Strength exercises for runners

7 Best Strength Exercises for Runners

Embarking on a journey to become a better runner doesn’t mean signing up for a marathon. Whether you aim to set a personal record, make your runs smoother, or boost your stride efficiency, the key lies in incorporating strength training into your routine.

No need for fancy gym memberships or extensive equipment. This strength training program for runners is designed to enhance your power, speed, endurance, and coordination, and prevent common injuries like shin splints. Best part? Most exercises can be done using just your body weight.

By dedicating two sessions a week to these workouts – post an easier run or on a rest day – you’ll not only build lean muscle but also cut down on your run time and decrease the risk of injury. Don’t forget the importance of foam rolling for recovery and injury prevention.

Targeting essential muscle groups, this program is tailored to make you stronger, leaner, and faster. Elevate your running game with these accessible and effective strength training exercises.

The Best Types of Exercises for Runners

Running engages your entire body, so when it comes to strength training, opt for compound, multi-joint exercises that enhance your movement patterns rather than just isolating muscles.

Sure, deadlifts, squats, and bench presses are classic strength moves, but they’re more than just gym routines – they mirror real-life actions like bending, lifting, and pushing.

Thinking beyond your legs, effective weight training for runners should also address your upper body to maintain muscle balance.

Ready to elevate your running game? Explore exercises that mimic the motions crucial for runners’ strength

Maximize Your Run: Essential Exercises for Runners

  • Bodyweight Bliss: Incorporate lunges, planks, push-ups, and side leg lifts into your post-run or cross-training routine. Build strength and prevent injuries using your body weight.
  • Hip Powerhouse: Combat weak hips with the ITB Rehab Routine, targeting glute and hip strength. Ideal for preventing IT band injuries and enhancing overall stability crucial for running.
  • Flexibility Focus: Prioritize flexibility with dynamic stretches before your run, and cool down afterward to aid recovery. Target key areas like hip flexors, quads, calves, and hamstrings for smoother, injury-resistant movements.

Ready to elevate your running game? Dive into these 7 strength exercises for peak performance

7 Best Strength Exercises for Runners

7 Best Strength Exercises for Runners

If you’re a beginner, start with a lower number of reps and sets. Slowly, progress reps. 

Also, start with a lower weight. With experience and muscle, you can gradually add heavier weights.

If you’re looking for even more of a challenge or an increase in your heart rate, ramp up the intensity! 

Perform the strength workout faster. Or test your balance by trying one-legged variations!

Remember that if you are experiencing pain, especially knee pain, consult a doctor before starting strength exercises. 

1. Glute Bridge

Target your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings with the glute bridge. 

  • Start by laying on your back with bent knees and feet firmly planted on the mat. 
  • With your arms by your sides, on an exhale, press through your triceps, arms, and heels to lift your hips in line with your knees and your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and engage your abdominals. 
  • Pause. With control, slowly lower your hips back down to the mat vertebrae by vertebrae.

Want to amp it up? With your hips raised, lift and straighten your right leg so your right heel is facing the ceiling.

Pulse for 5 before lowering back down. Repeat with the left leg. That is one repetition. Repeat for 5 – 7 on each side. 

2. Resistance Band Side Steps

  • Loop your resistance band around your quads, above the knees. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Clasp your hands in front of your chest.
  • Slightly hinge at the hips and lower into a half squat. Step your right foot out to the side. Follow with your opposite leg. It’s important to keep tension in the band the entire time. 
  • Repeat back and forth for 5 – 7 reps. You can even turn this into a lateral walk by taking 5 steps to the right, then 5 to the left. 

Feeling spicy? Hold a dumbbell!

3. Reverse Lunges

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart, hands by your sides. Step backward with your left foot, staying on your toes.
  • Lower down, creating a 90-degree angle in both knees at the same time. Press back up, stepping your left foot forward into the starting position. Complete 5 – 7 reps on each side. 
  • To up the intensity, hold a dumbbell or weight in each hand. 

4. Barbell Deadlifts

As a personal trainer, deadlifts are one of my favorite weight lifting exercises. 

This exercise targets your posterior chain, specifically your seat, hamstrings, calves, and lower back. 

Remember, proper form is imperative. 

  • Begin standing in front of your barbell with the weight of your choice, feet hip-width distance apart. Grab the bar with an overhead grip. Your wrists should be just outside of your legs, above your ankles. 
  • Slightly bend your knees, shins grazing the bar. With a neutral spine and chest lifted, engage your posterior chain and lift the bar close to your legs.
  • Don’t lean back or round your spine. Slowly return the bar to the mat. That is 1 rep. Add heavy weight with experience.

Test your balance by trying the single-leg deadlift! Lift leg behind you as you deadlift. 

5. Squats

Squats are another important exercise that targets the lower body, specifically the glutes and quads. Again, proper form and posture are imperative. 

Take your time with these reps. 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart, toes slightly turned out. 
  • Straighten your arms, shoulder-width, in front of you and keep your gaze straight ahead. Engage your core as you lower your hips and buttocks toward the ground. 
  • Keep your knees in line with your feet. Once your reach the bottom of your squat, exhale and press through your heels, engaging your thighs as you rise back to the starting position. (Clubdeportestolima)  
  • Your torso will be in a straight line the entire time.

Once you’ve mastered the body weight squat, have fun adding heavier weights! 

You can use free weights, dumbbells, or a medicine ball to build your muscle mass.

6. Plank 

Planks are another great exercise that target your core muscles.

  • Set yourself up by laying on your belly. Place your palms under your shoulders and tuck your toes. Press the ground away as you lift your body into a plank position. Hold.
  • Keep your core muscles engaged the entire time and don’t forget to breathe!
  • Start with a short period of time, 30 seconds. Add more time as you develop a strong core. 

There are many variations of this exercise. You can perform on your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders. 

You can also try the side version or add shoulder taps.

7. Russian Twists

Target your obliques and hip flexors with the Russian Twists core workout.

  • Have a seat on the ground. Bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor. With a straight spine, lean back to a 45-degree angle, abs engaged. 
  • You have a few options with your hands. Option 1 is to clasp them at your chest. Option 2 is to straighten both arms so that your hands travel to the outside of your thighs as you twist.
  • Use your abs to twist to the right. Pause, return to center. Twist to the left. Pause. Return to center. This is 1 repetition. Complete 8 to 10 reps. 

To add intensity and muscle growth, hold a weight in your hands or perform on a stability ball.

Runners Circuit Workout

Combine these 7 exercises to your strength routine to create a 10-minute circuit based on your level of fitness.

Rest between sets and gradually add weights, progress reps, or try the variations!

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The Takeaway

You don’t need to be marathon training to want to become a better runner.

Your injury risk will decrease drastically by simply adding just 10 to 20 minutes of strength work each day! 

Add these running-specific strength training exercises to your strength program to build muscle and take your training to the next level. 

You will run more, train smarter, and race faster. Strength exercises are especially important for new runners to target muscles and see progress.

Happy running!

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