As you already know, if you have read any of my posts, strength training is vital for runners.
In fact, all healthy and fit runners strength train, on a regular basis.
Why do you need to strength train?
Well, for many reasons, including:
- To increase strength and power in key running muscles such as the calves, quads, and hamstrings. This translates into better athletic performance both on and off the running track.
- To fix muscle imbalances. Research has linked muscles imbalances (when a muscle group is stronger or weaker than the opposite group) to all sorts of overuse injuries, such as Runners Knees, IT band syndrome and the like.
- To improve running form. Your muscles play a major role in helping you develop and keep proper form—especially when fatigue starts to set in. That’s why increasing strength in your core and upper body muscles is crucial. Doing so also provides you with more stability and support throughout a running gait.
For more strength training benefits for runners, feel free to check these posts here.
Of course, as a runner myself, I’m assuming that you want the above things as well.
Nonetheless, I’m also well aware of how difficult it is to stick with a regular gym routine—especially if you running a busy life.
The 7 Best Full Body Exercises for Runners
Why do I love them so much?
Well, most full body exercises are functional.
In other words, they mimic the movement patterns we perform when performing all types of activities, be it walking, running, lifting heavy objects, etc.
According to research, full body training—think squats, push-ups, deadlifts, and chin-ups—is vital for ramping up your body’s total strength, endurance and conditioning.
These exercises can help you reinforce your strength, improve your range of motion and enhance your efficiency.
Not only that, study shows this kind of training is also key for burning mad calories, increasing metabolism levels, preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart problems (check this link to the studies).
That’s why, whether you are looking to increase total body strength, or to just add some muscle definition, full body training is the way to go.
So are you ready for some action? Then here are the seven full body exercises you need to do on a regular basis.
1. The Deadlift
The deadlift is the mother of all full body exercises. In fact, it’s one of the most basic powerlifting exercises.
The classic deadlift hits almost every muscle in the body, including the quads, calves, lower back, and the core muscles.
Furthermore, study shows that the deadlift can also increase strength and muscle mass by boosting the release of the growth hormone.
Start by placing a heavy barbell on the floor in front of you, positioning your feet about halfway under the bar—roughly 3 inches from touching it.
Next, while hinging at the hips and keeping your back straight with the core engaged, bend over until your shins touch the barbell then grab the loaded barbell.
Next, to pull the barbell off the ground, extend your hips and knees until you’re standing up straight.
On the way down, slowly lower the weight to the floor until you’re back to the starting position.
Perform 8 to 10 reps to complete one set. Aim for three sets.
2. The Squats
The squat is one of my favorite exercises of all times (that’s why I have shared this awesome 11 squat variation post here). In fact, they should be a part of every runner’s routine—whether you are a newbie or an elite marathoner.
Doing squats on a regular basis can help you increase the type of functional strength and power needed to improve your running performance.
For the most part, the squat recruits the core, glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, hips—all of which are key running muscles that can help propel you forward with more power and explosiveness.
Not only that, study also has found an irrefutable linked between overuse injuries, such as IT band syndrome and Runners Knee to weakness in these muscles.
Begin by standing as tall as you can with feet spread shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed slightly out.
Next, while keeping the back slightly arched and chest up throughout the exercise, lower your body as far as you by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Make sure to sit back and down between the knees, as if you were sitting in a chair behind you.
Pause for a moment, then slowly push back up through your heels and stand tall back to the starting position to complete one rep.
Perform 12 to 16 to complete one set. Aim for three to five sets (depending on the type of squat you are performing).
3. The Push-up
Another favorite exercise of mine, the pushup is an upper body exercise per excellence. In fact, this exercise is of the most effective and convenient exercises that there is. All you need is your body, a bit of space, and off you go.
Runners need a strong upper body to help them build and keep proper form was well as providing with a strong arm swing and improve overall speed and endurance.
For the most part (and according to the type of push-up you are doing), the standard version targets the midback, chest, shoulders, biceps, wrists, and forearms.
Not only that, with the push-up, you’ll get to work some of the muscle groups that are often weak in runners, mainly the arms, the back, and the core.
Nonetheless, to get the most out of this awesome exercise, make sure to change up the kind of push-up you do to target different areas of your chest, arms, and back.
Check my post here for more than 11 variations to try.
First of all, assume a proper pushup position with your elbows fully extended and toes on the floor. This also what’s known as the plank position. Think of your body as one giant straight line from the head to the toes.
Next, while keeping the back straight, bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle to push down, then extend them to push back up. Do this while keeping your elbows near your torso the entire time. This is one rep.
Do as many push-ups as you can with good form to complete one set. Aim for three sets.
4. Overhead Lunge
This is a quite challenging variation of the classic bodyweight lunge that targets the shoulders, the core, the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps—making it a total body exercise per excellence.
Not only that, but overhead lunges will also help you build and increase flexibility in the hip flexors.
Also, they are ideal for challenging your balance, proprioception, and overall mobility.
Start by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart while holding a plate, a pair of dumbbells or a barbell straight above your shoulders. Please, make sure that your arms are straight with the elbows locked.
Next, while keeping the weight directly overhead (in line with the shoulder joint )take a large step forward with your right leg and lower your body until your right knee is bent at 90-degree angle.
Last up, return to the starting position and repeat with your left leg to complete one rep.
If this is too challenging for you, then feel free to hold the weight at shoulder level.
5. The Chin-up
Another awesome upper body weight that’s guaranteed to help you achieve the kind of upper body strength you always wanted.
This ideal exercise targets the core, the back and biceps muscles like nothing else.
If performing straight chin-up is too much for you, then feel free to use a chair assist for more help. (check the YouTube Tutorial for how.
While using a pull-up bar, grab it with your palms facing you and with hands a bit wider than shoulder width apart.
Next, while keeping your core engaged and letting your body hang, raise yourself up until your chin is parallel with or over the bar. Then, slowly release and repeat.
6. Kettlebell Swing
You might not be familiar with this kettlebell exercise, but kettlebell swings are some of the best functional and total body exercises that there is.
This particular exercise is good for runners because it can help you boost endurance, core stability, strength, and balance—all of which can help you improve your overall running power for any distance and running terrain.
Start by standing tall feet hip-width apart while holding a dumbbell (or a kettlebell) with both hands at arm’s length.
Next, bend your knees slightly, rock back and lower the weight to between legs until it’s below your butt. Then, with a hip snapping motion, thrusts the hips forward and swings the kettlebell forward to shoulder height. Please do this while keeping the arms straight and core engaged through the movement.
Continue swinging back and forth, allowing momentum to swing the kettlebell upward instead of trying to actively lift it with the arms.
Do 12 to 16 swings to complete one set. Aim for three sets.
7. Front Squat to Push Press
Also known as thrusters in the CrossFit circles, and it’s a mix of the classic squat and the powerful push press exercise.
This exercise hits almost every major muscle group in the body with the added benefits of increasing total body endurance, flexibility, mobility and coordination like nothing else.
Just be careful. This is an advanced exercise. You can only start doing it after mastering basic squat variations as well as the stand push-press exercise.
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding hold a sandbag on the shoulder and upper chest (or a barbell across the front of the shoulders).
Next, while keeping the core engaged and back flat, lower Don by pushing your hips back and bending your knees until you are in a full squat position. Hold for a moment, then from the bottom position, explode back and stand back up as hard as you can while pushing the weight overhead, with the legs straight, shoulder stacked over your hips and arms fully extended.
This is one rep.
Do 8 to 12 reps to complete one set. Aim for three sets.