5 Essential Strength Training Moves for Runners

You love to run. I am just like you. I love to run too. I came down with AOR (Adult Onset Runner) around the time I turned thirty. You see, I never played sports in high school, never ran track in college, never was interested in being active at all. When I first started running it was because I wanted to lose a few pounds. I had no idea it would change my whole life. I was clumsy and un-athletic. Actually, I am still clumsy and un-athletic, but that never stopped me from being a great runner! What tried to stop me were the nagging injuries. I would run and run and run. I thought the more running the better. 

But then I would get hurt and sidelined. Once I stopped running due to an injury (or sickness due to overtraining) I would lose my motivation for exercise and the weight would creep back on. I repeated this over and over again: Run too much, get hurt, stop running, gain weight, repeat. It was a terrible cycle and I learned to break it when I incorporated strength training (and recovery days) into my training. 

Now I run a lot less and strength train more. I still love to run and regularly run half marathons. Running is an important part of my training and my emotional wellbeing. There is nothing like hitting the pavement to clear my head, workout my body and release those feel-good endorphins. My goal in exercise is no longer to burn the most calories possible. I want to get stronger, build muscle and most importantly, stay healthy so I can keep running long into the future.

 five essential strength moves for runners

five essential strength moves for runners



The good news is that you don't have to spend hours in the gym if that is not your thing. Spend 30 minutes three times a week working on your strength and you might be surprised to find yourself a faster, healthier and a more balanced athlete. 

The Circuit

Complete the exercises in circuit style. Perform each exercise for one minute before moving to the next exercise without rest. Once you complete all five exercises in the circuit, take a one minute break before repeating the entire circuit two more times. In less than 30 minutes you will knock out these essential strength moves for runners. 

Warm up before beginning. 


Over time your body adapts to the stresses that you place upon it. That is why you'll find the exercises get easier after awhile. While it is nice that they feel easier, it is your sign that they are no longer as effective. I recommend starting this program using your bodyweight as the primary resistance. As you get stronger you can progress the exercises by adding weights. It is important to routinely evaluate your progress and increase the weight, intensity or time spent performing the exercises so that you can continually challenge yourself to get stronger.

After the description of each exercise, I added a tip on how to progress the exercise when you are ready. Generally it should take 3-6 weeks to adapt and be ready for the next progression, but every individual will progress at their own rate. 


The lunge is a great exercise for strengthening glutes, hamstrings and quads. We add a twist because runners move in only one plane of motion (Sagittal plane: front to back) so it is necessary to gain strength in the other planes of motion in order to stay balanced. 

With your feet hip width apart and your toes pointed straight ahead, hold your core stable with your back straight Take one large step to lunge forward until your front knee is lined up over your ankle and your back knee is nearly touching the floor. Do not allow your knee to go past your toes. Once you are in the lunge position, twist your torso in the same direction as your front leg. Push back up to standing and change legs. Repeat for one minute then switch legs.

To progress this exercise: add weight or hold the weight out with straight arms.


When you run you are essentially balancing on one leg at time repeatedly for the duration of your run. If you perform exercises unilaterally (one side at a time) it will help reduce muscle imbalances, improve core strength & stability and increase runner-specific strength. The single leg deadlift is an ideal exercise for runners.

Standing on one leg, keep your knee lightly bent and perform a deadlift by bending at your hip while keeping your back straight and neck neutral. Extend your free leg behind you in line with your body. Lower until your back is parallel to the floor. With your back straight return to the upright position. Repeat for one minute then switch legs. 

 single leg deadlift

single leg deadlift

To progress this exercise: add a dumb bell or kettlebell.


Core strength for runners is very important. Strengthening the muscles that make up your abs, hips, glutes, lower back and pelvis are critical to helping you become a stronger, faster, less injury-prone runner.

Start in a high straight arm plank position with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your legs wider than hip width for stability. Keep your body in a straight line from your shoulders to ankles while engaging your core. Do not allow your hips to hike up or sag down.

With your core tight and your glutes engaged lift your right elbow to row as you bend your elbow up toward the ceiling.

Twist to the right to move into a side plank position stacking your right leg over your left foot. Reach your arm to the ceiling and hold for 5 seconds before returning to plank position. Repeat for one minute then switch sides.

 row to side plank (part one)

row to side plank (part one)

 row to side plank (part two)

row to side plank (part two)

To progress this exercise: add a dumb bell or kettle bell.


Squats are a great exercise for runners because they help increase the strength needed to run faster on flat surfaces and get us up those hills.

Starting with your feet hip width apart push your hips back and then lower  your body by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor or as low as your flexibility will allow. In the low position, engage your core, squeeze your glutes and push up to standing Take a deep breath in as your lower to the squat and breath out as you explode up to standing. Repeat for one minute before moving on to the next exercise.



To progress this exercise: Try single leg squats or add weight. 


The hips and glutes generate the power to propel you forward during your stride. This exercise is fantastic for building both hip and glute strength for runners. 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Reach your arms over your head towards the ceiling while raising your hips off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause at the top then slowly lower your hips back to the floor. Repeat for one minute.

 hip thruster (bridge)

hip thruster (bridge)

To progress this exercise straighten one leg and lift off the floor while in the bridge position. Switch legs and repeat. 

It's important to remember that while I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your trainer. Please get clearance from a medical professional before beginning a new exercise program and consult with a fitness professional who knows your unique history, needs and abilities. 

 5 essential strength training moves for runners

5 essential strength training moves for runners


Running is no doubt a fantastic exercise for losing or maintaining weight, for building endurance and feeling great. To improve in running you have to run more, but as a personal trainer, I highly recommend balancing your running routine with some weekly strength training moves. It will help you become a stronger runner, help avoid injuries and keep you running healthfully long into the future! 

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Coach Lea