Tag Archives: training

Resistance training for runners

scotland coast to coast finishThe problem with little brothers is they generally do their best to upstage you, but sometimes they do come in useful. My youngest brother is currently studying for a sports science degree which means I have my own personal strength and conditioning coach whenever I need it. Being the kind, sharing person that I am I thought I’d ask him to do a guest post about resistance training for runners so you can all hear his wise words too. Strength training like this is something I think a lot of runners (me included) neglect so I thought it would be an interesting topic to hear more about, so without further ado here it is:

Being a non-blogger myself it has taken me a good few cups of tea to work out how to start a post that is worthy of an inclusion onto a blog, especially that of my brothers of which I am sure to receive grief for if it is of a poor quality. However upon long deliberation and a few slices of my mother’s finest brownie I have come to the conclusion that an introduction of sorts into whom I am is probably the best plan of action.

I am the non-balding younger brother of the balding middle aged father of 2 who runs this blog. I am a keen runner/triathloner/adventurer myself and I was the other half of the Brothers Grim who conquered Rat Race’s Scotland Coast to Coast in September. In 2014 I plan to complete an Ironman 70.3, the Yorkshire marathon and hopefully the 3 peaks challenge.

When I’m not schooling my brother in a race I am a student in the final year of my Sport and Exercise Science degree at the University of Exeter (no I do not want to be a P.E teacher). My main interest lies in Physiotherapy and I’m hopefully going to be beginning a Masters in January 2015. I currently provide the strength and conditioning for University squash club under the tutorship of the S and C department as well as some volunteer work helping to rehabilitate stroke patients  with Action After Stroke, a local charity in Exeter.

Bath 10k in snow 2The aim of this post is to provide some insight into effective resistance training for runners, dispel some myths in the area and provide a small plan for a basic workout everyone can do. Although I am by no means an expert in the area, I do have enough knowledge and basic experience to sift through the waffle supplied in other similar posts across the big wide web and a number of journal articles within the field of resistance training to provide you with some fairly concise advice.

Ultimately the research in this area is lacking. The vast amount of advice is based on a small amount of empirical evidence and expert opinion for example Alberto Salazar (http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/alberto-salazar-on-strength-training-for-runners/). However significant links have been found between resistance training and injury prevention (decreased occurrence by 1/3) although the evidence base for runners specifically is lacking (Lauersen et al , 2013).

For the normal every day runner it would appear to be beneficial. Correct use of training can improve the muscular imbalances that are so common in the everyday runner for example weak gluteal muscles (bum muscles). It can help to develop that power aspect that is going to help you to produce that sprint finish; this muscular power has been shown to be the deciding factor between elite athletes 5k time (Paavolainen et al, 1999). It can also aid the development of a correct running gait that is so important for running economy. Without going onto a massive tangent it can be summarised that resistance training appears to be beneficial to improve performance with a large amount of this resulting from improved running economy and decreased injury risk (Jung, 2003).

Indeed Erikson (2005) provides a nice succinct review in the National Strength and Conditioning Associations training manual:

Intelligent use of the weight room, just like intelligent implementation of a running program, can have a dramatic influence on the success of the competitor. This success can be defined as faster running times, but can also be extended to include reduced injury risk, and an overall heightened enjoyment of the sport, a goal that many athletes surely have”

Now before you all go and dust of best your tank top and short combo and head down to the local gym there is another key message.  Resistance training needs to be functional, it needs to be progressive and it needs to be performed with appropriate intensity with the correct technique.

Now for those of you who are worried about bulking up then this is where the “appropriateness” comes into play. For me to suggest to you to go into the gym and perform 5 sets of 6 – 8 repetitions at 85% of your 1 rep max for a squat would be a massive waste of your time from a running perspective as it’s going to promote hypertrophic changes amongst other things. Indeed also the use of the low-weight high-repetitions concept is largely avoided now in the training of runners.

Resistance training is a large umbrella term and doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in a gym with a load of dumbells as is the common misconception. Indeed plyometrics, body-weight or resistance bands are all suitable methods of resistance training. After all, resistance doesn’t necessarily mean a lump of metal. To avoid opening a whole can of worms and due to the fact that the large proportion of readers of this will not be resistance trained, I feel the best way for me to give you some training advice is to utilise either body weight or simple equipment that many of you will have easy access to. Ultimately an effective training programme should be individualised and developed alongside a physiotherapist however I feel there are a number of exercises which would be an effective supplement to most individuals training in particular to develop core strength and all-round stability.

I would recommend the following programme to be completed twice a week. The sets and reps outlined are just a guide and you can adjust them accordingly to make the workout harder or easier. However never increase the load by more than 10% between sessions (remember my earlier comment about progression). It’s really important that you maintain the technique that is illustrated in the videos. Remember quality not quantity is the key. Poor form only leads to injuries.

Below you’ll find a set of videos that show you the technique for each of these exercises.

Circuit #1 (30 – 60 seconds rest between circuits; 15 – 30 seconds between exercises if needed – longer or less is fine; complete 3 circuits):

  1. Bird dog – 12 repetitions per side
  2. Runners touch – 10 repetitions per side
  3. Lateral step up’s – 15 repetitions per side
  4. Reverse plank – hold for 45 seconds keeping your bottom off the floor as the video shows. There should be no contact with the floor between your heels and your shoulders

Circuit # 2 (complete 3 circuits)

  1. Back squat – if you are new to squatting then use no resistance or a low resistance (10 – 15kg). It’s hard for me to put a number on the weight for this but you should try and aim for 8 – 10 repetitions. Follow the technique in the video closely for this one and make sure your thigh becomes parallel with the ground at the bottom of the squat. If you suffer from knee problems then a half squat could still be used with very low or no resistance.
  2. Low to high wood chops – 10 repetitions per side. Find a resistance to achieve this amount of repetitions. Probably around 5 – 15kg.
  3. Glute bridges – 10 repetitions. Go single leg if you need a challenge
  4. Cherry pickers – 10 repetitions per direction. Use a 2 or 3kg medicine ball. If you haven’t got access to a gym then be creative.

Hopefully the videos attached provide you with enough information to go away and have a go at this workout. This workout is only the tip of the ice berg and there are lots of other types of work you can be doing however as a start I think this is a good place to begin. Moving onto more advanced lifts such as the clean and jerk and snatch using relatively low weight would be great for developing power but should only be attempted under the guidance of an accredited strength and conditioning coach if you have no prior experience. Apart from the low to high wood chops, all of these exercises could be completed at home if you use a little imagination with regards to finding a weight.

If you have any questions on anything related to this post or anything else to do with training then please don’t hesitate to ask. (you can follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Tipping)

If you haven’t found this little gem already then I recommend you keeping a close eye on Kinetic Revolution for all things running (http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/).

In the meantime, happy running and enjoy your training.


  • Erickson, T. M. (2005). The benefits of strength training for endurance athletes.NSCA Perform. Training J4(2), 13-17
  • Jung, A. P. (2003). The impact of resistance training on distance running performance. Sports Medicine33(7), 539-552.
  • Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2013). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British journal of sports medicine, bjsports-2013.
  • Paavolainen, L., Häkkinen, K., Hämäläinen, I., Nummela, A., & Rusko, H. (1999). Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power. Journal of Applied Physiology86(5), 1527-1533.

A run with a view 1/52

I love running that much I’m sure is clear, but my heart truly belongs to trail running. Being out in the countryside away from cars (and people) is what makes me happy. Having sheep, rabbits, deer, buzzards, sparrow hawks and the occasional badger for company is a whole lot better than cars, houses and tarmac.

The UK has some beautiful countryside and where I live I’m blessed with being able to run out of my door straight onto bridleways in an area of outstanding beauty. However what this does mean is that on days like today with crisp frozen ground and a big golden sun rising in the sky that it’s easy to get distracted from running. Inevitably I end up stopping fairly often to take photos of the view and why not when it looks like this?

They say running is good for the soul and on days like this I think it’d be hard for anyone to disagree.

Sunrise over Barbury castle


View over Marlborough downsGolden sun over Barbury castle-001

You just put one foot in front of the other right?

That’s how you run a marathon isn’t it? How hard can it be? Well I’m going to find out shortly as having been officially categorised as a smurf for the 2nd year running by the London Marathon I’ve decided to pop my marathon cherry a lot sooner. In 5 weeks time to be precise on the 10th November where I’ll be toeing the line at the Broadway marathon.

I’d love to run the London marathon simply because it’s London and such an iconic event, but if I’m honest my heart is on the trails and so it is probably more appropriate to be tackling a trail marathon as my first marathon. Doing the Scotland coast to coast reinforced my love of the off road where the miles of road cycling really wore on me and I felt like I came alive during the off road stages both on the bike and on foot.

Continue reading You just put one foot in front of the other right?

One month to go

Exactly one month from today I shall be (hopefully) finishing that little race I’ve signed up for. *whispers* you know the one that involves crossing Scotland from coast to coast. Which means I’m at that point before a big challenge where I’m part excited and part in denial about exactly what I’m going to do.

I’m also having a small panic over whether I’m fit enough, I think I am but the cycling still worries me as I haven’t done as much as I would have liked. Work has limited my plans for evening rides, not to mention the 2 weeks of travel to the USA. But this was also why I found myself setting an alarm for 5.30am today to get out for a 2 hour ride before work. The advantage of working from home 1 day a week is I can be a bit flexible with start times on those days and not worry about commuting to the office.

My legs felt terrible all the way around the ride, but when I got back it was not only my highest average speed (16 MPH) but also the longest at 28 miles. Not even halfway to the distance I’ll do in the race but good to know that even when feeling that my legs have no energy I can do a good pace and one higher than we plan for the race anyway.

Continue reading One month to go

Running like Mo

The Olympics were inspiring in many ways and you can only hope that there are many small children out there riding their bikes like Bradley Wiggins or trying to sprint faster than Usain Bolt. But for me the inspiration was Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis who both have something in common; that is the reason they gave for their success. Mo’s put his success down to “hard work and graft”. Simple isn’t it? No fancy equipment, mystical training regime or scientific diet. Sure diet and training regime have a part to play but there is no shortcut.

This is something I’ve taken to heart, too often I can be a dreamer, wanting to read all the magazines and buy the gear rather than just getting out there and running. Not any more, now I’m getting out there and doing it. Trying to build up the mileage, getting my legs and lungs stronger so that I can do the races that I want to. I can realise some of those dreams.

Watching Mo run also taught me something else, if you watch him run he looks like he is floating, those strides look effortless. This is pretty much the opposite to no doubt how I look, when you’re trying to get back into running you end up being a plodder, one foot after the other, having to fight to just keep going. It’s hard to break this habit when all you can think about is your lungs about to explode.

So I’ve started quite literally running like Mo, trying to land my feet with less impact and take longer strides. The effect is quite incredible, it forces you not to drop down into your hips and engage your core more. It takes some of the pressure off your lower back which for me is a godsend.

It takes some getting used to though and you definitely have to build strength in your legs and core, but I would highly recommend you trying it. If it’s good enough for Mo then it’s good enough for me.

All of this means I am now running at least 3 times a week, mostly with Bracken as there really isn’t enough time for a run and a dog walk each day. In a typical week I try to get the following in, as I’ve said before I don’t really take a formal approach to training but do try to keep some variety. I’ve been doing this for about 6 weeks now and am thankfully starting to feel the benefit and actually feel strong on a run.

  • 2-3 runs of around 5 miles, normally with Bracken at 6am (with preferably 1 off road)
  • A core workout in the gym during lunch time; 5 exercises for 40 seconds each and 20 seconds rest between exercises. Repeat 3 times
  • 30 minutes pilates
  • A speed session; sets of sprints (up hill if possible), it’s a pretty quick session and really helps build up strength in your legs for getting up hills.

It might sound quite a bit but apart from the 5 mile runs the rest can be done in 30-40mins which is easy enough to fit in either before work or during a lunch time. I plan to try and start doing a longer run once a week if possible and then if I get my London marathon place will need to up the training a whole lot  more!