The University of Oregon’s strength and conditioning coach, Jim Radcliffe, is known as one of the most advanced minds when it comes to functional strength and athleticism. Now in his 28th year at the school, he’s considered a key ingredient to the lasting success of Oregon sports — particularly its lightning-fast football team and its legendary men’s and women’s track teams.

“Strength training allows runners to cover the ground quicker and more cleanly, and spend less time on it,” Radcliffe says. “The more time you spend on the ground, the more bad things happen. A simpler way to put it is we want to train everybody to cover the ground more like a Super Ball than like a tomato.”

Radcliffe also coaches two-time Olympic runner Nick Symmonds, and shares here a simplified version of Symmonds’ strength-training plan that can benefit runners of all ages and abilities. It incorporates core training plus pulling, squatting, pushing and Olympic-style lifts, plus some jump and throw tests to gauge your progress. All workouts start with “Pillars,” involving several warm-up exercises for the core.

Work in a strength-training plan like this one into your weekly schedule. This is a four-week plan with two strength-training sessions per week. It’s builds both speed and endurance.

Warm-up Pillars:

  • Butt to wall press
  • Acceleration wall pushes
  • Wall lean and vertical press
  • Butterfly rolls
  • Hurdler rolls
  • Medicine ball walking twist
  • Handstand
  • Duck walk
  • Back walkovers
  • Sickle
  • Single-leg balance squats
  • Pedestals: prone, supine, side-to-side

Week 1

Workout 1

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging knee raises 2×20

Good morning 4×8

Overhead step-ups (slow) 4×4

Dumbbell military press 3×6

Workout 2

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging alternate knee raises 2×12

Good morning/overhead squat 3×8

Circuits

A Skips 4x20m

Pullups/cross bar dips 3×6

B Skips 4x20m

Medicine ball overhead throw forward/scoop throw back 3×4

Straight-leg strides 4x20m

Medicine ball twist toss backward/lying throw forward 3×4

Week 2

Workout 1

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging leg crossovers 2×10

Russian deadlift 4×8

Overhead lunge 4×6

Stability press 2×4

Workout 2

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging jackknife 2×5

Circuits

Dumbbell deadlift/overhead lunge 3×6

B-skips 4x20m

Back extensions/stability press 3×6

Rhythm and cadence 4x20m

Push press and step on/step-ups with push-off 3×6

Jump rope sprint 4x20m

Medicine ball reach and hike/twist toss 3×6

Week 3

Workout 1

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging knee raises 2×20

Initial clean pull 3×6

Overhead squat 4×6

Overhead press 3×6

Workout 2

Pillars (pick 6)

Hanging alternate knee raises 2×12

Good morning/overhead squat 3×8

Circuits

A-skips 4x20m

Pullups/cross bar dips 3×6

B-skips 4x20m

Medicine ball overhead throw forward/scoop throw back 3×4

Straight-leg strides 4x20m

Medicine ball twist toss backward/lying throw forward 3×4

Week 4

Workout 1

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging leg crossovers 2×10

 Jump testing: Vertical leap, 10-second pogo:

 Throws testing: Medicine ball overhead back; Medicine ball overhead forward:

Workout 2

Pillars (pick 3)

Hanging jackknife 2×5

 Circuits

Dumbbell deadlift/overhead lunge 3×6

B-skips 4x20m

Back extensions/stability press 3×6

Rhythm and cadence 4x20m

Push press and step on/step-ups with push-off 3×6

Jump rope sprint 4x20m

Medicine ball reach and hike/twist toss 3×6