October 25, 2022

Why Strength Training Is Essential During Marathon Prep

Strength training is an essential component of marathon prep for beginner and advanced runners. Learn why and how to do it.

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42.2 kilometres!

That’s a heck of a long run with tens of thousands of steps required to get you to the finish line.

You need strong muscles to take each of those steps efficiently and to produce maximum power and a high pace.

Strong muscles are more resistant to fatigue, and help to protect your joints from the impact of your foot repeatedly hitting the ground.

Unfortunately, many runners do not give strength training the respect it deserves in favour of more running. Runners like to run, but it’s often the things we don’t like that give us the best result and protect us from injury.

As a marathon runner, you must incorporate strength training into your weekly training plan.

Read on to learn why, and watch a video demonstrating some simple strength exercises you can start with.

Key Benefits Of Strength Training

Strength training comes in many forms, and there are several benefits.

1. Lean Body Mass

Muscle is metabolically more active than fat. That means you will burn more calories while at rest, resulting in a lower portion of excess body fat you must carry as you run. Eliud Kipchoge is the epitome of lean body mass in action. He is incredibly lean but equally strong in the muscle groups essential to his craft. He has an incredible power-to-weight ratio.

Having more muscular strength also allows you to put and transfer more power through the ground, resulting in a longer stride and a faster pace. Racing over hills? No problem; strong muscles carry you over hills with poise and delay the rate at which you fatigue.

2. Running Efficiency

A strong core, legs and butt contribute to greater stability and endurance, bolstering your form and enabling you to run more economically.

The less energy you waste on unnecessary movements such as excessive torso twisting, bouncing up and down, or running with a short stride length – often resulting in an excessively high and inefficient running cadence – the better.

More powerful muscles can improve your stride efficiency, whilst a strong core and upper body prevent your form from deteriorating and slowing you down as fatigue sets in.

3. Injury Prevention

Runners suffer a high rate of injury. That’s usually the result of structural (leg length discrepancies) and biomechanical imbalances (tight muscles working against weak muscles) or poor training structure. Often both.

Strength training helps make you a more resilient runner by correcting muscular imbalances.


Cut Race Times, Not Corners.

Racing at your potential and enjoying training is easy when you’re following the right programme.

How To Do Strength Training

When you picture strength training, you may conjure up images of a jacked-up Arnold Schwarzenegger pumping iron in the gym. While that’s certainly one way to do it, it’s not what I am talking about here.

Like all training, the best results come from being specific and addressing the demands of your sport. In running, that means correcting muscle imbalances, increasing your power-to-weight ratio, and burning fat.

Strength training comes in many forms, such as weight training, resistance bands, hill running, and body weight (callisthenics) exercises. The methods you choose will depend on your background, goals, injury history, and current imbalances.

With our athletes, we use volume through frequency, running drills, and hill running in our programmes as a way to develop running-specific strength during runs. We also prescribe specific strength training exercises to build general strength and address muscle imbalances.

Here are five simple bodyweight exercises to get you started.

If you’d like help structuring your training, we’d love to work with you.

Sign up for a 14-day free trial of our online coaching. We’ll set up a training plan for you and arrange a 15-minute Zoom Call to meet and discuss your goals and the plan.

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Ben Pulham

Ben Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personalised training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.