Strength Training for Running

PR Your Lifts - And Run 100 Miles

Can you run an ultra marathon and still gain strength?

That’s my client Steve up above, smiling at the end of his seventh 100-mile endurance run. When Steve and I sat down to make a plan for this race, he was excited for the challenge. And he also dreaded the physical and emotional toll of such a feat.

See, Steve loves to feel strong, confident, and athletic – but running isn’t his only joy. He loves weights, he loves CrossFit, and he loves feeling good in his body and being an all around great dad and business guy. But being a veteran ultra runner, he constantly felt like he’d make some great strength and mobility gains in the winter, only to give them all back (and then some) when running geared up in the spring.

So we set an outrageous goal. Not only would we set out to reach his running goal (sub 24 hours) for this race, but we would also try to get him PRs on all his lifts in the two weeks prior.

It didn’t take much to get him on board. He said if he could keep making strength training gains and run a solid race it would be a tremendous victory.

I’ll tell you what happened in a moment. But first,  some take-home points about running and strength training:

  • If you want to be a strong runner, you don’t have to sacrifice strength (nor should you) 
  • Specific areas of the body will need more love than others (we covered these last time) 
  • When you train these areas regularly, you can run more effectively – or pick up running more easily 
  • If you love strength training and not the cardio part so much, there are many ways to blend the two in a really fun and satisfying way – see below for sample workouts.

Strength Training for Running

The plan Steve and I made worked off this theme: manage volume and frequency. During the 6 months leading up the race, he averaged just 20 miles per week – when he was used to doing closer to 50 miles per week in years prior. 

He trained his ass off in the gym and was feeling healthy and full of energy – though a little nervous how the race would play out since he didn’t have a ton of miles on his legs.

However, the numbers don’t lie. Here are Steve‘s test and retest results over the 6 months leading up to his 100-mile race:


And how did the race go? Here's Steve:

Back Squat – 255 / 260
Front Squat – 225 / 230
CG Bench Press – 235 / 240
Power Clean – 187 / 195
Weighted Pull-Up – 107 / 126
Strict Press – 150 / 150
500m Row –  01:28.9 / 01:28.4
Bodyweight –  177lbs / 174lbs

“On race day, not only did I beat my 24-hr goal (23:10), but I did so very easily and without any significant discomfort.  

The most amazing thing about this entire experiment is that I ran even 50-mile splits AND ran all the up hills to the very end of the race. This means I ran the first 50-miles in the same amount of time as the last 50-miles.

This is a concept that just blows me away: I improved my running endurance dramatically and achieved a PR for mountain 100-milers as a result of running 20 miles a week. Combine this with even 50-mile splits, a faster 500m row time and PR’s on all your lifts and you’ve got something really unique.”

Now It's Your Move

Love strength training? How about running? You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Just want to move well and look good too? I’ve definitely got you covered. Open your mind to the possibilities and get after some of these workouts I’ve put together for you. 

Aerobic 40 Run Workout – Short and Simple

Here’s Week 1 of a progression from my Aerobic 40 Ebook:

  1. Run 10 min @70% rest 2 min
  2. Run 8 min @75% rest 90 sec
  3. Run 6 min @80% rest 60 sec
  4. Run 4 min @85% rest 30 sec
  5. Run 2 min @90%

30/30 Run Workout – Even Shorter

Break up your cardio as I love to do in the mornings, while still working running into the mix. This one is from the 30/30 Cardio Ebook included with Persist:

Calories Rower
*Run 200m Between Each Set
– rest 2-3mins – 

7 Rounds for Time:
12 GHD Sit Ups (or anchored feet)
*Run 200m Between Each Set

Mixed Modal Run Workout

Functional fitness fans will love this one:

5min Easy Run
5 sets of higher aerobic effort:
6 Burpee Box Jump Overs 24/20″
Run 100m
24 Double Unders
Run 100m
rest walk 1min between sets
5 sets of higher aerobic effort:
Run 100m
12 Air Squats
Run 100m
8 GHD Sit-Ups or 12 Anchored Sit-Ups
rest walk 1min between sets

Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

The PILLARS track of my Persist program is awesome if running or another endurance sport is your main mode of fitness, but you want to add some strength on top 2-4x per week. Here’s a sample session that develops those areas runners especially need:

Warm Up

Complete 2-3 sets, resting as needed between exercises.

  1. Reverse Sled Drag 60sec
  2. Poliquin Step Ups x 12/side
  3. Scap Pushup to Downdog x 6-10

Absolute Strength

Every 60sec x 10 Sets
1st – Right Leg Suitcase Drop Lunge @ 20X1 Tempo x 6reps
2nd – Left Leg Suitcase Drop Lunge @ 20X1 x 6reps
*Choose a height from 2-6″ for your drop lunge

Strength Balance

Every 90sec x 9 Sets
1st – Right Arm Single Arm Dumbbell Row 20X1 x 12 reps
2nd – Left Arm Single Arm Dumbbell Row 20X1 x 12 reps
3rd – Seated Dumbbell Good Morning x 2010 x 12-14reps

Interval Conditioning

Every 2mins x 3 Sets
12/9 Row Calories @ high effort
10-15 Ring Rows

Move immediately into the next couplet

Every 2mins x 3 Sets
12/9 Row Calories @ high effort
10-12 Russian Kettlebell Swings

Cool Down

Complete 1-2 sets of the following exercises based on time available. Focus on slowing your breathing down and decompressing from today’s training session. Add 1-2 more stretches for your own mobility limitations or areas needing more love.

  1. Dynamic Couch Stretch x 30 sec/side
  2. Frog Stretch x 1 min
  3. Weighted Ankle Stretch x 30 sec/side

How can we help?

If you have a question about these workouts or how to do more of what you love, reach out and let us know. Functional Bodybuilding is gearing up to help you feel more confident than ever.

Have a great week and get out there and move!

Look Good. Move Well.

Workouts for sculpted arms and a six pack are different than those for speed and power. Get my blend of both and a sample nutrition plan. Plus a Big Bicep Bonus for my favorite arm finishers!

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