The Benefits Of Strength Training For Endurance Runners

By Katherine Parker

In my previous article on improving running speed over 5km, strength training was an important factor in enhancing performance. In this article I will discuss the important adaptions that occur with a consistent strength training routine, which result in improved performance and most importantly, reduced risk of injury. These positive adaptions cannot be achieved through running alone.

One of the misconceptions amongst endurance athletes is that strength training will cause weight gain (increase in muscle mass) and result in running slower. This is not the case. Higher weight with low reps are used to train for strength and the total volume is too low to trigger the adaptions that lead to a significant increase in muscle size. It is also difficult for endurance athletes to increase their muscle mass as their endurance training dampens the cellular pathway that builds muscle.

The benefits of strength training extend beyond simply increasing the strength of our muscles as the name already suggests. A well planned strength program will increase muscle activation and improve the ability of muscle groups to work in synergy together to produce force. Strength training also improves the speed in which our muscles can produce force, and thus improves running speed. Muscle and tendon “stiffness” also improve with strength training. This is a good kind of stiffness which relates to the muscles and tendons’ ability to store and release energy, helping our legs work like springs, thereby improving running efficiency. Better efficiency means expending less energy so you can run faster for longer.

During running, muscles and tendons can experience load up to 12x a runner’s body weight which has been demonstrated in the achilles tendon2. Strength training improves the capacity of our body’s tissues i.e. muscles and tendons, to tolerate such high loads during running making you less susceptible to injury.  

Strength training also has huge benefits for bone health as it stimulates cells, which are responsible for building new bone. A significant amount of research has demonstrated that strength training is an effective way to increase bone density and also helps to prevent bone loss that occurs with age. 

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to training strength for endurance runners. Exercise selection, weight, sets and reps all depend on the individuals’ needs, goals, ability and experience. Lifting sufficient load is key to receiving the beneficial adaptions outlined above and a well-planned program shouldn’t negatively impact other key running sessions. Along with your existing training regime, your upcoming running events need to be considered so your strength program can be periodised into your training appropriately.  This will ensure you are in peak condition for your most important events.

  1. Magness, S., 2014. The science of running: how to find your limit and train to maximize your performance. San Rafael: Origin Press.
  2. Goom, T., 2017. Running Repairs. Comprehensive running injury management.
  3. Layne, J.E. and Nelson, M.E., 1999. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(1), pp.25-30.

Katherine Parker is a qualified personal trainer at Top Coach and Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach.  

You will find Katherine most Saturday mornings down at Fingal Bay parkrun looking to beat her PB of 19:36. Katherine finished 7th female overall with a time of 2 hours 18 minutes in the recent 22km trail run at UTA in the Blue Mountains.

Strength Training for Endurance Runners

Katherine is launching a run specific strength training program for local endurance runners of all abilities.


  • 6 week program – 2 x 60 minute session a week.
  • Individual program tailored to your needs and periodised into current running program and goal races.
  • Small supervised group sessions (1.5).
  • Initial consultation (required before commencing classes).

Cost: $300 This includes an initial consultation and 12 strength sessions scheduled over 6 weeks.

Where: Top Coach Studio 1/12 Shearwater Drive, Taylor’s Beach.

When: The sessions will run Tuesdays and Thursdays. The potential timeslots are between 7am-9.30am or 12pm-4pm.

Limited places are available. To register your interest or any enquiries, please contact Katherine on 0422 012 386 or via email at