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Strength training for endurance runners that won't make you bulky

By Lisa Tamati, Running Hot Coaching

I have written a number of posts on the importance of strength training for runners but the point needs hammering home.

To be good runners we need to be good as athletes, be able to move fast and with stability and strength.

We need strength training to be able to withstand too, the rigours of the miles and we also need strength training to counteract the catabolic (eating your own muscles) nature of long distance running not to mention for those north of 40 who tend to lose muscle mass anyway as well as we age.

Strength training is anabolic in nature meaning it is building the strength in the body and I know many of you will say "Yes but I don't want to bulk up" and believe me for runners it's actually really hard to "bulk up". With the right type of strength training and targeting the right areas you won't be building bulk but stability and strength and even explosive power to run faster, depending on your training program.

To bulk up you actually need a lot of food and heavy weights so stop worrying about that. Bulking up is also very dependent on your genetics. Being stronger also means less injuries. Picture in your mind's eye a very weak person who has never trained anything then picture this person now trying to run a really fast 1km time trial. It's going to be messy, sloppy, loose and dangerous.

Okay so you are an athlete already, you run and you know probably how a runner should look when running, ie what good technique looks like but if you are very weak you won't be able to hold good technique for any period of time. So what areas do we need to focus on?

Well our entire bodies really but okay let's be run specific here. We need to work out our upper body, especially upper back, our core (not just your six pack either), your hips and your glutes and calves. So what are the best exercises? Well that is a deep topic that depends on your level of ability, your goals, your present state but here is a brief list of strength exercises that will benefit your running:

Planks Hollow Body and other mat based core exercises Compound exercises like thrusters Deadlifts, Pull ups Push ups Lunges in all variation Work with resistance bands Squats Floor Bridges You don't even need a gym to do most of these, of course you get more variation if you have a gym membership and if you are wanting to do more heavier weights depending on your goals and your situation then this can be of benefit but here is a list of simple home gym equipment that you can get that won't break the bank if you don't have access to a gym: Resistance Bands of all variations Medicine balls Door gym TRX system Kettlebells Dumbells A little equipment can go a long way when combined with body weight exercises. So how often should you incorporate strength training into your plan? Well again it depends on your goals and current state but generally two to three times, 20 to 30 minutes a week is all you need. You can do your strength sessions at the end of your run sessions so it's not a completely separate workout. Next question we often get is well what about Cross Fit, P90X or that type of training. Does that count and is it good?

Yes and No. Yes if you haven't done anything else this will make you stronger but it's not aimed at runners and many of the exercises you will do will be counter productive to your running and then there is the big risk of injury and getting carried away with the competitive nature of this training.

Not that they are bad but if you are a runner and running is your priority and focus then just beware a lot of what you may be doing in these sessions may be not be conducive to your running, may even detract from your ability to run long as that next session or train your interval at max ability if you are taking too long to recover from your crossfit class.

To discover more about Lisa's training and running philosophies, or to sign up for a seven-day free trial with Running Hot Coaching, visit

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