Strength Levels for Distance Runners

This might be outside the boundaries of this forum, but there are a lot of coaches out there so I ask. What are you opinions on minimum, good, and elite strength levels for runners 800m and up. I work with the distance runners in the weightroom and I just want to know when to say when. Basically every so often (4-6 weeks) we do some rep tests and I convert that to a projected 1RM and then divide that by their bodyweight to come up with a percentage. I will then come up with standards for them to achieve: minimum - to reduce injuries, raise level of training and improve mechanics; good - the level one would want to be in order to do the training that will really improve performance; elite - the level of performance one needs to be if you expect to be at the national level. Its also a good way to shift focus of training if needed. I have this figured out for power/speed athletes, but this is my first year with the distance people and I am unsure of their demands. Same? or different? By the way I only deal with women, but mens standards are welcome as I dont always expect to be coaching only women (I hope not). Thanks for your input.

Scott Weiser
Asst. Coach New Mexico State

It’s an interested topic, but unfortunately, it’s would be very difficult to built statistics about mean strength level about distance runners, as training methods here are very different.

I can give you the example of Mehdi Baala, he is 1m83 for 65 kg. This year, he has focused more on explosiveness in order to work is kick. His physical traininer is a former high jumper, Rachid Lalmi. He lifts 8 x 130kg (287 pounds). Progresses were obvious in his speed, in 2000, his best at 150m was 16.9, in 2003, he was able to run several heats of 16.5. He can also run 200m under 23sec and did 3 x 48sec at 400m. And of course, it led to great improvement this year at 1500m (from 3:32.0 to 3:29.0 level).
His personal bests for 800/1000/1500 are 1:43.15 (2002), 2:13.96 (2003), 3:28.98 (2003).

Hope this helps.


I have never seen a definative answer on this one.

  • Kenyan and most other African distance runners don`t do weights. Steve Ovett gave up weights in his early 20s.
  • Seb Coe did a lot of weights and gereral cross training.

I have never seen an accurate correlation between weights and distance running success. Judging by sheer volume of their good results the non-weight trainers seem to outweigh the Coe methods. ie hard and varied running seems to have better results than weights.

My own mediocre results have been more influenced by doing some short and quick sprints (60-80m) to speed up than any weights.

I confess that the only reason I lift weights is for general health and to look better on a beach !

Some elite marathoners use plyos and heavy lifting (squats over 135 is impressive for such light athletes) I would go into detail but I make less then a teacher and would rather not loose it to a lawsuit.

I know from Lida Formanova, that she did 1/4 squats 10 x 140 kg in
WCh year in 1999.