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How to build a strong strength-training base

Base-building isn't just for running

lifting weights

Many runners will be familiar with the concept of base-season training as it pertains to your running routine, but have you ever considered applying the same strategy to your strength-training routine? By gradually building up your muscular capacity before you dive into a new training plan, you can more easily integrate your strength training into your running while preventing injuries and improving your efficiency, speed and power to become a stronger, faster runner.

What is base building?

In case you’re not familiar, base building involves gradually increasing your mileage to create a strong aerobic base. This usually happens over several weeks at the beginning of a new training block when you’re preparing for a goal race. During this time, you typically don’t do any speed work or tempo runs–just easy, slow mileage to prepare your body for the work ahead.

glute bridge

How do you apply this to strength training?

You can apply the same concept to your strength-training program as well, by gradually increasing the amount of resistance you’re using or the amount of weight you’re lifting over the course of several weeks, focusing on proper form. This is especially beneficial for runners who are new to strength training, or if you’re coming off a break from intense training after an injury or a previous goal race.

For example, you may want to start with bodyweight exercises only, like squats, lunges, hip thrusts and pushups. Once you’re able to complete three sets of 10-12 repetitions of each exercise while maintaining good form, you can begin adding weight gradually, only increasing resistance when you’re able to successfully complete all repetitions with good form.

strength training with weights for running

How do you integrate this into your training program?

To answer this, you have to break your training down into three categories: base season, in-season, and recovery phase. Base season is when you work your way up to lifting heavier weights to make maximum strength gains and injury-proof your body. Once you’re in the “in-season” phase, you back off the intensity and move into more of a maintenance phase, doing just enough to maintain your strength gains without taxing your body too much so you can’t perform in your running workouts.

Example of a base-season workout

Remember to start with just bodyweight or a weight that feels manageable and that allows you to maintain proper form, and gradually increase resistance from there.

Squats: 10-12 reps

Lunges: 8-10 reps per leg

Pushups: (on knees or from feet) 10-12 reps

Bodyweight rows: 10-12 reps

Plank: 30 seconds

Calf raises: 10-12 reps

Perform 3 sets of each exercise, taking 1-2 minutes of rest between sets. Ideally, you should do a strength workout 2-3 times per week during this phase.


Example of an in-season workout

The main goal here is to prevent injuries, improve running form, and maintain the gains you made during the base season.

Walking lunges: 8-10 reps per leg

Single-leg Romanian deadlifts: 8-10 reps per leg

Pushups: 8-10 reps

Farmer’s carry: 30 seconds per side

Single-leg calf raises: 10 reps per side

Perform three sets of each exercise, taking 1-2 minutes of rest between sets. Ideally, you should do a strength workout no more than twice a week during this phase.

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