Most people don’t think of strength training as a necessary part of being a better runner, but it is an important routine to get into for anyone putting miles on their shoes. The stigma against strength training for runners has always been twofold: first, that to be a better runner you just have to run. A lot. And, second, that strength equates to more bulk to have to carry when running. In reality, strength training gives your body a needed break from the repetition of running and it can lead to better performance and fewer injuries.

Most of the injuries associated with running can be offset with greater strength, which means stronger muscles, connective tissues and joints. The problem areas of hips and knees for runners do really well with regular strength training. More strength in those areas means more control and tougher structural integrity to be able to deal with the impact of running. And, more strength means more speed, too, which every runner likes!

The most basic exercises that use lots of muscles and joints are the best ones for runners. Using equipment this means squats, deadlifts and overhead presses and most runners would benefit from bench press, too. Without equipment, you can effectively strength train using just your bodyweight, too. Bodyweight squats, lunges, push ups and even things like wall walks and handstands give plenty of resistance for runners to build strength with.

Keep your routine basic. Try to do some strength training before or after every run, for 5-10 minutes. Keep the weight relatively light, using less than 70% of your one-rep max (the most you can lift for one repetition in a given exercise). If you don’t know your one-rep maxes for these exercises, sub-70% weights should feel pretty light, but not exceedingly so. You should be able to do sets of 5-8 reps with that kind of weight.

A sample routine with equipment would be 4 sets of 5 reps of back squats after a run, or the same for deadlifts. With bodyweight, make it a circuit and do one minute each of air squats, walking lunges, push-ups and planks, for example. Repeat the circuit again for more challenge.

With this type of strength training you will not bulk up. If anything you’ll tone and get leaner while also building much-needed strength in your muscles as well as your joints and the connective tissues holding everything together. Emphasize perfect form with all your strength training and you will see a big return on your running in very little time.