Marathon runners want to be the classic vertical hyphen, with no extra muscles. Strength training, however, does have a role in the endurance runner’s overall training programme. It corrects muscle imbalances and prevent injuries by strengthening the connective tissue, including tendons and ligaments. It will also keep your arms and shoulders, which don’t get much benefit from running, in shape and strengthen your leg muscles. It may even improve your running economy so that you use less oxygen at a given pace. If done to excess, however, it may tighten up your muscle tissue, leave you injured, and add extra weight.

The greatest gains for marathon runners are obtained by including exercises that strengthen your propulsive and stabilizing muscles. The closer those exercises simulate how you would use those muscles during running, the greater the benefits for your running performance.

Strength training to increase muscle size is counterproductive to endurance performance. During endurance training, you work to increase the capillary density and mitochondrial content of your muscles. When muscle size is increased, the capillary and mitochondrial density of the muscle is reduced. It’s important, therefore, that you design your resistance training to avoid gains in muscle size. The program that follows is designed to improve strength specifically for your running without adding unneeded muscle.

Strength training should generally take place twice a week. With this frequency you will see steady improvements in strength but will not compromise the rest of your training program because of excess fatigue. Whether you run before or after work, schedule your strength training at the opposite side of the day or at lunchtime, so that it won’t detract from your running.

Follow the sequence of exercises, do it twice. Make sure you fully recover between the two sets:

10 repetitions.
It helps to strengthen the chest, shoulders, and arms; helps improve arm drive when running and the ability to maintain good upper-body form when you are tired.

Dumbbell lat row
15 repetitions.
Help strengthens large muscles along side of upper back; improves running posture by balancing strength of the chest and shoulder muscles.

Bench dip
15 repetitions
Help strengthens shoulders and arms; increases ability to maintain upright running posture when tired.

15 repetitions per leg
Help strengthens the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; improves balance and increases the forward power of each stride, increasing stride length.
Do only the simple step-up in this example:

15 repetitions per leg
Help strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; improves balance between left and right legs; helps develop ability to control the large forces through the legs and maintain form while running downhill.

20 repetitions
Help strengthens lower back, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals; improves ability to keep the knee in good alignment with the hip and ankle, which reduces injury risk and improves running efficiency; also helps develop triple extension (ankle, knee, and hip), which is an important feature of good running technique.

Alternate shoulder press
10 repetitions per side
Help strengthens shoulder and arm muscles; improves ability to maintain a stable upper body while running (minimizes side-to-side sway).

Seated triceps press
15 repetitions
Help strengthens muscles along back of upper arms; helps maintain relaxed arm action when fatigued.

(Strength training for endurance runners first appeared on