Five of the best strengthening exercises for runners - Women's Running

5 strengthening exercises for runners

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  May 15, 2015

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If you look at most training programmes, be it for a 5K, 10K or marathon, they will almost always feature a strength training aspect. But what exactly is ‘strength training’ and more importantly, how do you do it?

Strength work is an integral part of a runner’s training in becoming a stronger, faster runner. Strengthening exercises target key muscles to build strength and iron out muscular imbalances, not only improving running efficiency but also helping to prevent injury.

Here’s five great exercises, to carry out from home, which focus on building strength in the legs and core.



Areas trained: Core and back muscles (transversus abdominus, paraspinals)

Why do it? Strong core muscles prevent back pain and support your running stride.


  • Lie on the floor with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Lift your hips off the floor to form a straight line between your shoulders, hips and feet.
  • Breathe normally while holding the position for at least 20 seconds.

Be safe: If you feel pain in your lower back lift your bottom slightly higher to prevent your lower back from over-arching.

Cycling crunches


Areas trained: Stomach and side muscles (rectus abdominus and obliques)

Why do it? Strong stomach muscles will help you run faster, improve balance and develop a strong posture.


  • Lie on your back with your knees at right angles.
  • Keep your hands next to your head.
  • Pull your belly button in but don’t hold your breath.
  • Cross your left leg over with your left knee while extending the right leg.
  • Return to the other side.
  • Alternate between left and right.

Be safe: Don’t allow your lower back to arch off the floor.

Weighted Wide Squats





Areas trained: Front thighs, bottom (quadriceps, glutes)

Why do it? The stronger your thighs are the more power you can generate. Thus the longer it will take for your legs to experience fatigue when you run.


  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, with your feet turned out to a 45-degree angle.
  • Hold the weight with both hands.
  • Bend your knees to perform a squat.
  • Only lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the starting position.

Be safe: Keep your upper body upright. Don’t lean forward.

Pulsing Lunges


pulsing lunges


Area trained: Front thighs (quadriceps)

Why do it? The top and bottom part of your muscles are weaker than the middle part. By only training a small part of the range of motion you can increase the strength of your thighs.


  • Stand with your right leg in front of your left.
  • Bend your knees lower until your left knee is touching the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Lift your left knee two to three inches off the floor.
  • Slowly lower down back to the floor.
  • Complete one set before changing over legs.

Be safe: Keep your upper body upright; don’t lean forward.

Single Leg Sit Down and Stand Up


single leg sit down



Areas trained: Front thighs, core muscles (quadriceps, transversus abdominus)

Why do it? Normally one of our legs is stronger than the other which can lead to injuries. By training your legs individually you can significantly reduce the imbalances between them thus preventing injuries.


  • Sit on a bench or step.
  • Keep your right foot on the floor and extend your left leg out in front of you.
  • Stand up by using only your right leg.
  • Sit down with control.
  • Complete one set before changing to the other side.

Be safe: Initially you may struggle with your balance. Contract your stomach muscles to help this.

Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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