How Can Powerlifting Benefit A Runner

How Can Powerlifting Benefit A Runner

Runners like to do their thing and run. Some runners just stick to running and hope that they can achieve their goals strictly following that path. However, for various reasons, some athletes really like to mix up their training more than that. Many athletes realize that balance can help you to achieve great things. For example, adding core work to your workout regiment helps runners to keep strong and maintain proper running form when others might start to fatigue. Another example is that weight lifting strengthens the power chain which can also result in stronger running. That’s why today we discuss powerlifting and running.

When discussions of strength training ensue, inevitably someone brings up powerlifting. Conventional wisdom states that runners only need to circuit train in order to stay in tiptop running shape. However, that does not mean that is the only option.

How Strength Training Benefits Runners

Strength training will increase running efficiency. Most of us have been eyeballs deep in a long run and started to feel fatigue set in. When that happens, you can literally feel the wheels start to fall off the bus. When you build strength, you are more likely to stay in proper form. Small improvements in efficiency can translate into big gains across the miles, especially if you are distance training such as a half or full marathon.

Increased endurance may result from strength training which is a positive thing any way you look at it. Let’s face it, if you can log more miles without experiencing as much fatigue, you are setting your body up for success.

For those trying to shed some pounds, strength training can also result in weight loss. When you run miles sometimes your body gets lulled into that familiar routine. Adding strength training keeps your body on its toes. A varied workout is one way to keep your body guessing and your metabolism revved. In addition, strength training is more likely to tone your body which, while it may not result in loss that is seen on the scale, will likely improve how your clothing fits!

Runners who religiously strength train often find that they are experiencing fewer injuries. Strengthening the muscles helps you to avoid running related injuries. This can lead to more mileage which should get you to the line in tip top condition.

You may also notice you get faster through dedicated strength training. That is because the stronger you are, the harder you can push yourself.

Endurance Strength Training

Most “old school” coaches will encourage runners to engage in what we call endurance strength training. These are the circuits mentioned earlier in the article. Remember your cross country coach setting up circuits in the gym where you engage in a low weight repetition over a set period of time, perhaps :60 seconds? When that minute has expired you move on to the next station.

Through this type of training, you keep your heart rate elevated the entire workout. You are moving quickly and using low weights. This helps to tone your muscles and keeps your heart pumping.

Standard Weight Lifting

Now think about watching people move around the gym you go to. You will likely see people engaging in standard lifts or doing bodyweight exercises. These functional exercises such as lunges, squats, bench press, etc. help athletes to achieve better balance, greater strength and toning. By getting stronger in this way, you are less prone to injury.

Much like the circuits you will tone your body and build strength. The main difference, however, is that you are not quickly moving from one station to the next. In this type of lifting you concentrate on one thing. If you are in the squat rack, for example, you will do 8-10 repetitions of the lift. You might rest for 2 minutes then complete another set.

These exercises are typically done in a slow and deliberate matter, unlike the quick motions expected in the circuit training. Since you are dealing with higher weights here, it makes sense that things are done more deliberately.


We would be remiss if we neglected to discuss this type of strength training. These require agility movements such as box jumps or jump squats. Plyometrics are huge for improving speed and agility.


CrossFit is an interesting workout that has taken the fitness world by storm. A high-intensity interval training, CrossFit is made of functional movement exercises that occur at a high intensity. There is a WOD (workout of the day) that combines various movements.

When CrossFit athletes go to a competition the exact lifts, exercises and movements they will be required to perform often remain a mystery until right before they begin. One athlete reported resisting the run portions of training and when finding herself neck-in-neck with another competitor the final draw: a mile run with a weighted backpack. She lost by :15 seconds.  Guess what she did the following day? You guessed it, she went for a run.

What About Power Lifting?

Powerlifting is a sport where the athlete tests their maximum strength in a series of lifts. Based on your weight and age, you compete in three main lifts: deadlift, squat and bench press. The heaviest of each of these lifts that you can successfully complete (yes, just one time), are added to give you a grand total.

In order to be a good powerlifter, athletes need to be committed to serious weight lifting. This isn’t something people typically just dabble in. However, it is important to note that not all power lifters are huge, musclebound men. That is just a stereotype. Powerlifting has categories of all weights for people of all sizes and shapes.

Powerlifting And Running

Typically the type of lifting required for powerlifting is seen more in your sprint athletes than in distance runners. If you are an endurance runner training for long races, powerlifting is probably not the type of strength training you would find most beneficial.

Having said that, if you find yourself intrigued by powerlifting you should certainly investigate.

Strength For Runners

In this coach’s opinion, powerlifting is not the best choice of lifts for distance runners. Most people who are avid runners will typically find circuit or functional lifting is better suited to their purposes for multiple reasons. If you are running 20-25 miles a week, you likely have limited time for strength training.

A 30-45 minute circuit that you can set up and complete a couple of times each week is likely to fit better into your workout schedule than anything else. Or functional exercises that you can do in the privacy of your own home, such as kettlebell lunges, body weight squats and other lifts. Powerlifting requires heavy weights and equipment most people don’t have handy.

Whatever you decide after weighing the options, just pick some type of strength. Your running will improve and you will thank me.