Gym Workouts for Runners: Functional Strength

by Jason Fitzgerald

Gym Workouts for Runners Gym Workouts for Runners…You Won’t Look Like This Guy

Once per week, I head to the gym for a quick lifting session.  I believe gym workouts for runners are important, but I don’t think you need to do a lot.  Most of the strength benefits can be realized in twenty minutes per week.

I perform two sets of the same workout – I rarely deviate from it.  I do think that I should vary the workout sometimes, but I stick to basic movements that benefit me greatly.  Minimal rest is taken between sets – a simple transition to the next exercise with maybe an additional 15-30 seconds to catch my breath.

Alternatively (if they were available), I would use kettlebells as a full-body strength exercise. They’re effective for building muscular strength while being functional enough for runners.

Every set is challenging and places a great deal of stress on the body.  This is important because the workout is short.  I need very difficult exercises or else the workout would have to be longer.  I intentionally keep the gym session short, intense, and perform every set with a fairly slow cadence.  My goal is to stress my system hard enough to increase testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) production.

Numerous studies have shown that these workouts (much like hard 200’s or hill sprints) increase beneficial hormone production like HGH and testosterone.  These hormones aid in muscle development and recovery.  Since endurance activity like distance running can actually decrease testosterone, it’s important to maintain healthy levels of these key hormones with gym sessions that stimulate their production.

The Lifting Routine

I tend to lift more slowly than most people simply because it is more effective.  By eliminating momentum and ensuring a constant muscle stress, I am getting more out of the workout.  Since I’m only doing one session per week, it’s important that every exercise is as productive as possible.

You will also notice that I don’t do any tricep extensions, bicep curls, or targeted muscle lifts.  My goal here is to train movements, not muscles, and focus on compound exercises that require multiple joint movements.  I’ll leave the calf raises and quadriceps extensions to the body builders.  They are not function enough for my needs as a runner.

The following evolves based on how I feel week-to-week but generally stays the same.  I perform two sets of:

  1. 10 walking lunges with a 25 – 35 lb. plate held above my head.
  2. 15 reps on the bench press at 95 lbs.  Alternatively, will do 15 reps of chest press with 35 lb. dumbbells.
  3. 15 dead lifts at 85 lbs.
  4. 6-7 pull-ups with full extension.
  5. 8 pistol squats (one-legged squats) holding a 10 lb. weight.
  6. 12 body weight dips.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive workout plan (and a full injury prevention program), then check out Injury Prevention for RunnersIt’s 130+ pages with videos to demonstrate each exercise, coaching lessons, training plans, and audio interviews with running experts.

How do you think I can improve my gym workout?  How do you lift?

Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe
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