#WorkoutWednesday: Ultramarathon strength training program for trail runners (Part I)

finlayson-summitLast week I shared my 25K trail race training plan, and aside from the usual mid-week and weekend long runs on the trails, you might have noticed I also included three days of strength training per week. Just as strength training is important for runners training for marathons held on paved roads, it’s also important for runners racing on the trails — even those racing an ultra distance.

Although fitting strength training in to ultramarathon training can be tricky, it’s doable and totally worth it. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, some of the benefits of adding strength training to marathon training include faster recovery from injury, prevention of overuse injuries (which is one of the most common injuries ultrarunners experience), and a reduction of muscle imbalances. Besides providing preventive benefits, strength training can also help runners increase their power output, which comes in handy when climbing hills.

Since I’m only doing 25K (albeit a challenging one), getting in three days a week of strength training without overtraining is easy. (For tips on how to fit strength training in your ultramarathon training plan, check out this piece I wrote for RunningUltramarathons.com.) Over the next three weeks, I’m going to share the workouts I created for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during training so you can pin ’em for later if you ever need a workout program for ultramarathon training.

First up is the workout I’ll be doing on Mondays (a day after my longest run) for the next eight weeks. You’ll notice the focus is on upper body and core.


Start with a quick 7-minute warm up that includes either jogging in place or on a treadmill, arms circles, jumping jacks, sun salutations and leg swings — anything to get the joints mobile and your blood flowing. Once you’ve warmed up, perform all exercises in each set three times through as supersets before moving to the next set, resting for 1 minute in between each grouped set (so do 1A and 1B back-to-back, rest for 30 seconds, then perform the same exercises again, rest for 30 seconds, then one more time before resting for 1 minute and moving on to the next grouped set). Remember to take those breaks in between sets to let your heart rate recover.

Here are video demonstrations of some of the exercises you may not have tried before. You can perform these either at home or in the gym.

For weights, use something heavy enough that you feel challenged during your last rep, but that you could probably perform 3-5 more reps with. I’m using 15 lbs dumbbells right now for my Monday workout, 50 lbs for my Wednesday workout and 10 lbs for my Friday workouts (moderate, heavy and light days).

As always, let me know if you have any questions about the workouts or need modifications. Not training for an ultra or trail race? You can try this upper body + core workout anyway as part of Fit Approach’s #1MillionMinutes exercise challenge!

Happy lifting!

Have you done a strength program during marathon training or ultramarathon training? Have you ever run a trail race or ultramarathon?