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Strength Training Exercises for Runners (by Runners)

Category: Running Form,  Training

A lot of runners have tight hip flexors with weak glutes and a weak core, likely from sitting all day. This pattern often causes runners to use the wrong muscles during their runs. The glutes are the powerhouse muscles of the body and should be used during explosive exercise such as running. When the glutes are working properly the load placed on the other lower extremity soft tissue (calf, hamstrings, IT band) is reduced.  Here are some exercises to help improve some of the common weakness runner’s experience.

Circuit program (2 days/week)

Multiplanar lunge – Forward, Lateral and Reverse Lunge

Forward Lunge – Helps reduce tight hip flexors as well as the back leg is stretching the hip flexor.

Lateral – Recruits the abductors and hip-stabilizing muscles need to stabilize your hip and pelvic region during your run.

Reverse Lunge – A great one for runners as it requires more hip extension which is often lacking for runners. Having to extend the hip during push off while requiring more balance requires activation of the glutes – a neuromuscular pattern we are hoping for during your runs.

Do 2-5 reps in 1-2 sets working up to 10 reps of 3 sets over time

Curtsy Lunge

For this one, you are working in the sagittal (side) and frontal planes at the same time. This will help you learn how to stabilize during a powerful movement.

Do 5-10 reps in 1-2 sets working up to 15 reps of 3 sets over time

Lateral walks

This exercise strengthens the gluteal muscles needed during running. Place a resistance band around your ankles, squat down with your knees behind your toes.

Do 2 x 20 meters working up to 4 x 40 meters

Double or Single Leg Squat

Once you are able to do 10 double leg squats with proper form (no weight), move on to single leg squats. After all, running is a single-leg exercise as both feet are never on the ground at the same time. Make sure you have proper form before increasing your reps. Remember you are trying to develop proper muscle recruitment along with improving your strength.

Do 5-10 reps in 1-2 sets working up to 15 reps of 3 sets over time

Single-Leg Deadlift

A necessary exercise for sitting runners! This exercise gets at your glute and hamstring strength and teaches your body how to recruit these muscles under load. This is one of the best exercises for runners who have office jobs.

Do 5-10 reps in 1-2 sets working up to 15 reps of 3 sets over time

Clam Shells for Drop Glute Medius

Focusing on strengthening the gluteus medius these exercises were shown to be one of the best hip strengthening exercises. This is an easy one to cheat on so place your thumb on the side of your butt muscles and make sure you feel a contraction of the muscle. Adding a resistance band when it starts to get too easy will help you to continue to strengthen this muscle.

Do 5-10 reps in 1-2 sets working up to 15 reps of 3 sets over time


Arm swing is an import element of your running technique. Although you want to reserve your arm pumping for late in the run, you want to ensure you have it, especially for the more explosive races at high paces such as a 5K.

Do 10- 20 push-ups working up 50 push-ups over time

Marching Bridge

Glutes, Glutes, Glutes – the power house muscles for running. This exercises ensures that you are targeting them and work directly on strengthening them.

Hold for 30 seconds working up to 2 mins over time


In order to have proper mobility of your legs, you need adequate stability of your pelvis and trunk. This means that you have something to push against (along with the ground) as you move forward over the ground. Planks have been shown to be one of the best core exercises. You can increase your difficulty with planks by lifting a leg or an arm or eventually both. Just make sure you are maintaining good form when you increase your difficulty level. 

Hold for 30 seconds working up to 2 mins over time

Additional Resources:

Mark Allen’s 12 Best Strength Exercises, Mark Allen –

The 5 Best Exercises to Strength Your Hip Muscles and Prevent Injury, John Davis –

The Strength Moves that Every Runners Should be doing, Jason Fitzgerald (May, 2015) –

The Whole Body Fix, Katie McDonald Neitz (Feb, 2014) –