3 Circuit Workouts That Build Strength & Speed

Supplement your running routine with these cardio-meets-strength training circuits.

Ashley Mateo, Images: Julia Hembree Smith |

How many days do you run a week? Four? Five, six? And how many hours does that take up? As much as you love to lace up your shoes, logging so many kilometres doesn’t leave a ton of extra time for all the other workouts you should do to be a better runner: mobility training, yoga, and strength work. We’re all a little guilty of letting the cross-training and pre-hab work slip from time to time.

But, “runners need to constantly training smarter, not harder,” says Matt Nolan, master instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp. That’s where circuit workouts, where you combine high-intensity cardio and strength training in one workout, come in. “With a great circuit routine, you can hit every muscle group in a short amount of time and without a lot of equipment,” he explains.

This is especially important for runners, who – by the nature of the sport – tend to focus on their legs. “Sometimes we forget that we need a strong back, core, and arms to survive the training we put ourselves through,” Nolan says. And there are cardio and fat-burning benefits, too: “Strength circuits send your heart rate, and your metabolism, through the roof.”

The best part? You’ll never get bored during a circuit workout. “Play with different moves, play with new equipment, rearrange the order of the move, increase or decrease your reps or how heavy or light you go,” suggests Nolan. “The possibilities will always be endless.” To get started, try Nolan’s circuit workouts below.

Here are the exercises you’ll need to know for this circuit, demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ run coach:

1. Treadmill + Strength Circuit Workouts

Squat to Overhead Press

Note: Warm up easy, then perform some dynamic drills such as high knees, butt kicks, and side shuffles. As the runs get shorter, increase speed by 0.5 or one full point. Your run should be done at 85 percent max effort.

Reverse Alternating Lunge to Biceps Curl

Alternating Plank Row

Mountain Climber

For the strength portion: You’ll need two medium-weight dumbbells.


Finish with an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) set: Set a timer for 8 minutes, and complete as many rounds as possible—aim for 7 to 11 rounds.

  • Squat to Overhead Press: 6 reps
  • Reverse Alternating Lunge to Biceps Curl: 6 reps, 3 on each side
  • Alternating Plank Row: 6 reps, 3 on each side
  • Mountain Climber: 20 reps

2. Outdoor Speed + Bodyweight Circuit Workouts

Here are the exercises you’ll need to know for this circuit, demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ run coach:


Note: For your next outdoor run, warm up easy for 10 to 15 minutes. Then perform the below exercises and speed drills. If you are not on or near a track, simply estimate the distance using a run watch or perform each drill for around 30 seconds.


Reverse Lunge

Alternating Shoulder Tap

V-Sit Leg Extension


3. 300 Rep Ab Challenge Circuit Workout

A strong core is essential for strong running. On your strength training days or after an easy run, try this core challenge. Start with one set of each exercise to build strength, and when you can complete 100 reps (20 reps of 5 moves), then add a second and third set.

Here are the exercises you’ll need to know for this circuit, demonstrated by Jess Movold, Runner’s World+ run coach:


Oblique Extension

Twisting Sit-Up

Bicycle Crunch

Leg Raise With Crunch


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