The 10 Strength Training Exercises Every Runner Needs

Consistently incorporating these moves into your schedule will add strength and power to your running game.


If you’re not always inclined to get in your weekly strength-training workout, you’re not alone. As runners, we’re often down to hit the road rather than the weight room. But regularly incorporating strength training exercises into your routine will benefit your running by setting you up to become a stronger, faster and more efficient runner. It can also help you prevent injury.

That said, strength training for runners is different than it is for your standard gym rat. Instead of pushing weight away from the body with biceps curls, leg extensions, and bench presses, runners should focus on targeting the key muscles that will keep them balanced, moving forward, and injury-free.

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That’s why we asked our experts to come up with 10 essential strength training exercises for runners.

How to use this list: Perform these 10 exercises for the amount of reps listed below twice a week. For best results, add them to your easy or cross-training days. Each move below is demonstrated by Hollis Tuttle, certified personal trainer and run coach in New York City.

Depending on your skill level, you may want to make some moves harder or easier so you’ll also find modifications and progressions listed. That way, you can come back to this list over and over as you get stronger.

1. Plank

Works: core, lower back, shoulders

Julia Hembree Smith
  1. Start on all fours. Lower onto forearms with shoulders directly over elbows.
  2. Step feet back into a plank position.
  3. Draw shoulders down and back — not hunched. Engage abdominal muscles tight to keep hips in line with shoulders so body forms a long, straight line.
  4. Squeeze legs and glutes for support. Hold this position for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger.
  6. Repeat for 3-5 reps.

Make it easier: Drop to your knees.

2. Russian Twist

Works: core, obliques

  1. Start seated with knees bent 90 degrees, heels on floor, and hands clasped in front of chest.
  2. Engage abs and rotate upper body to the right as if you’re reaching right elbow to floor. Keep back tall and rotate from hips.
  3. Return to center.
  4. Then repeat on left side. That’s 1 repetition.
  5. Do 10-12 reps.

Make it harder: Keep your legs straight, lift heels off floor, or add a dumbbell as shown above.

3. Scorpion

Works: abs, hips, back

  1. Start lying face-down with arms out to sides to form a T, thumbs pointing up, and chin rested on floor so the neck is not strained.
  2. Bend left knee then swing leg to right to try to touch left toes to right shoulder.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds
  4. Then return to starting position.
  5. Repeat on opposite side with right leg. That’s 1 repetition.
  6. Do 3-5 reps.

Make it easier: Simply reach toe to opposite hip instead of shoulder. As you gain mobility and flexibility, you can progress to reach for shoulder.

4. Back Extension

Works: lower back, glutes, middle back, shoulders

  1. Lie facedown on a stability ball with feet spread wide for balance. Elbows should be bent with hands placed lightly behind ears.
  2. Squeeze glutes and lift torso up. Hold for 1-2 seconds.
  3. Release back down to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  4. Do 10-12 reps.

No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground.

Make it harder: Hold light dumbbells.

5. Squat to Overhead Press

Works: glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold dumbbells with both hands racked at shoulders.
  2. Send hips back and down to lower into a squat until thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. As you stand back up, press the dumbbells overhead.
  4. Lower weights back to shoulders.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Do 10-12 reps.

Make it easier: Do the squat without the dumbbells, or just hold one dumbbell at chest and perform squats without the press.

6. Overhead Forward Lunge

Works: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, core

  1. Start standing, holding one dumbbell straight above shoulders with both hands, with arms straight overhead.
  2. Step forward with right leg, and lower down until both knees bend 90 degrees.
  3. Press through right heel to stand back up.
  4. Repeat with left leg. That’s 1 repetition.
  5. Do 6-8 reps on each leg.

Make it easier: Perform the forward lunge without a dumbbell or hold it at shoulder level.

7. Stability Ball Pike-Up

Works: shoulders, core

  1. Start in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, but instead of placing feet on the floor, rest shins on a stability ball.
  2. Engage core to pull the stability ball toward chest and lift hips up as you roll the ball forward to the feet.
  3. Straight back out to plank position.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Do 10-12 reps.

Make it easier: Pull your knees as close as you can to your chest without lifting your hips into the air, then return to plank.

8. Stability Ball Leg Curl

Works: hamstrings, glutes, core

  1. Lie faceup on the floor, with hands at sides on mat and and feet on a stability ball. Keep arms to sides for support and balance.
  2. Lift hips up so the body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  3. Without allowing hips to drop, roll the ball as close as possible to hips by bending knees and pulling heels toward you.
  4. Straighten legs back out.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Do 6-8 reps.

Make it harder: Do the exercise with just one leg, holding the other leg in the air above your hips.

9. Rotational Shoulder Press

Works: shoulders, triceps, core

  1. Stand holding a pair of dumbbells racked at shoulders, with palms facing each other.
  2. Press right dumbbell overhead as you rotate from hips to the left.
  3. Lower the dumbbell as you rotate back to center.
  4. Then press left dumbbell overhead as you rotate to the right. That’s 1 repetition.
  5. Continue alternating for 6-8 reps.

Make it easier: Do half of the repetitions without the rotations.

10. Alternating Row

Works: middle back, biceps, core

  1. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other.
  2. With a microbend in the knees, hinge at hips and lower the torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor.
  3. Keep arms straight while bending at hips so the dumbbells hang straight down. This is the starting position.
  4. Bend left elbow to pull the left dumbbell to left rib.
  5. Lower back to starting position.
  6. Repeat on right side. That’s 1 repetition.
  7. Continue alternating for 10-12 reps.

Make it easier: Perform the move with both hands at once, which requires less core stability.

Julia Hembree Smith / Zack Kutos

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