Strength training for runners

13. October 2020

It goes without saying that everyone needs strength. But what does specific strength training for runners look like? Ex-marathon runner Viktor Röthlin provides information.

Strength training is a given for runners of all kinds - and essential if you want to be injury-free. FIT for LIFE asked former top runner Viktor Röthlin how he used to do strength training – and what he does for his muscles today. Here's his answer:

«It is still part of my daily routine, even though I am meanwhile an amateur runner. I do core strength training 2-3 times a week in combination with foot gymnastics. I do the exercises with my body weight, but make sure that I always exert myself to my full capacity because that is where the key factor in strength training lies. It is only when I succeed in introducing an efficient stimulus that something really happens in the muscles. Push-up variations, different plank types such as forearm or side planks and burpees (a combination of squats, push-ups and stretch jumps) are ideal for this.

Strength for the legs

As an amateur athlete, I don’t do as much specific strength training at home for the legs and arms alone, but rather integrate it directly into individual running units. In the past, however, specific leg exercises were also part of my programme. Strong (but not too voluminous) thighs are definitely an advantage if you like to run with ambition. The anterior thigh muscles stabilise the knee during landing and the hamstrings (posterior thigh muscles) and buttocks are important for the pull phase. Running-specific thigh training can be done in the gym, for example, on the leg press, leg curl, leg extension and glute machines. You can also do squats with the free barbell on your shoulders. One-legged squats are more running-specific than two-legged ones.

Or you can improve the strength of your thighs by doing power jump training. One-legged jumps, running and stride jumps, panther jumps, frog jumps – there are countless possibilities, and the Internet is full of suitable videos. And of course, thigh strength training can also be done on the mountain with hill sprints or a mountain run. Which of the three types is the best? I personally used all variants alternately. Because our body always needs new stimuli. If I go to the gym for years and always do exactly the same exercises, the effect of the training would progressively decrease. Hence my tip: challenge your body over and over again and continuously introduce different stimuli!

Strength for the arms

A runner, however, not only needs strength in the legs, but also strength in the arms and core. Because it is the arms that dictate the rhythm of the legs. The important thing here is that you don’t build up too much muscle mass. And that the core stabilises the dynamics of the leg and arm movements. You can thus do excellent running-specific arm and core strength training with different plank variations. I usually combine these with push-ups and the «push away from the wall exercise». For this I stand with my back to the wall. My elbows and upper arms lie against the wall and then I push myself away from the wall. The position in the shoulder joint can be varied by up to 90°. And the further you stand away from the wall, the more intense the exercise becomes. The most difficult variant is to then do the whole thing in the supine position on the floor.