An Introduction to Strength Training for Runners

Want to be come a better runner? Try these five running-specific strength-training bodyweight exercises.

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Just running won't help you reach your potential as a runner. Too many distance runners and sprinters limit themselves by forgoing strength training.

Strength training is the most important non-running conditioning component a runner needs to become a better runner. Leg strength will not only increase your speed and endurance but also help prevent injury. (Runners: Don't Overlook These 2 Types of Training.)

But runners who are new to strength training should not immediately jump into a weightlifting program. It is better for beginners to take a slow, meditated approach. However, a well conceived program can still provide a novice runner with immediate results.

Add these five running-specific bodyweight exercises to your training routine. They may not involve weights, but they will help you become a stronger, faster and more complete runner. (Don't forget to warm up. See Dynamic Warm-Ups for Runners and Lifters.)

Straight Leg Fire Hydrant

Sets/Reps: 1x20-25 each leg

  • Assume an all-fours position
  • Lift one leg directly to the side so your thigh is parallel to the ground; hold for two counts and keep your knee at 90 degrees
  • Extend the leg directly behind you, squeeze your glute and lift the leg toward the ceiling; hold for two counts
  • Lower to start position
  • Perform with opposite leg

To add difficulty and increase your range of motion, perform the Straight Leg Fire Hydrant from the Plank position. (See also How Fire Hydrants Can Improve Your Performance.)

Lateral Squat

Sets/Reps: 1x20-25 each leg

  • Assume an athletic position
  • Step to the side with your right leg into a wide stance
  • Bend at the hips to lower into a squat
  • Simultaneously drive up out of the squat and step with your left leg toward your body to return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps
  • Perform set in opposite direction

To add difficulty to the Lateral Squat exercise, elevate one of your legs onto a bench or box. Keep that leg straight and on the box and perform 15-20 reps; switch legs and perform movement on the opposite side.

Hurdle Walks

Sets/Reps: 3x10 each leg

  • Place 10 hurdles in a line and adjust their height to 36 inches
  • Facing forward, walk over the hurdles with lead leg followed by trail leg

Squatting Calf Raise

Sets/Reps: 1x30-40

  • Assume athletic stance with feet slightly wider than hip-width
  • Keeping your back straight and your knees behind toes, sink your hips back and lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground
  • Extend your hips and knees to drive up out of squat position and push up onto the balls of your feet

Reverse Hyperextension

Sets/Reps: 1x20-25

  • Lie on your stomach your with legs and arms fully extended
  • Raise your legs up as high as possible, keeping them as straight as possible. Perform 20-25 reps

To add difficulty, lie on your stomach on a stability ball and lift your legs as high as possible without bending them.


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