14 Running-Specific Strength Training Exercises

woman performing a plank


Although strength training is excluded from many runners' training programs or treated as occasional cross-training to be carried out on non-running days, it is the backbone of great endurance training.

When race preparation is planned to include phases of general strengthening, such as running-specific strengthening, hill training, and explosive work, running fitness can be maximized. Each form of strengthening builds on the previously completed modalities. Mix and match these running-specific exercises to build the strength, agility, and explosiveness you need to conquer challenging hill intervals and speed workouts.

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1. Squats

Squats

With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down pushing your knees out and your butt back into an invisible chair. Keep your back straight, with your neutral spine, and your chest and shoulders up. Keep looking straight ahead at that spot on the wall. Repeat 10-12 reps.

2. Speed Skaters

Speed Skaters

Begin by stepping your right leg behind your left, so that the legs are crossed at the thighs and there are several feet of distance between each foot. Laterally hop and transfer your weight to the other leg, crossing your left leg behind the right. Repeat 20 times.

3. Jump Squats

jump squats

With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down pushing your knees out and your butt back into an invisible chair. Keep your back straight, with your neutral spine, and your chest and shoulders up. Keep looking straight ahead at that spot on the wall. On the way up, explode from your heels up into the air and land softly back into your squat. Repeat 10-12 reps.

4. Long Jumps

long jumps

With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down and explode forward using your arms to also propel yourself further. Land softly and repeat 10 reps.

5. Bird Dogs

bird dogs

Starting on your hands and knees, simultaneously raise your opposite arm and leg. Your arm should extend parallel to the ground while your leg creates a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core tight. In a controlled motion, lower your arm and leg. Switch sides and repeat 10 times on each side.

6. Pistol Squats

pistol squats

Stand on one leg with your arms extended out in front for balance and with the opposite leg extended straight leg forward as high as possible. Squat down as far as possible while keeping the opposite leg elevated off the floor. Keep your back straight and supporting knee pointed same direction as your foot. Raise back up. Repeat 10 reps and switch legs.

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7. Lunges

Lunges

Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Want more of a challenge? Add weight with dumbbells or kettlebells.

8. One-Legged Heel Raise

One-Legged Heel Raise

Stand with one foot. Use a wall or banister for balance if needed. Adopt a running-specific posture with the hip and knee of the supporting leg flexed slightly. Use the calf muscles of that leg to lift the heel up as high as possible, and rock forward onto the toes. Complete 10 smooth, rhythmic reps on that leg. Rest for a few seconds and then repeat the sequence on the other leg.

9. One-Legged Hops

One-Legged Hops

Standing on one foot, hop up and down 15 times then switch legs. Perform the exercise without shoes to activate more muscles in your feet as well.

10. Side Plank

side plank

Raise your body up on your forearm and bottom foot. Elevate your hips and keep your core tight. Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute. Switch sides.

11. Plank

plank

Hold a plank position on your forearms or in push-up position and hold for 30 seconds to a minute at a time. Keep your hips level and your core tight.

12. Clamshells

Clamshells

Lie on one side with your knees at a 45-degree angle. Keep your feet together as you raise your upper knee as high as you can, without moving the hips or pelvis. For increased difficulty, add a resistance band around your knees. Repeat for 15 reps on each side.

13. Side Shuffles

side shuffles

Squat down and shuffle in a controlled motion to one side 10 steps. Repeat to the other side. Add a resistance band around your knees for added muscle activation.

14. Burpees

burpees

Start out in a low squat position with your hands on the floor. Next, jump the feet back to a push-up position, complete one push-up, then immediately return the feet to the squat position. Leap up as high as possible before squatting and moving back into the push-up portion of the movement. Repeat for 12-15 reps.

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