Flickr - Ron Sombilon

The Seven Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners

If you prefer being in the outdoor than cooped up in a gym, then you probably skip over the weight room and head straight to the trails (or any available running surface) when it’s time for a workout.

Nevertheless, when it comes to improving your running (without running more), adding a weight training routine into your program is vital. That’s why today I’m sharing with a few of my favorite strength exercises for runners.

Weight Training is not Just About Muscles

I love weight training, but don’t get me wrong, it ain’t all about getting bulky and huge. In fact, as a runner, I found that by sticking to a regular strength training program, I got faster, fitter and become less prone to injury.

And as I look around, some of the fittest and healthiest runners I know happen to be regular strength nuts as well.

Therefore, as a runner, if you are looking to get to the next level, then you’d need to take a balanced approach to your training. Hitting the pavement every day will only get you so far.

Instead, back your running lifestyle with a strength routine to help you become the best runner you can be.

Strength training benefits for runners

Resistance training strengthens the muscles and joints, which can help you improve running time, build proper running form, and cut the risks of injury.

If you don’t believe me, check out this study from the National Strength & Conditioning Association.

Accordingly, I believe that strength training is one of the single most important non-running aspects of training that can help you a become a faster, stronger and less injury, prone runner.

Runners’ Oriented Strength Training

First of all, as a runner, you should focus on targeting the key running muscles—mainly the quadriceps, hamstrings and the calves.

Secondly, aim to fix any muscle imbalances that might develop as a result of hitting the road without cross training—by mainly working on increasing strength in the core and the upper body.

Here is the muscle imbalance fix routine you need.

The right Strength Training Strategy for Runners

The primary objective of a strength training routine for runners is to increase power and strength in the lower body muscles, including the shins, calves, and plantar muscles, all of which can improve push-off strength as well as reduce the risks of overuse injuries—very common among runners of all levels and ages.

In addition, it’s also crucial to develop core and upper body strength.

The training philosophy I’m describing here is what’s known as the well-rounded approach to fitness. And it’s what you need to strike a balance.

7 Strength Exercises for Runners

Without further ado, here are the seven strength exercises that every runner should do, along with proper form tips and YouTube tutorials showing you exactly how to do them.

Try adding this powerful strength routine into your easy or cross-training days. These 7 exercises will take no more than 45-minute to complete and be done twice a week. That’s a small time investment that’s the worth the effort.

Just don’t fret yet if you don’t know where to start.

Note: Just keep in mind that these exercises can be very challenging. Make sure you are keeping good form; otherwise don’t bother with it.

Core Training for Runners

The list of the exercises you can do to target your core is almost endless. Crunches, bicycles, planks—they are all powerful. I know, just because something is important it doesn’t mean that we’ll be doing it. This is a blunder I’ve done plenty of before, and you most likely you’ve fallen into the same trap.

I always ignored core work. It was so boring for me. I mean who wants to do crunches all day long? That’s why I had to find core exercises that are not boring and yet they are effective. And Here are a couple of them.

1. Planks

The plank—in all its variations—is one of the best core exercises that targets every angle of the core, lower back shoulders, making it for an effective and powerful strength training exercise

Proper Form

  1.  Lie on your stomach
  2. Prop up onto your elbow with feet slightly apart, and toes about hip distance apart with shoulders directly above the elbows
  3.  Aim to straighten your whole body so it’s forming a straight line from the top of your head to the heels.
  4.  While engaging your core and keeping the straight line (no butt sticking allowed), hold the plank position for 30-second to one full minute.

See, this exercise is simple, but powerful. As you get stronger, aim to gradually add time and make it more challenging by adding weights to it—placing a plate on your back. Or doing other variations of the exercise.

2. Russian Twists

The Russian twist is tough and targets a whole bunch of muscles, including the abs, obliques, lower back and the hamstrings as well. You could always use a medicine ball or a plate for more challenge and extra resistance. There is always room for more with the Russian twist.

Proper Form

  1. Grab a weight, then lie on your back with upper legs perpendicular to the floor, and knees bents 90-degress.
  2.  Next, hold the weight in front of your body while keeping the back straight.
  3.  Twist your torso as far as you can to the right side, tap the weight on the floor, and then reverse the motion to the other side.

3. OverHead Lunges

The overhead lunge targets the whole body—quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and core muscles as well. It’s the perfect fit-in-all move—this is especially true f you are pressed for time and are looking to get the most bangs out of every minute of training.

Not only that this move will promote strength throughout the body, it will also help you gain essential flexibility and mobility in your hip flexors, helping you become more functional , which is good for all athletic and daily activities—not just for running.

Proper Form

  1. Hold a pair of dumbbells or a weighted bar straight above your shoulder, with arms straight and elbow locked, feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent
  2.  While keeping the weight directly overhead, step forward with your right leg into a deep lunge position, bending both your knees
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat with left leg. That’s one repetition.

Do 12 steps on each side to complete one set.

4. Air Squats

Also known as bodyweight squats, these are some of the best strength moves there is. In fact, as a runner, squat should be a staple in your runner’s oriented strength training program. They are the single most important exercise that you can perform to strengthen the entire lower body.

They target a lot of running specific muscles, they convenient requiring no equipment but your own bodyweight, and can be easily added to your post-run routine. You can always add a set of squat every now and then –especially if you don’t have the time to go for a full strength workout routine.

Squats target the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, hip flexor and glutes, and even activate your core. That’s why squats are runners best friend and ally when it comes to making the most out out of r the run strength program routine.

Proper Form

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart with toes facing forward
  2.  With your arms out in front at shoulder height, squat down by bending your knees, leaning forward at the waist while keeping the back flat and knees tracking behind the toes
  3. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground or to the point where you can no longer keep a flat back.
  4. Press up through your heels to return to starting position.

5. Single Leg Deadlifts

The single-leg deadlift is the ideal slow—burn move for building strong hamstrings and glutes—helping  tackle those steep hills with ease—while working also on improving your balance and boosting your stability.

Proper Form

  1.  Start by holding two dumbbells or a weighted bar in front of your body.
  2.  While standing tall, shift your weight to your right foot
  3.  Hinge forward by bending your right knee and raising your left foot behind you in line with your torso, letting the weights hang down
  4. Lower the weight while keeping them very close to the tops of the legs until they until they go past your knee.
  5.  Pause, then reverse the motion and return to the starting position

6. The Pistol

Also known as the one-legged squat, this is a powerful squat variation that will help you build strength and balance in your lower body like no other low body exercise. Not only that, this move also improves mobility in the lower body and will help you build a solid core.

Note: if you have lower body flexibility and mobility issues, use a chair or a bench for the assisted pistol option. In fact, that’s the case with most people. Try holding to suspension trainer handles or use a bench or a chair for assistance.

Proper Form

  1.  Stand tall and balance on your right foot,
  2.  Squat down by bending at the knee and sitting your hips back.
  3. Once your right knee is at about 90 degree angle, push back up by extending your leg to starting position.

7. Rotational Shoulder Press

This move is ideal for targeting your upper body muscles. it works on your shoulder and core at the same time, using  core muscles to control the motion.

Proper Form

  1.   While standing tall with feet hip width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders.
  2.   As you press the weights up with your right hand, rotate your body to the right side
  3.  Lower the weights to your shoulder as you rotate back to the center, then rotate to the left as you press your left again upward this time.

Three Sample Strengh Workouts For Runners





Here you have it!

Please feel free to comment below and send me all of your questions and concerns.

Thank you for your attention.

Image Credit: Ron Sombolion Via Flickr




Share on Google Plus

David Dack



  1. Hello, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.

    Review my webpage … HGH Fuel muscle builder

  2. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems
    as though you relied on the video to make your point.
    You definitely know what youre talking about,
    why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening
    to read?

    • I used the videos as demonstration for the exercises. Just writing more about the subject is not going to send my message across. Don’t you think?

        • Doug
        • November 19, 2014
        • Reply


  3. Thank you very much for the training tips.

  4. Great tutorial! I love the videos to show the proper form and I love the 3 Sample Workouts. I printed them off and will definite use them. I am working with a trainer in the gym and he has me do many of these exercises. I’m just starting to run and because I’ve had Achilles Tendon injury in the past, I’m really interested in exercises that will strengthen me so that as I increase my running I don’t subject myself to further injury.

    I’ve also signed up for the updates. Thanks!

    • tc
    • January 8, 2015
    • Reply

    What is the man’s name of the runner at the top of this post?

    • Jason Chamney
    • January 29, 2015
    • Reply

    I’m the runner in shot at the top of the article. Care to drop me a line…

    • Jason Chamney
    • January 29, 2015
    • Reply
    • Jason Chamney
    • January 29, 2015
    • Reply

    Here’s an article I wrote on the same topic a while back. A few different exercise options and a different workout structure to consider too.


  5. the man is runner at the top of this post is wonderful

  6. This article has some great functional exercises for running. Worth reading all the way through. I did.

  7. Great tutorial, David
    I’m really interested in exercises that will strengthen me so that as I increase my running. Thank you very much for the training tips.

    • Joshua
    • June 20, 2015
    • Reply

    Hi David,

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post of suggested exercises.

    I really appreciate the guidance as having this full structure with not only the exercises, but the suggested workout sessions as well is unbelievably helpful. The videos are also a must as a visual representation of the exercises will be much more helpful than written instructions to 99% of the viewing public. Any complaints about the inclusion of videos are silly at best and possible troll behavior at worst.

    Thank you again for this post. I am looking forward to getting started.

    • Lois
    • July 7, 2015
    • Reply

    Hi. Great article, I stumbled upon this on Pinterest. How many times a week would you recommend doing these workouts during marathon training? I’m at a volume of 40-60 miles per week.
    Thank you.

    • A couple of times per week will do the trick, but keep recovery the priority

      Thank you for the helpful comment

  8. Being lazy is something we have both in common 😉

    • Anonymous
    • February 3, 2015
    • Reply

    Aw, this was an extremely nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to
    create a really good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate
    a whole lot and don’t manage to get nearly anything done.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.