Sport Specific Workouts: Cross-Country Running – Weeks 1-6

The purpose of this program is to increase explosive strength as well as absolute strength while maintaining endurance and without overtraining the athlete.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Terrance Gant is the assistant varsity football coach and defensive coordinator at Tempe high school in Tempe, Arizona. He also doubles as the head strength and conditioning coach for some of the sports programs.

Explosive and Absolute Strength for Cross Country Runners

While it may be obvious that distance runners need exceptional endurance, there are other skills and physical characteristics that are required to raise an athlete from “finisher” to “winner.”

Cross country running takes place over varied surfaces under a variety of conditions during the autumn and winter, making stability a key attribute. Research has shown that strength is also of great importance to endurance runners. Finally, the ability to produce copious amounts of power on demand (explosive strength) helps when sprinting is required.

This twelve-week program is designed to foster these attributes while maintaining a high level of safety for the trainee, and is appropriate for high-school and older athletes.

Getting Started – Determine Your One-Rep Max (1RM)

Begin by determining your one-rep max. There are different ways to do this, but one of the safest is by calculation. Follow this link, perform the exercises listed in the program, and plug in the load and reps to determine your 1RM for the program. The link provided also calculates all the percentages you’ll need for this program.

Be sure to record your 1RM for all exercises so you can compare later in the program. If you aren’t progressing, you’ll want to know.

Loading Scheme for the First Six Weeks

Week 1: 80% of 1RM

Week 2: 65% of 1RM
Week 3 :70% of 1RM
Week 4 :55% of 1RM
Week 5 :80% of 1RM

Week 6: Test Week – Re-test your 1RMs

The Training Program


1. Glute-ham raises are one set to exhaustion. Lunges are one set to exhaustion per leg.

2. If you miss any reps during week five, your weight doesn’t progress no matter what you lift during test week.

3. There is no linear progression during sets. All sets use the same load for each workout.

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