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Strength Training

Put Strength In Your Stride With This Powerful Workout

This simple but powerful workout consists of 9 exercises all aimed at building you a stronger and faster running body. You just need a barbell and maybe weight plates.

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A barbell complex is a version of a strength circuit where all the exercises are performed with a barbell and with no rest. Ideally, you would flow from one exercise to the next with minimal trouble to successfully complete all the suggested reps of each exercise. The workout below is designed with this training method in mind to challenge all of your running-specific muscles.

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The Workout

This workout consists of 9 exercises all geared to making you a stronger and faster runner. You only need a barbell and weight plates if you’re keen on making the bar heavier. Standard barbells are 20kg or 45-pounds. Barbells can also be lighter or shorter, just make sure to know how much weight you’re starting with. For most, adding 25-pounds to each side will be a sufficient challenge (total weight equal to 95-pounds). If the bar alone is heavy enough, there is no shame in starting there!

Take no rest between the exercises in the same complex and take 60-seconds between sets. Do 3-4 sets of each complex and take 2-minutes rest between complexes. Perform this workout on a non-running workout day or in a separate session, ideally at least 6 hours after a running workout done in the morning. Warm up with a 5-10 minute jog prior to starting this strength workout.

Complex A

Exercise 1) Alternating High Knee Slow

How: Place a barbell across your upper back. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bring one knee toward your chest. Maintain a tall posture and pull down on the bar to create more stability. Return your leg to the floor and switch sides. Keep most of your weight on your forefeet.

Do: 12 per leg

Man with barbell on shoulders lifting knee to chest.

Exercise 2) Reverse Lunge to High Knee

How: Place a barbell across your upper back and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step backwards and bring your rear knee toward the floor. Your front knee should approach a 90-degree angle while your land on the base of your big toe on the rear foot. Keep your torso tall and press through the ground with both legs to return to the starting position. Once you reach the standing posture, bring the stepping leg knee toward your torso. Maintain your balance. Complete one side between switching legs.

Do: 12 per leg

Man with barbell lifting knee up.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Exercise 3) Good Morning

How: Place a barbell across your upper back and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Soften your knees and push your hips back. Bend over at your hip joint and keep your back straight. Pull the bar into your body to tighten your upper back muscles. Keep your abs tight and after your torso reaches a parallel position with the floor, return to the starting position.

Do: 12 reps

Man in weight room lifting barbell behind neck while standing slightly leaned over, both feed on ground.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Complex B

Exercise 1) Alternating High Knee Quick

How: Place a barbell across your upper back. Stand with your feet hip width apart and bring one knee toward your chest. Maintain a tall posture and pull down on the bar to create more stability. Return your leg to the floor and switch sides simultaneously. Keep most of your weight in your forefeet.

Do: 12 per leg

Man in weight room lifting his leg up with knee high quick with barbell on shoulders.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Exercise 2) Alternating Forward Lunge

How: Place a barbell across your upper back and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a large step forward and bring your rear knee toward the floor. Your front knee should approach a 90-degree angle while you extend through the big toe joint on your rear foot. Press your front foot into the ground to return to the starting position. Alternate sides.

Do: 12 per leg

Man lunging with barbell behind shoulders.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Exercise 3) Bent Over Row

How: Pop the bar overhead your head and hold the bar with a double overhand grip in front of your quads. Soften your knees, push your hips back and bend over at your hips. Pause when your torso becomes parallel with the floor. Next, pull the barbell up near your belly button. Squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other and down toward your hips. Keep your abs stiff and keep your torso still throughout the set. Lower the bar to the starting position.

Do: 12 reps

Man lifting barbell into stomach while leaning over, still standing on two feet.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Complex C

Exercise 1) High Knee Triples

How: Place a barbell across your upper back. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bring one knee toward your chest. Maintain a tall posture and pull down on the bar to create more stability. Return your leg to the floor and switch sides simultaneously. Keep most of your weight on your forefeet and repeat this sequence rapidly to touch the floor 3 times. This equals one triple.

Do: 6 triples

Man with barbell across upper back lifting one knee high.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Exercise 2) Romanian Deadlift

How: Pop the bar overhead your head and hold it with a double-overhand grip in front of your quads. Soften your knees and push your hips back. Bend over at your hip joint and keep your back straight. Keep your abs tight and after your torso reaches a parallel position with the floor, return to the starting position.

Do: 12 reps

Man bending over about to pick up a barbell.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Exercise 3) Kneeling Barbell Rollout

How: Kneel on a fitness cushion with the barbell on the floor in front of you. Add small plates to either end so the barbell will be able to roll on the ground. Grip the bar with a double-overhand grip shoulder-width apart. Expand your upper back and tuck in your hips. Create a concave torso shape. Transfer your weight forward as you roll the bar away from the cushion. Reach your arms overhead while maintaining your initial spine shape. Use your abs to return you to the starting position.

Do: 12 reps

Man on knees with hands on barbell on the ground.
Photo: Jon-Erik Kawamoto

About the Author 

Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CK, CSCS has been a Certified Kinesiologist and Strength Coach for over 15 years. He co-owns JKConditioning, a small group personalized training, nutrition and run coaching company in St. John’s, NL, Canada. Jon is a regular contributor to PodiumRunner. Find more running content at www.YouTube.com/StrongerRunner.