A 16-week strength training plan for marathon runners

·3-min read
Photo credit: svetikd - Getty Images
Photo credit: svetikd - Getty Images

How much strength training should you do before a marathon and what sort of exercises should you be focusing on?

These are two very common questions runners have when faced with strength and conditioning work; heading into the gym and strengthening your core and those all-important stabiliser muscles is vital when it comes to getting a marathon PB, but without paying for a PT, structuring every session to maximise on time can be difficult.

To help you prepare for your first or fastest 26.2, Marvin Burton, Head of Fitness at the Anytime Fitness franchise (with over 160 gyms across the UK), has developed this 16-week strength training plan for runners.

How to use the marathon strength-training plan:

The plan is split into four parts, outlined below.

To be clear, this is a strength training plan to be used in conjunction with a running plan.

A 16-week strength training plan for marathon runners:

Weeks 1-5: Strength building phase

The clue is in the title, this is the time to make those muscles strong so that they can cope with and support you as you increase your milage.

The TIPS box

To add a bit more zing to the workout, you can add the "Tip" at the end of each set/the workout. This coverts some sets into supersets (no rest between exercises) and also helps work muscles to fatigue for longer, something that you'll be doing on race day -

Drop set – On completion of your final set reduce the weight by one weight setting / 10% of the weight and work until failure at a slightly faster tempo. Perform three drops, each time reducing the weight by the same amount.

Rest period – On completion of the last set rest for 10 seconds. Perform 20 reps at a faster pace. Each time you stop, rest for a complete 10 seconds - even if you can only do 1 rep at a time. Complete the 20 reps and always take the 10 second rest.

Weeks 6-10: Hypertrophy and volume phase

What does this mean? Well muscle hypertrophy basically means growth, growth of the muscle fibres through contraction, damage and repair and thus increasing muscle glycogen storage. Improved glycogen storage means more fuel for your muscles, which is exactly what you need when running 26.2 miles.

Weeks 11-14: High Volume and functional strength phase

This is a 20-rep circuit that you should complete five times.

You should have a 60 sec rest at the end of each round (all 6 exercises with no rest).

Weeks 14 - 16: Taper

Time to ease down and this means the strength and conditioning work is done. However, it's good to keep moving in the taper - read how to manage those final weeks here.

Marvin is an expert personal trainer and has over 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry, previously working for leading names including Wattbike and TRX. He oversees the nationwide fitness offering at Anytime Fitness’ UK clubs, ensuring clubs are offering the best experience for its members.

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