is the key to maintaining and developing as a runner – or any type of athlete for that matter. Without a strong and flexible body, injuries – both acute and chronic – become more likely.

The idea of frequency – how often we train, intensity – how hard we train, time – the time we spend training, and the type – the mode or method of our training – all play a role in helping us develop power, strength, quickness, speed, endurance, balance and flexibility.

Over the long term we need ALL the methods of training if we are to successfully traverse the wide world of running and other incredible forms of exercise (cycling, hiking, sports etc.) that will help keep us healthy and vital well into our later years!

Author Profile: Nick Prukop

Website:      Email: [email protected] Nick is an author, teacher, and speaker and has been a certified personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management consultant since 1992. He is currently recognized as a master trainer by the IDEA International Health and Fitness Association. He has been a runner since 1964 and has accumulated over 60,000 miles in that time.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
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