Running Strength Exercises

While runners may not boast bulky muscles, strength work is still important to their sport. Their muscles must serve as internal shock absorbers when logging long miles. Strength work also builds connective tissue–the tendons that attach muscles to bone and ligaments that attach bone to bone. Strength train two to three days a week, and don’t couple it with a long run or track workout. Any injured athlete should check with a health care provider before attempting strength work.

Core Exercises

A strong core means more than flashing six-pack abs. This area, encompassing both the abdominal and spinal muscles, is a power source for runners. As legs are pumping, a stable core supports your stride. Work your core at home with body weight exercises and an exercise mat. Crunches, planks and bridges are great to start. The bridge exercise requires lying on your back with bent knees. Raise your hips off the floor and align them with the knees. Variations of these exercises also can be done on a stability ball.

Running-Specific Exercises

These are activities that most closely resemble the act of running. Two-legged squats using only body weight is a good starting point to work your leg muscles as well as your abs and lower back. A one-leg squat more resembles the act of running where weight is focused on one leg at a time. Lunging forward and laterally develops strength and also aids balance. Another option is a “step up” where one foot is flat on a bench and the other one is brought up so both feet are together on top of the bench.


Those relying on explosive speed can use plyometrics to train their muscles to fire more quickly. Examples include running with an oversized stride (bounding), leaping, jumping and hopping. These should be done after warming up properly and on a soft surface such as grass to reduce the chance of injury. Given the explosive nature of these exercises, an athlete should have a base of strength training and mileage before attempting them.

About this Author

Based in Texas, Jennifer Wilford has been writing about sports, health and parenting since 1992. A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, her stories have appeared in the Kansas City Star, Columbia Daily Tribune and Mizzou magazine. She also created Oh Mama!, a blog for