Between work and family commitments, it can be hard to fit a run into a busy schedule.
This is where these simple strength exercises for runners come in as they can be done virtually anywhere!
The key is finding a strength workout that you can not only fit into your busy lifestyle, but one that gets you results within a short space of time.
These strength exercises are beneficial for runners and have been designed with a busy schedule in mind.
They also share the same common theme – simplicity! Even better, you can do them from the comfort of your own home.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- Why is strength training important for runners?
- Can you strength train and be a runner?
- What are good strength exercises for runners?
- How much strength training should a runner do?
- When should I do strength training exercises for runners?
- 6 simple strength exercises for runners
Can you strength train and be a runner?
Yes! In fact strength training is recommended for all runners no matter your running experience or fitness levels as it can be tailored for all levels.
Many runners mistakenly believe that by doing regular strength and resistance training they will become too bulky for running which is simply not true.
If anything, strength training will help you become a stronger and more efficient runner.
Why is strength training important for runners?
Strength training has been shown to benefit running performance, including many aspects of your running like endurance, power, speed, balance and injury prevention.
A 2016 study showed that adding at least two to three strength training sessions to your training routine per week are likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners.
One of the key benefits of strength training is that it helps to reduce the risk of injury in runners because it helps to build stronger muscles, ligaments and connective tissues.
What are good strength training exercises for runners?
The following types of strength training exercises are recommended for runners:
‘Full body’ movements
Running recruits a lot of muscles in the body that work together to help propel you forward when you run.
Therefore the key is to do strength exercises that target all the main muscle groups in the legs, arms and core.
These types of exercises are often referred to as ‘full body’ or ‘compound’ movements.
Squats, lunges and hip brides are considered ‘full body’ movements.
These are movements that use a single leg or single arm, like in a forward lunge or step-ups.
Running is considered a unilateral form of movement, meaning that your legs are moving independently of one another, supporting your body.
Core strength movements
These are movements that develop your core strength as a runner.
Your core is important when running as it helps to keep a strong and stable position for longer.
How much strength training should a runner do?
As mentioned earlier, it is recommended you do at least 2-3 strength training sessions per week to feel the benefits in your running performance.
Of course, the amount of strength training you do each week will depend on the amount of miles you are running each week.
If you’re a distance runner, for example, then strength training for distance runners is recommended at least three times a week to complement your training.
Strength training for runners at home is possible, so you don’t necessarily have to join a gym in order to do strength training.
This makes it that much easier to include strength training in your routine.
When should I do strength training exercises for runners?
Generally, it’s advised to do strength training exercises after an easy run.
It’s not advisable to do strength training workouts after a long run or an intense session like a speed training session or hill repeats.
6 simple strength exercises for runners
Now you know a little more about strength training for runners, here are 6 simple strength exercises for runners.
In this guide we’ll provide a breakdown of the following exercises:
- Hip bridge
- Running and jumping on the spot
- Fire hydrant
- Single leg raise
Lunges are also some of the best leg exercises you can do to improve coordination and balance.
The basic lunge is what you have to master first before attempting any weighted lunges or variations on the basic lunge.
Once you’ve mastered the basic lunge and feel comfortable with it, you can build your way up and add weights.
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.
Squats are an efficient way to improve your strength and can be completed in many different ways.
It’s probably one of my favourite strength exercises for runners.
Using your body weight only or by adding a weight into the mix like a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell (or cans of soup or grocery bags if you prefer).
Many runners suffer from knee injuries (including myself) – squats are great for knee health if done properly. If you have never squatted before, begin with the air squat (no added weight).
Here’s how to do a 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.
#3 Hip bridge
Spending all day sitting behind a desk is a shortcut to weak glutes, tight hip flexors and lower back problems.
All that time sitting too far forward 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.
When doing a hip bridge, you should feel the burn in your glutes (your buttocks) 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 runner can really benefit from.
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.
#4 Running and jumping on the spot
If you can’t go for a run as regularly as you’d like, running on the spot is a great way to burn energy and get some much needed cardio in your life.
There are countless variations to this exercise, including simply doing tiny hops from side to side or large movements bringing both knees up towards your chest at the same time.
Jumping is also great for runners as it is a form of plyometric movement. Plyometrics are great for improving speed, strength and power as a runner.
How to run and jump on the spot:
Run or jump in the same place for one minute or more at a time. This will increase your heart rate and you will soon feel the sweat.
#5 Fire hydrant
Fire hydrants target the glutes and core. Strength exercises for runners that target these areas are very beneficial as your glutes are the power muscles when it comes to running.
When done regularly, they can sculpt your glutes, improve back pain and lower the risk of common running injuries.
The key with this exercise is to keep your core and pelvis stable. Your hip should be the only thing moving.
You can even add a resistance band or ankle weights to this exercise to challenge your legs.
How to do a fire hydrant:
- Start on your hands and knees. Place your shoulders above your hands and your hips above your knees. Tighten your core and look down.
- Lift your left leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Keep your knee at 90 degrees.
- Lower your leg to a starting position to complete 1 rep.
- Do 3 sets of 10 reps. Repeat with the other leg.
#6 Single leg raise
Side leg raises, like fire hydrants, work your glutes and engage your hips. The move is also called a standing lateral hip abduction.
Your hips are extremely important whilst running so it’s good to strengthen them when you can.
This exercise is also great if you suffer from IT band syndrome.
How to do a single leg raise:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. If you’re using a resistance band, place it just above your knees.
- Straighten your spine and face your toes forward. Squeeze your core.
- With your right knee slightly bent, lift your left leg to the side. Pause.
- Slowly lower your leg to starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Repeat with the other leg.
Bonus strength exercise: Windscreen wipers
Windshield wipers are a great exercise to include in your routine because they help to build a strong core on both sides of the body by strengthening your lower back muscles.
They also engage your hip flexors as you rotate your hips through the full range of motion.
So if you have tight hips, this is a great exercise to activate your hip flexor muscles.
How to do windshield wipers:
- Lay flat on your back with arms extended out beside you and legs in the air.
- Keeping feet together and legs straight, rotate your hips to move feet slowly from left to right from the hand back again.
- Keep your lower back on the ground.
- If this feels too hard, bend your knees more.