Cross-Training For Trail Runners

Roads, for the most part, are steady and predictable. Trails are not.

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Roads, for the most part, are steady and predictable. Trails are not.


On the trail, every footfall is different. If you land on a rock or slippery moss, your body has to be able to stabilise itself.

To prepare for the task, add plyometric (jumping), core strength, and flexibility exercises into your routine.


Trail running is a mini plyo workout. You jump to leap over a stream, avoid mud, or to land on a rock. But if a trail run is your first plyometric workout, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons might not be strong enough to keep you upright or to handle the impact from all directions.

Perform these exercises, ideally on a soft surface (dirt, grass, rubber padding at gym), once or twice a week after an easy run or on an off day.



This two-part exercise prepares the quads for the abuse they’ll take on descents. Part one approximates the impact the quads experience on downhills; part two strengthens the entire leg.


  • Jump off a 15cm step (or kerb).
  • Then immediately jump up as high as you can.
  • Step back up onto the step and repeat.
  • Start with three to five repetitions (one set).
  • After three sessions, add another set.
  • Increase reps to eight.

Single-Leg Jumps


This exercise increases ankle strength and stability as well as proprioception – the body’s ability to tell where it is in space – which helps to improve your overall balance.


Stand on one foot and jump from side to side and then back and forth (in a criss-cross pattern) rapidly 10 times on each leg.

The goal is balance, not height or distance, so jump gently. When this becomes easy, do it with your eyes closed.

Skip and Jump 


Skipping and jumping develops explosive power and strength in the legs and hips that enable quick and safe negotiations of technical terrain.


(1) Skip for height for 15 steps, then skip for distance for 15 steps. Do two or three sets.


(2) This is a lateral leaping exercise (shown right):

  • Start with feet together and jump sideways.
  • Land, and then jump back to your starting position.
  • Repeat 15 times.
  • Build to three sets.
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