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Woman doing a dumbbell row.

Strength training for running: 7 exercises to boost running performance

Strength training is of the utmost importance for running – the sport puts immense strain on your body, so the stronger you are, the better. Strong core improves running form, strong shoulders help support forward momentum and strong arms can even help you run faster. 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to become a gym-junkie overnight. But adding a few strength training exercises into your routine will go a long way toward improving your overall running performance and preventing injuries.

Most of these exercises don’t require any equipment, so you can do them in the comfort of your home or garden and begin to measure the impact of strength training on your running straight away.

Squats

Stephanie Ede demonstrating a squat.

Starting off with the infamous squat. A squat is a multi-joint exercise that predominantly works the hamstrings, hips, quadriceps and glutes. From side squats, to squat jumps, to squats with weights, there are all manner of variations which are guaranteed to help propel you when running.   

If you’re just starting out with strength training, then we’d recommend doing these as a bodyweight exercise, and they make for a fantastic leg exercise for runners to do at home. Make sure to keep your back straight and don’t let your knees extend over your toes, brace your core and keep your chest up. For ultimate results, try to squeeze as many muscles as possible.

Don’t worry if you’re hobbling down the stairs the morning after your first set of squats – this is normal.

Plank

Woman doing a plank strength exercise for running.
Stephanie Ede demonstrating a plank.

Plank is the ultimate full body strength exercise and you’ll be amazed how much you can get a sweat on while remaining static. From side planks, to forearm planks, to knee to elbow planks, they’re an exercise that constantly gets results (and that you can do anywhere, anytime).

To get the most out of your plank, concentrate on form. Start by laying on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and raise yourself upwards until your body is in a straight line.

Remember, this isn’t a competition and you don’t need to hold your first plank for 5 minutes. Start by setting yourself micro-goals and take it from there.

Lunges

Woman doing a weighted lunge exercise strength exercise for running.
Stephanie Ede demonstrating a weighted lunge.

Lunges focus on the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes and core, giving you the strength to improve your running. By creating a deep-body stretch, lunges tap into your body to sense any discomfort, and are a particularly good exercise for preventing knee pain. 

As with planks and squats, lunges have many variations. We’d recommend starting with a standard lunge: stand up tall, step forward with one foot and lower your hips until both legs are bent at a 90 degree angle. Return the foot to the starting position and switch. You should feel a tight, satisfying stretch in your back thigh.

As with squats, bodyweight lunges are the perfect leg exercise for runners to do at home. If this feels too easy then why not add some dumbbells?

Dumbbell row

Woman doing a dumbbell row strength exercise for running.
Stephanie Ede demonstration a dumbbell row.

A common worry for runners is that weights will make them bulky and hold them back, however this simply isn’t the case. Weight exercises build muscle and add the stability and balance you need for good running form. With that in mind, dumbbell rows are one of the best weighted exercises for runners – working on back, shoulder and arm strength.

A dumbbell row workout does rely on access to equipment. But, that said, you can get creative with your arm rest – try out a kitchen chair, a garden bench, or even the sofa.

For form, hold the weight in your hand, put your other hand on the rest, and keep your arm straight. With your weight arm at a right angle, pull it up using only the muscles in your back – and switch. Trust me, you’ll feel the burn with this one.  

Yoga

Woman doing a yoga pose for running.
Stephanie Ede demonstrating a cobra pose.

Yoga is perfect for your days off running. By stretching the body and allowing you to tune into how it’s feeling, yoga boosts flexibility and improves posture, while also establishing any sore areas. Above that, it’s a great exercise for your headspace, making it ideal for switching off and relaxing.

Yoga isn’t one size fits all, and there are a variety of classes you can to try. Hatha yoga, for example, is great for posture and breathing, whereas ashanta yoga focuses more on strength and tightening core muscles. If you’re not sure where to start, then check out out our pre run yoga routine.

Press ups

Woman doing a press up strength exercise for running.
Stephanie Ede demonstrating a press-up.

Press ups are hard, fact. As a result, runners can often overlook them – we’d recommend you don’t. Working the arms, shoulders and core, press-ups help posture and form, enabling you to run faster and longer without getting injured. 

Without sounding like a broken record, form here is key. Do them slowly and purposefully, keep your core tight, your back straight and focus on body alignment. Practise press ups in the mirror or with a friend to nail your form and get the most out of the exercise. 

Remember, if you’re not quite ready for the full press-up then a knee press up still works all the same muscles.

Glute leg raises

Woman doing a glute leg raise exercise for running.
Stephanie Ede demonstrating a glute raise.

Every runner should aim for strong glutes. Glutes hold the pelvis level and steady, they extend the hips and, crucially, they help propel us forward when running. With that in mind – always look to incorporate glute exercises into your strength training. 

Our favourite exercise is glute leg raises. These are particularly great for runners because they mimic the motion of running, while also working the hamstrings, lower back and abs. So, if you’re looking for a leg exercise at home which will help your running, then definitely add glute leg raises into your strength workout.

Simply kneel on the floor with your feet flat and extend one leg up towards the sky. Squeeze your glutes for maximum impact, and switch. For starters, we’d recommended trying 5 reps on each leg.

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Briony is a writer currently living in London. While she spends a lot of time hunched over a desk trying to craft sentences, her other passion is running. She enjoys setting her own goals and is currently training for her second half marathon.

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