If you’re new to barbell training, you’re about to realize what powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters have always known: It’s fun to lift heavy weights.
Moving really heavy weight is empowering. Nothing will boost your confidence like sliding on an extra plate or mastering the proper form for classic, foundational lifts. Plus, if you want to improve your running performance and prevent overuse injuries, efficient, full-body barbell workouts—like this one designed by Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., founder of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California—are a valuable asset for your training.
The Benefits of Barbell Workouts for Runners
“Adding in a concentrated strength-training program can help increase strength not just of the muscles, but also in the tendons, ligaments, and bones, thereby reducing the risk of injury,” Miklaus tells Runner’s World.
Lifting can also pay off in faster times, easier hill climbs, and more powerful sprints to the finish. “Stronger muscles have a higher peak performance potential. So, any endurance athlete focused on speed or time will be wise to include both strength and power exercises into their training programs,” he says.
Miklaus also notes that any barbell workout should be tailored to the individual athlete and their training schedule. “For endurance athletes, this often means adding in resistance training and more formal strength programs during the off and pre-seasons of sport, and then de-loading during race season,” he says.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re not in competition mode, use heavier loads and perform fewer reps. If you’ve got a handful of races on your calendar, stick to lighter loads and higher rep schemes.
How to use this list: This workout is structured as three separate supersets. Perform each circuit 4 times (reps are included in each exercise description) before moving onto the next. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
Superset 1: Deadlift/ Roll-Out
Superset 2: Front Squat/ Bent-Over Row
Superset 3: Landmine Rotational Press/ Landmine Rotation
Each move is demonstrated by Miklaus in the video above so you can learn the proper form. You will need a loaded barbell and a landmine attachment.
Why it works: “The quintessential full-body exercise, deadlifts strengthen almost every muscle from your toes to your fingertips,” Miklaus says. “While the full benefits of deadlifts could fill an anthology, for runners specifically, I like that they target the oft-neglected posterior chain and can help with vertical explosiveness.”
How to do it: Stand behind center of barbell, feet hip-width apart and toes pointed forward. Maintaining a flat back and neutral neck, hinge at hips by pushing butt straight back, bend knees, and grip barbell with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Push through feet to stand back up, extending hips. Pause, then hinge at hips by pushing butt straight back, and bend knees to lower barbell to ground, keeping bar close to legs. Repeat. Do 6-10 reps.
Why it works: “Rollouts are fantastic at targeting both the deep and superficial core musculature, namely the transverse and rectus abdominis,” Miklaus says. “For runners, who often have tight hip flexors, this exercise also provides an elongating contraction for the hip flexors.”
How to do it: Facing a barbell, get into a high-kneeling position and place both hands on bar a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Lean forward at knees so that shoulders are directly above wrists and body forms a straight line from head to knees. This is the starting position. Maintaining a flat back and straight arms (don’t allow chest or hips to sag), roll bar away from you. Go only as far as you can without compromising form. Use core muscles to roll back up to starting position. Repeat. Do 12-15 reps.
3. Front Squat
Why it works: “When the bar is loaded in the front rack position for a squat, the torso typically sits more upright and the hips can drop lower without as much forward motion of the tibia [shin bone]. In other words, you can squat deeply without having your knees shift as far forward over your toes. As such, the quadriceps get targeted more directly in a front squat versus a back squat,” Miklaus explains. Working the quads in this way means you increase type II muscle fiber density and improve strength.
How to do it: Resting barbell across front of shoulders (cross arms in front of chest or hold bar in a front-rack position with fingers under the bar and elbows pointing forward), stand with feet hip-width apart, abs engaged. Send hips back and down, bending knees to lower into a squat. Keep chest lifted and spine neutral. Press feet into ground to stand back up. Repeat. Do 8-12 reps.
4. Bent-Over Row
Why it works: “Many endurance athletes (runners and cyclists included) suffer from sub-optimal posture as a result of the demands of their sport. Exercises like the bent-over row, which force activation of the erector spinae group [muscles along the spine] while also contracting the mid-back muscles can be a great addition to a well-rounded program,” Miklaus says. Also, holding a hinge position means you lengthen the hamstrings to help with posterior strength, as well as knee stability, he says.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold barbell down in front of you, hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward (underhand grip). Hinge from hips by sending butt back, keeping back flat and allowing knees to bend slightly. This is the starting position. Squeeze shoulder blades together as you pull bar up. just below chest. Slowly lower bar until elbows are fully extended. Repeat. Do 8-12 reps.
5. Landmine Rotational Press
Why it works: “Landmine work is great, as it provides a different dynamic than what people traditionally think of with barbell work. An exercise like this rotational press helps build more global power with its explosive element,” Miklaus says. You also strengthen the hip and core muscles.
How to do it: Stand with right side facing landmine attachment, feet hip-width apart, end of barbell centered in front of feet. Hinge at hips by sending butt back, bend knees, and, maintaining a flat back, reach down with right hand to grab end of barbell. Drive feet into floor and extend hips to stand up, drawing right hand toward shoulder. Quickly rotate torso to right, pivoting feet. At the same time, switch barbell to left hand, then extend left arm to press barbell away from chest. Rotate back to center, transferring barbell back to right hand. Hinge at hips, bend knees, and lower barbell to starting position. Repeat. Do 12 reps, then switch sides.
6. Landmine Rotation
Why it works: “When we talk about the core, we’re referring to all the muscles in the trunk that help create stability and allow for the distribution of force throughout our bodies,” Miklaus says. This move helps you hone those roles of the core.
How to do it: Stand facing landmine attachment, feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. With arms fully extended, hold end of barbell at eye level with both hands. Pivoting on ball of left foot, rotate to right and slowly lower barbell to hip level. Immediately rotate back to center and to the left, pivoting on ball of right foot and lowering barbell to hip level on left side. That’s one rep. Repeat. Do 10 reps.