Strength Training Exercises For Runners: 8 Of The Best Drills You Need To Be Using

The Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners

Today on The Smart Runner Blog we’re looking at 8 of the best strength training exercises for runners. Once practiced daily, these strength exercises will help you stay at your best and injury free.

Looking for effective strength training exercises for runners?

Below I’m going to introduce you to a few strength training exercises that every runner should be doing on a daily basis.

Running can have a heavy impact on the body over long periods especially if you’re road running a lot. However if your body is conditioned sufficiently to withstand the impact of high mileage, you’ll likely escape serious injury.

Many things contribute to your body’s ability to run successfully without injury including quality of nutrition, and the amount and quality of strength and flexibility work you do when you’re not running.

Makes sense right?

But many runners don’t give enough time and attention to proper strength, conditioning and flexibility and as such weak areas begin to show as mileage or pace (or both) increase.

A program that does not include a proper strength training exercises for runners is only half a program. So you must incorporate a daily ritual of strength and flexibility work in order to properly prepare your body for running.

Strength training exercises for runners is essential, so here’s 8 drills you can use to get started with today.

8 Basic Strength Training Exercises For Runners

In order to get the results you want from your running, be you a beginner or an experienced runner, you must have a routine that works the entire body.

I suggest that you make 10 to 15 mins each day to perform these strength training exercises, preferably in the morning time and do them in addition to your daily training.

After a month of doing these drills every morning you should see a marked improvement in your stability and strength when you run. You might even see an automatic increase in your normal pace and energy as you run too.

As the routine becomes familiar you may want to vary it by substituting various drills with others, just to mix it up and keep it interesting. You will also want to add flexibility drills to your routine.

Check out these 8 bodyweight strength training exercises for runners;

Do three rounds of the following inside 5 mins. Take 30 secs rest between rounds if you need it. The routine should be challenging rather than max you out.

  1. Burpee x 10
  2. Squat x 10
  3. Side Lunge x 10 (5 each side)
  4. Front Lunge x 10 (5 each side)
  5. Reverse Lunge x 10 (5 each side)
  6. Calf Raises x 10
  7. Plank/Side Plank x 10
  8. Hollow & Arch x 10

Before you start into the workout it is a good idea to warm up with some dynamic stretching or your regular pre-run warm up. Take 5 or so minutes to raise your heart rate slightly and get your blood flowing.

The idea of this workout is that it should be short (15 mins) and no too gassy i.e. you shouldn’t be gasping for air during or afterwards. You should transition from one drill to the next without breaking.

After you complete one round, break for 30 seconds, take a drink of water then go again. You’re doing three rounds.

Let’s break into the routine a little now

The Burpee

The burpee is one of a number of excellent strength training exercises for runners that I use regularly. It works so many areas of the body and also works the lungs too.

There are many different instructions for how to perform a burpee, most of which you’ll find do not offer an efficient technique. There’s a particular way I like to perform the burpee which this instructional video shows. Once you figure out how to perform this properly you’ll be able to move into the squat without your quads being burned out.

The Squat

The squat should be carried out swiftly and with a full depth i.e. your butt should almost be on the floor, your back straight and head in a neutral position with your feet flat on the floor (don’t raise your heels).

Check out this squat instructional video for correct technique. If you have trouble getting into the full seated position use a chair or a medicine ball under your butt. Perform the reps in quick succession.

Front Lunge

Lunges are some of the best strength training exercises for runners and you should practice the front lunge, side lunge, reverse lunge and other lunge variations daily.

You can do this drill on the spot or walking, either way is good. Some of you might not have the room to walk it out so stationary is fine. The only difference between doing this stationary and walking, is that the quads, hamstrings, glutes and hips are engaged slightly differently.

So, standing with hands on hips, head in a neutral position, pick a spot on the wall and focus on it. Step forward and drop the knee until it barely touches the floor. You’re not resting the knee on the floor here, you want to make sure the hips, glutes, hamstrings and quads stay engaged.

Return to the start position. The repeat on the opposite leg, each side x 5. Here’s a front lunge instructional video to help you get the form correct.

Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is the same as the front lunge albeit it’s a little more difficult to execute. From a standing start, drop your right foot behind you about 1 meter, bending your left knee to 90 degrees to the floor. Then return to the start position. Repeat on the opposite side.

As with all these drills, keeping good form is important. If you find that you’re wobbling and almost falling over doing the reverse lunge or other exercise, slow it down and focus on keeping your form.

Ensure that the distance between your feet is about shoulder width apart as your foot lands. Marking the floor where your feet should land is a good practice until your body gets used to performing the drills.

Side Lunge

Stand with your legs approx. 1 meter apart (this distance will vary depending on how tall and flexible you are). Hands out in front and together, squat to the left (full depth if you can), then return to the start position and pause for a half second, then squat to the right, again full depth if you can.

Your ability to go full depth will depend on your quad strength and flexibility. If you can’t get full depth on these drill then pay more attention to stretching before and after runs.

Calf Raises

We all know calf raises right? Go to a step on your staircase and place the balls of both feet on the step, (not only your toes) letting your heels hang over the edge. Make sure your feet are stable, you don’t want them to slip off the step during the drill.

Holding on to the banister rail or something else to keep you stable, drop your heels down and hold this position. You should feel a good stretch in your calves. This will be the start position, then raise your heels fully to the top and hold for 1 second. Drop back to the start position. That’s one rep.

Keep the pace steady and not too fast. I like to do 15 or 20, but here just do 10 reps until you build strength. If you want to up the ante a bit, do one calf at a time.

The Plank

Strengthening the abs is vital to achieving good strength and stability when running. A weak core can lead to all kinds of running injuries. There are many variations on the plank, some of which we’ll use here, and you can vary the drill later as your core becomes stronger.

Start with your elbows on the floor, under your shoulders and close to your body. This is what will support your weight during the drill so good start position is important. Butt slightly in the air to avoid pressure bearing on your lower back. Toes should be pointed into the floor and feet at 90 degrees to your lower leg.

  • Hold for 3o seconds,
  • Then move to the left side and hold for 30 seconds
  • Then move to the right side and hold for 30 seconds

If you find this easy then increase the time from 30 secs to 1 minute. Also try these variations;

  • Place a rag under your toes and crunch your knees into your torso
  • Tuck right knee to left elbow, and left knee to right elbow
  • Raise the right elbow and rotate the body 90 degrees keeping toes steady, then do the left side.
  • Incorporate a press-up

Hollow & Arch

The hollow and arch is a gymnastics drill and can be very demanding. You might wonder why I’m suggesting you do gymnastics drills and the answer is gymnasts are probably the strongest, most flexible athletes on the planet.

Nuff said.

Rather than me (very badly) trying to explain these drills, check out these videos for detailed instruction.

Arch Hold

Hollow Hold


Are you using a similar strength training exercises for runners? Despite some quarters suggesting you don’t work out every day, I believe a daily practice such as this will benefit your running dramatically. Rather than this 15 mins per day tiring you out, over the medium to long term it will help you perform much better. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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