6 Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners | happyfitmama.com

If you are a runner, you know you should be strength training.

Now be honest, do you actually strength train consistently?

I know how easy it is to forget about strength training. Believe me, I get it. We are runners, we want to run ALL the miles.

It’s very true that you need to run to make you a stronger and faster runner. That’s a fact. The more your run, the better you become at it. But when you run all the miles, you need all the strength to keep your body running injury free. You may have legs of steel from doing hill repeats or 800s on the track, but your WHOLE body needs strength training to combat the repetitive stress you do with each run.

You don’t need fancy gym equipment to strength train. It most certainly makes it more interesting, but it’s not necessary.

If you aren’t strength training regularly right now or have no idea where to start, these 6 essential strength training exercises for runners are a good place to start. They are simple, basic, bodyweight moves that can be done anywhere.  No equipment or gym membership needed.


The squat is a basic move that everyone, runner or not, can benefit from. It strengthens all the major muscles in the legs from glutes, quads, hips and hamstrings.  Once you have the basic move mastered, progress to single leg squats to mimic the running motion.


A strong core is the foundation of a strong runner.  Planks are a basic move that hits the core.  There are many variations of plank – forearm plank, side plank, shoulder taps, plank ups and downs, etc.


Lunges strengthen the quads, hamstrings and glutes. There are tons of variations (front, traveling lunges, reverse, lateral). Mix it up to move the body in the different planes.

Push ups 

You may think a runner doesn’t need to worry about upper body strength.  Not true!  Upper body strength will help power you through the last miles of a marathon when fatigue hits.  And you’ll need that arm strength to pump your arms up a big hill.

Single leg deadlifts

Running requires powerful glutes.  The single leg deadlift isolates the glute in addition to the hamstrings.  Doing the exercise on one leg, helps build balance and coordination, two things runners need more of.

Glute bridges

The ultimate glute strengthener is the bridge.  Strong glutes keep your pelvis level and steady. It propels your leg up and forward.  It’s your powerhouse.  A lot of runners (myself included) are quad dominant.  A basic glute bridge fires up the glutes.  I like to do this exercise before a run to activate the glutes and let them know I need them on my run. Progress this exercise to single leg to make it more difficult.

If you need some workout ideas, here are 6 different workouts that include the essential strength training exercises every runner should be doing.

Essential Exercises for Running Injuries


Bodyweight Tabata

Injury Prevention Exercises for Runners

Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

30 Minute No-Equipment Needed Workout

No-Equipment Required Body Blast

Do you strength train?

What’s your favorite strength training exercise?

Linking up with Coaches Corner.

20 comments on “6 Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners

  1. Some variation of those exercises are my go-tos for most strength workouts. Strength training doesn’t have to be complicated exercises, the basics work well! I do love deadbugs also for core strength and shoulder/hip mobility.

    1. Exactly! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the more advanced variations of exercises that a lot of runners don’t realize that the basics do you good too.

  2. I love that a bunch of us were all thinking of at-home exercises to enhance our running 😉 I do most of these, pretty consistently, but often times mix them into HIIT intervals. Great variety!!

  3. I’m one of those runners who has really neglected strength training but I have made more of an effort this year and my biggest surprise has been how beneficial upper body work is. Thanks for all these ideas. I really need all the ideas I can get.

    1. Barre is really great for building strength but adding in these basics will help a lot. And single leg balance is HUGE for runners. Get on that girl!

  4. Some really great advice! One thing I’ve also found to be helpful is to do shorter workouts and not do a full hour of exercise. I have found that doing the full hour can actually put more stress on my body than doing more frequent and shorter workouts. NowLifestyle has a 7 minute workout that they do and it has been really helping! If you want to know more here is their link https://nowlifestyle.com/go/vip-1d?id=Teresa55

  5. Hi there. Great information! I have just start workout for 2 months. This must be a good guide for new runner like me. However, I have a problem with body acne. I think it may come from sweaty. So, I find some antibacterial soaps from https://www.womenangle.com/best-antibacterial-soaps/. I found a positive result. But I also need some more tips to take care of my skin. Do you have any idea? Please share. Thank you in advance.

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