Should Runners be doing Strength training?

The link between strength training and running performance has been a hotly research topic over the last decade. It is known that regular strength training can help boost an individuals running economy but the specifics around this remain to be fully understood. It is thought that strength training can help prevent overuse injuries in recreational middle to long distance runners. This is because it is likely strength training increases the force-generating capacity of the leg muscles responsible for the propulsion needed with running. If we are able to generate more force, then in theory, we would need less energy output (effort) needed for running and therefore should enhances one’s running economy.

So then what strength exercises would we recommend for a runner?

We need to think about all the different muscles in the chain that need to be strong as a recreational runner and ensure there is somewhat of a balance between sides in our strength and mobility. This ensures we are balanced in the chain of muscles that all work together to propel our centre of mass forward when we run. It also ensures that both sides are able to ‘pull their weight’ so one side isn’t overloaded as a result.

Here is a list of sports specific exercises that we might recommend for recreational runners:

  1. Single leg bridge
  2. Banded crab walks
  3. Single leg Calf raises
  4. Bulgarian split squats/lunges

Single leg bridge: Great exercise for hamstring and glute strength. Ideally great to done with a single leg to ensure both sides are strong in these muscle groups.

Banded crab walks: Great exercise for our glutes/hip abductors (the muscles that help support our pelvis sideways when we run/walks). being strong in these muscles helps to give us the strength to control any lateral/sideways movement we may have with our hips when we run. if we are able to control sideways movement well it allows us to move forward more efficiently= enhances running economy!

Single leg calf raises: Great exercise to help improve calf strength. It is important as a runner to have strong calves to help propel from our ankles as we run. Strong calves also help us to attenuate force on landings which sometimes can help us prevent shin splints. Ideally a runner should be able to do at least 20-30 repetitions each side in one go!

Bulgarian Split squats/lunges: Great for quad/hamstrings/glute strength and control on a single leg! A great running specific exercise that can be progressed with holding weights.


At Inspired Physiotherapy we are passionate about helping runners manage and prevent injuries! If you would like to optimise your strength for your running or looking to get back into running safely while minimising the risk of injury, then book in with one of our physiotherapists who are well equipped to help you on your running journey.