What Strength Exercises Should Runners Do?

As I mentioned in my goal post a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been incorporating some strength work into my weekly routine for about 6-7 weeks now. I feel a difference – in literally every single run. Speedwork has been faster, long runs feel more comfortable and easy runs have been effortless (I have been running garmin-free for these so not sure about paces). It’s likely due to a few factors (reducing processed foods and sweets) but one of them is definitely the strength work that is now a regular addition to my weekly training plan.

Below are a few of my favorite moves – I will preface this all by saying that I am not an expert, certified trainer or anything along those lines. So there may be more efficient moves that I can be doing or maybe I should be doing more reps, less weight – but these seem to be working for me. I tried to explain them as best I could as well!

I’ve also been hesitant to share them because regardless of how I feel in training, the true test of whether strength work is paying off will come on race day. But I don’t want to wait 2-3 months to share what I truly feel has been working. All I know is how I feel right now – my stride feels stronger and runs just feel easier – which is making me enjoy more of each run than I can remember.

There are a lot of variations to the moves I’m sharing – you can increase the number of reps, number of sets, add in weights (increase weights), etc. Currently, I perform 15 on each leg – and go through the entire sequence two-three complete times – while using 10 lb weights (in each hand).

Lastly, I typically do this workout on an easy day. My week usually has one speed or tempo day and one long day, so I’ll do this on the first easy day (which gives me the next day as easy running to recover) or I’ll do it after the speed workout.

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  • Forward Lunges: Weights in both hands. Lunge forward with your right leg. Then back to start position. Lunge forward with left. Repeat 20-30x (10-15 on each side)
  • Deadlifts: Weights in both hands. Standing upright. Then lean over at the waist and bring weights to your toes. Stand back up. Repeat 10-15x
  • Box/Bench Steps: Weight in both hands. Use a 12-18 in high step. Step up with your right leg and bring your left knee to your chest. Step onto step with your left and step down with your right and then left. Repeat with right leg 10-15x. Repeat with left leg.
  • Side Bends: Weight in both hands. Use a 12-18 in high step. Step up with your right leg and bring your left knee to your chest. Step onto step with your left and step down with your right and then left. Repeat with right leg 10-15x. Repeat with left leg.
  • Foot-Elevated Single Leg Squats: Weights in both hands. Use 12-18 in step (keep it behind you). Keep right foot on step and go up and down so you are lunging with your left leg. Repeat 10-15x. Then repeat with the right leg.
  • Push-ups (1 minute): I do as many regular pushups as I can before going to my knees.
  • Squats: Weights in both hands. Legs shoulder-width apart. Go all the way down (don’t let your knees pass your toes) and then up. Repeat 10-15x.
  • Plank with leg legs (1 min): Get into normal plank position. Lift right leg in air and hold for 5 seconds. Lower. Lift left leg and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat.
  • Wide-Stance Leg Squats: Weights in both hands. Open your stance wider than shoulder width and turn your legs out (toes are not pointing forward). Go down then come up. Repeat 10-15x.
  • Russian Twists: Keep back at 45 degree angle with your legs either on the floor or in the air (more advanced) so your body is making a “V”. Start with no weight (build up to 10-15 lbs) and twist your upper body to the right then to lift (that’s one rep). Repeat 15-30x.
  • Wall Sits: With or without weights. Start with 30-45 sec and gradually increase by 15 seconds.
  • V-ups: Lie flat on the floor. Keeping your legs straight, lift them up in the air. At the same time, bring your upper body up to a sitting position so you can touch your toes. Let your upper body and legs return to the starting, flat position. Repeat 10-15x.

I typically stretch or add in a couple of core exercises after each iteration – it allows my legs to take a break while keeping my heart rate up.

absDo you incorporate strength work on a regular basis? 
What is your favorite strength exercise? 

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    25 thoughts on “What Strength Exercises Should Runners Do?

    1. Pingback: Link Love #2 | Running.Food.Baby

    2. This routine looks great! How long does one full run through take you? And how many times a week do you aim for?

        • Thanks so much for this info (especially since I just realized that I posted the same question twice– didn’t realize that the first time worked!). I went through the workout on Monday and I’m still sore! Great workout! Thanks again!

    3. This looks great! Can’t wait to try it!
      How long does it take you to do this routine through one time? And (you might have said this and I missed it), but how many times a week do you do it?

    4. My running resolution this year is to incorporate more core and strength training, and right off the bat I’ve been forced to focus on this due to being sidelined for the past six weeks with ITBS. In addition to cross-training (elliptical, bike, and swimming) and foam rolling, I’ve been doing core and strength 5-6 days per week, incorporating planks, single-leg deadlifts, squats, lunges, russian twists, bicep curls, tricep dips, push-ups. I also do a HIIT or tabata circuit twice a week. I try to mix up the moves and do them in different sequences to keep my muscles confused (and not get bored!). Thanks so much for sharing your routine! It’s so great that you can really tell a difference with your runs!

    5. I am working on rehabbing a knee and have been doing more pt type exercises but they seem to be helping. Muscles need balance and strength. So once I get this balance part fixed I’ll work on adding strength. It is amazing how weak a runners hips can be. We spend so much time moving forward but the hips get little work that way. Thanks for sharing. I am going to bookmark for my phase 2 :)
      Sally @ sweat out the small stuff recently posted..What are you willing to sacrifice to fit in a run?My Profile

    6. Great Post! I love how you listed the different moves and descriptions! I have been incorporating more strength and core work into my weekly running schedule. Hips and glute work is a priority for me! I use a few different apps on my iphone and ipad to follow and stay consistent. It just works for me. Thanks for the informative post!