“I want to make fitness simple and attainable for busy women”

-Allison Lambert

The Fit Tutor

Weight Lifting for Runners: How to Improve Your Speed and Endurance

Long gone are the days that runners fear weight training will make them bulky and slow them down. However, just because that myth has been busted doesn’t mean runners are consistently taking advantage of this awesome resource to improve their performance. With benefits that range from improved speed to preventing injury, this is something every runner, no matter your level or commitment, will want to add into your routine. This resource will help you understand how to utilize weight lifting for runners to reach your speed and endurance goals!

How Weight Lifting Improves Running

How weight lifting can improve your running // weight lifting for runners

Since running is such a repetitive movement, it’s easy to develop muscular imbalances that can hinder your performance and lead to injury. Lifting weights can help you correct these imbalances and keep you healthy!

Weight lifting for runners can improve both speed and endurance. Working your upper body and core improves your posture and breathing, which is especially important for endurance runners. You’ll notice improvement in your form, balance, and stability as well!

Training type II muscle fibers with heavier lifting and power moves can improve speed as well as help you at the tail end of a long race when your type I fibers are fatigued. Strength training has also been shown to improve distance running times!

Runners benefit from High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as well. This combines strength and plyometrics to enhance your conditioning, help you increase calorie burn and lose any excess weight slowing you down. Plyometrics and explosive moves can increase lung capacity and help you run both faster and longer. HIIT can be used to supplement a long run when you’re short on time or the weather is bad!

Are you convinced yet? ;)

Your goals can affect how you train, so let’s break it down.

Weight Lifting For Runners: Improving Speed

There are several options for using weight lifting to increase your speed. Choose which one would work best for you, or rotate all three into your workouts!

how strength training can improve running speed! // Weight lifting for runners


Best Options for Weight Lifting For Speed

Runners looking to increase speed will benefit greatly by adding power training, explosive moves, and plyometrics into their workouts. For example, adding plyometric moves like squat or box jumps, skaters, and mountain climbers for 30-60 seconds can enhance your conditioning and help you run faster. This type of training works your type II muscle fibers which improve speed!

Heavier lifting can be a game changer for runners. You can perform strength exercises in the rep range of 3-8 reps with a very challenging weight. The weight used should be difficult right away, but especially by rep 3. This will also work your type II fibers which are important for speed and power.

Adding HIIT to your workouts to will increase your speed and performance in a shorter amount of time. For a speed-specific HIIT workout, you can combine strength exercises with weights, bodyweight exercises, and plyometric and power moves to increase strength and aerobic capacity in an efficient manner! Try intervals between 30-60 seconds and keep your rest times short.

How Often

Shoot for strength training 20-30 minutes for 2-3 days a week, and you can do it up to 5 days per week. Always start with a dynamic warm-up, and take your time as you cool down and stretch. You can add this to your routine in a few ways:

  • Alternate running days with weight lifting
  • switch out a day for an HIIT workout
  • complete same day as run, but do it before your run
    • make sure run is relatively short, and be very mindful of form

Weight Lifting for Runners: Improving Your Endurance

If you’re equal to your competition in every (other) way, the stronger person will win, no matter the distance. And remember, don’t focus on just your legs. Work your entire body so you reap the benefits of improved posture, better form and breathing, and less aches and pains!

how to use strength training to improve your running // Weight lifting for runners


Endurance Weight Lifting for Runners

It’s been commonly taught that endurance runners should stick to endurance strength training. And although I agree that should be done, I believe incorporating other types will help you as well. Lifting lighter/moderate weights with higher reps (12-20) is helpful for building up the endurance of your muscles. Choose a weight that is challenging by the time you get to the last third of your reps. One to two sets at that rep range should get you results.

Training for Strength

Strengthening type II muscle fibers will help you at the end of a long run. Distance running alone can break down muscles over time, so adding in strength work can help keep your legs and glutes strong. Add in heavier weight lifting to your routine by choosing a heavy weight that is challenging right away, and shoot for anywhere between 3-8 reps, depending on the weight you choose.


Don’t feel lazy if you have to skip a longer run for HIIT, feel efficient! Combine plyometrics and power moves, bodyweight training, and lifting weights for a challenging workout! Research shows you’ll get great improvements from 30-60 second intervals!

How Often

Shoot for 2-3 times per week, 20-30 minute sessions. You can choose the workout style that sounds best for you, or you can train in phases and cycle through each one progressively.

Here’s how you can add lifting into your routine:

  • Alternate running days with weight lifting
  • switch out a running day for an HIIT workout
  • complete same day as run, but do it before your run
    • make sure run is relatively short (under 45 minutes or considered “easy”), and be very mindful of proper form
    • this helps improve the resilience and endurance of your muscles, since you are working them before your run

Don’t forget to stretch well, foam roll, or do yoga for runners after.

Weight Lifting Workouts to Improve Running and Prevent Injury

Adding strength training into your routine should complement your running, not compete with it. They are both used to get you to the same end goal. Find a way to add weight training into your week will reduce injury, increase speed and improve your overall running form and endurance.

All types of runners will want to work muscles in their full range of movement, and give yourself adequate rest and recovery time between weight lifting workouts.

Not Sure Where to Start?

This is Running Month on thefittutor.com. Last week I shared a free weight lifting for runners workout, but each Weekly Workout this entire month is geared towards decreasing injury and improving performance for runners- whether you log 50 miles a week or sneak in a 1 mile jog when the sun pops out!

Each paying membership comes with accountability– something to consider if you’re one of those runners who hates to lift!

With you in spirit!

Can I confess to you that I get a serious running bug every spring? And Chainsaw, my energetic pup, is always encouraging me to hit the pavement. My knee swells up every. single. time. from a surgery I had playing college volleyball. I am so sad I don’t get to run, but it’s a privilege to use my knowledge to help other people succeed while I cheer you on from the sidelines!

I wish you the best on this journey, and enter your email so you don’t miss a single Runner’s Month post!

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