6 simple strength exercises for runners

Between work and family commitments, it can be hard to fit a run into a busy schedule. This is where these simple strength exercises for runners come in as they can be done virtually anywhere!

The key is finding a workout that you can not only fit into your busy lifestyle, but one that gets you results within a short space of time.

These exercises are beneficial for runners and have been designed with a busy schedule in mind. 

A 2016 study showed that adding at least two to three strength training sessions to your training routine per week are likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners.

The addition of two to three strength training sessions per week, which include a variety of strength training modalities are likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners.

They also share the same common theme – simplicity! Even better, you can do them from the comfort of your own home. 

simple strength exercises for runners

Lunges

Lunges are also some of the best leg exercises you can do to improve coordination and balance.

The basic lunge is what you have to master first before attempting any weighted lunges or variations on the basic lunge.

Once you’ve mastered the basic lunge and feel comfortable with it, you can build your way up and add weights. 

Here’s how to do a basic lunge:

  1. Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up (pick a point to stare at in front of you so you don’t keep looking down). Always engage your core.
  2. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
  3. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor.
  4. Keep the weight in your heels as you push back up to the starting position.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Do stationary lunges whilst you complete so common household tasks, like cooking or cleaning. 
  • Do walking lunges with weights on either side. Try some heavy cans of soup or bags of groceries.

Squat

Squats are an efficient way to improve your strength and can be completed in many different ways.

It’s probably one of my favourite strength exercises for runners.

Using your body weight only or by adding a weight into the mix like a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell (or cans of soup or grocery bags if you prefer). 

Many runners suffer from knee injuries (including myself) – squats are great for knee health if done properly.

If you have never squatted before, begin with the air squat (no added weight).

Here’s how to do a squat:

  1. Start by extending your arms in front of you.
  2. Sink your hips down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, making a 90-degree angle. The deeper the better.
  3. Go ahead and squat until your bum is below parallel.
  4. When standing back up, do not let your back cave in.
  5. Keep your knees behind your toes, your weight on your heels and your back straight while you squat.
  6. If this is too easy for you, go ahead and add a weight. Start small then build your way up.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Do 5 to 10 squats in between putting the laundry.
  • Do a few squats while picking up toys or vacuuming the floor. 
simple strength exercises for runners

Hip bridge

Spending all day sitting behind a desk is a shortcut to weak glutes and lower back problems.

All that time sitting too far forward causes your hip flexors to become tight and also results in the glutes effectively switching off.

Activating them as part of your training programme does wonders not only for your physique but for your structural health, and hip bridges are a good way to facilitate this switch.

You should feel the burn in your glutes and your hamstrings if you’re doing it correctly.

The hip bridge is also great for improving hip mobility and strengthening your lower back, two things that any mum can really benefit from. 

How to do a hip bridge:

  1. Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line.
  4. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
  5. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Do 10-15 hip bridges whilst you watch TV or listen to your favourite audio book.
  • Find a quiet space at work – either indoors or outdoors – and do 10-15 hip bridges along with other exercises listed in this blog.

Running and jumping on the spot

If you can’t go for a run as regularly as you’d like, running on the spot is a great way to burn energy and get some much needed cardio in your life.

There are countless variations to this exercise, including simply doing tiny hops from side to side or large movements bringing both knees up towards your chest at the same time. 

Run or jump in the same place for one minute or more at a time. This will increase your heart rate and you will soon feel the sweat. 

When to squeeze it in:

  • Consider running or jumping on the spot in your kitchen in between household chores.
  • Make it into a dance and run or jump with your kids in your living room or garden.
simple strength exercises for runners

Fire hydrant

Fire hydrants target the glutes and core. Strength exercises for runners that target these areas are very beneficial.

When done regularly, they can sculpt your glutes, improve back pain and lower the risk of common running injuries.

The key with this exercise is to keep your core and pelvis stable. Your hip should be the only thing moving.

You can even add ankle weights to this exercise to challenge your legs. 

How to do a fire hydrant:

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Place your shoulders above your hands and your hips above your knees. Tighten your core and look down.
  2. Lift your left leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Keep your knee at 90 degrees.
  3. Lower your leg to a starting position to complete 1 rep.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 reps. Repeat with the other leg.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Find some space in your living room and squeeze this in whilst your child is playing or watching TV. 
  • This one is also great to do as part of a stretching routine or yoga session. 
simple strength exercises for runners

Single leg raise

Side leg raises, like fire hydrants, work your glutes and engage your hips. The move is also called a standing lateral hip abduction.

Your hips are extremely important whilst running so it’s good to strengthen them when you can. 

How to do a single leg raise:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. If you’re using a resistance band, place it just above your knees.
  2. Straighten your spine and face your toes forward. Squeeze your core.
  3. With your right knee slightly bent, lift your left leg to the side. Pause.
  4. Slowly lower your leg to starting position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Repeat with the other leg.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Use a kitchen surface for balance whilst you do this one whilst cooking or cleaning. 
  • Practice the single leg raise whilst you watch TV. Make it into a game and hold it every time you see an advert showing food. 

What other strength exercises for runners do you recommend? Comment below!

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