There are so many strength workouts for runners out there to help you become a faster and stronger runner.
Over the last six months, I’ve ramped this up and I’ve enlisted the help of a personal trainer to help me on my journey.
Having been a runner for over 10 years, it’s only recently that I’ve decided to dabble a bit more in strength workouts and cross training.
I’ve realised that in order to become a better runner, I have to focus on my strength and core fitness as well as getting the miles in every week.
Strength workouts for runners: why are they important?
Various articles and studies have proven the link between strength training and running and how it can help you become a stronger runner.
A 2019 study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine summarises the benefits of strength training for runners as follows: improved running economy, faster time trial performance and faster maximal sprint speed.
So if you’re looking to become a faster and stronger runner, now is a good time to start adding strength training to your training plan.
But where do you start? You can be forgiven for thinking that strength training is a huge topic with many different areas. This is certainly true.
However there are ways to break it down into manageable chunks.
The workouts in this blog are designed to prevent injury, build up your resilience and build up stronger muscles and connective tissues. They also share the same common theme – simplicity!
You can do these at home or in the gym fairly easily. There are also countless variations to these exercises which I explain below.
If you haven’t already, check out my complete guide on strength training for runners. Here I provide even more hints and tips on including strength training in your training plan.
Without further ado, here are my top six simple strength workouts for runners.
Probably one of the most recognisable workouts in the gym, squats are an efficient way to improve your strength and can be completed in many different ways.
Using your body weight only or by adding a weight into the mix like a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell.
Many runners suffer from knee injuries such as runner’s knee – squats are great for knee health if done properly.
Like any other exercise, squatting is only beneficial when performed safely, with proper technique.
If you have never squatted before, begin with the air squat (no added weight).
Here’s how to squat:
Start by extending your arms in front of you.
Sink your hips down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, making a 90-degree angle. The deeper the better.
Go ahead and squat until your bum is below parallel.
When standing back up, do not let your back cave in.
Keep your knees behind your toes, your weight on your heels and your back straight while you squat.
If this is too easy for you, go ahead and add a weight. Start small then build your way up.
Jump squats are great to fit in your fitness routine if you’re looking for something a little more intense.
Walking squats are also a good way to mix things up. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can add a box to your workout and jump squat off this.
Deadlifting is something that I’ve only recently discovered and included in my fitness routine.
I can safely say though since including it, my strength and core fitness has improved a lot and I find myself getting stronger every week.
Deadlifts are beneficial for runners as they help you avoid knee pain and help you to get an upright posture.
Form is one of the first things to go during a long race as the fatigue sets in and you slump forward.
Deadlifting will help you avoid that and stay upright, which will give you more endurance.
Here’s how to deadlift:
Stand with your mid-foot under the barbell.
Bend over and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
Bend your knees until your shins touch the bar.
Lift your chest up and straighten your lower back.
Take a big breath, hold it, and stand up with the weight.
If you’ve never completed a deadlift before, I’d suggest you seek advice and support from a fitness professional/personal trainer before attempting it yourself.
Deadlifts can be very damaging to your body if you don’t do them properly under correct supervision.
Lunges are probably one of my favourite workouts as they are really versatile and are fairly easy to master.
The typical lunge targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes muscles.
Building strength and power in these muscles can help you boost sprinting speed as they work together to pull your body in a forward motion.
Lunges are also some of the best leg exercises you can do to improve coordination and balance.
Enhancing your single-leg balance is key for preventing injuries such as ankle sprains.
The basic lunge is what you have to master first before attempting any weighted lunges or variations on the basic lunge.
Here’s how to do a basic lunge:
Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up (pick a point to stare at in front of you so you don’t keep looking down). Always engage your core.
Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor.
Keep the weight in your heels as you push back up to the starting position.
Once you’ve mastered the lunge and feel comfortable with it, you can build your way up and add weights.
I love to do walking lunges with weights on either side. Jump lunges are also great as part of a HIIT workout to really get your heartbeat going and blood pumping.
I’ve also recently discovered Bulgarian split squats which are slightly different from the normal lunge but are equally as effective.
My friends will tell you that when it comes to testing my arms and upper body, I lose confidence and convince myself I’m not good enough to do it.
This is something I am working on by working with a personal trainer to try and improve my upper body strength and fitness.
As a runner, I associate all my strength with my legs and core, but it’s important to remember that your upper body plays a key role in your running too.
Sometimes it can feel there’s an imbalance between your upper and lower body. I certainly found this after years of running). So push-ups are a great way to get your upper body strength back on track.
Push-ups are some of the best and most efficient exercises you can do to increase strength and endurance in your upper body.
Here’s how to do a standard push-up:
Start by laying down on all fours with your arms positioned at a slightly wider position than your shoulders.
On the inhale, bend your elbow and lower your body to the ground. Lower your body until your chest is touching or almost touching the floor.
On the exhale, push away from the floor until you have fully extended your arms.
Don’t let your elbows move past your wrists, either out to the side or behind the wrist. Instead, do your best to keep your elbows above your wrists the entire time. The elbows should form a 90-degree angle.
Don’t slouch or sag.
Walking push-ups are a great variation of the standard push-up and help to build your strength and stamina.
Diamond push-ups are also a good exercise to try once you feel you’ve mastered the standard push-up.
I have a confession to make. I really dislike the plank but I know it’s a good exercise to help build my core fitness.
In fact, if done regularly, they can improve your core fitness no end!
I remember a few years ago I attempted a 30-second plank every day for 30 days and by the end of the month my core strength and abs felt unbelievable.
I could really see the results in my running too.
Luckily for us runners, there are a variety of plank exercises that can help us build the core strength necessary for more efficient running form and fewer overuse injuries.
They can be done virtually anywhere and require no equipment. They’re perfect for beginners—and even the fastest of runners.
Here’s how to do a basic plank:
Find a solid surface. Lie on your front with your fists clasped, elbows pushed into your sides by your ribs, forearms on the floor and toes tucked under.
Push your bodyweight up so that it’s resting on your forearms and feet, in a straight line parallel to the floor.
Squeeze the muscles in your bottom and things and push your heels together while pulling up on your pelvic floor.
Check your back and bottom aren’t popping up or caving in and that you are making a straight line from heels to head so that your neck is parallel to the floor.
There are lots of variations on the plank that you could try if the basic plank gets a bit too boring. These include: the push-up plank, side plank, side arm raise in the plank position and push-up plank shuffle.
Spending all day sitting behind a desk is a shortcut to weak glutes and lower back problems.
I work in an office Monday to Friday, so I know this very well! The impulse is often to sit too far forward, which causes your hip flexors to become tight and also results in the glutes effectively switching off.
Activating them as part of your training programme does wonders not only for your physique but for your structural health, and hip bridges are a good way to facilitate this switch.
Here’s how to do a hip bridge:
Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line.
Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
You should feel the burn in your glutes and your hamstrings if you’re doing it correctly.
The hip bridge is also great for improving hip mobility and strengthening your lower back, two things that any desk-bound worker can really benefit from.