Do you want to be a faster, stronger runner? Then you need these must-do bodyweight exercises. Strength training is essential for runners. It helps runners prevent injury, gives you the power to be a faster better runner, and improves your running efficiency.
You don’t need a gym membership to strength train. These exercises can all be done at home without any equipment. Just adding 2 to 3 short strength training sessions a week into your training schedule can make a huge difference to your running performance.
So let’s dive in and find out which are the best bodyweight exercises for runners…
What Are Bodyweight Exercises?
Bodyweight exercises are any exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. These can be exercises like push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks.
Often bodyweight resistance is all a beginner runner needs to get started with strength training. As you become more experienced, you can progress to using additional resistance in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, or a resistance band.
But for now, let’s focus on the best bodyweight exercises that all runners can do at home without any equipment.
Are Bodyweight Strength Exercises Enough For Runners?
It depends on your goals and the type of running you’re targeting. If you compare track athletes and marathon runners they have very different training requirements.
Track athletes will strength train for power and speed. Marathon runners need strong muscles to stay injury-free and improve their running efficiency.
Most distance runners will get enough benefits from bodyweight training but as you become stronger it’s a good idea to challenge your body further. This could be with additional resistance or by adding in more challenging exercises.
Related post: Is Running Good For You?
Is Bodyweight Training Good For Runners?
Running is a repetitive action with all movement in a straight line in just one plane of motion – the sagittal plane. This can lead to some big problem areas for runners – a runner’s body can have weak hips, glutes, hamstrings, and ankles. All of these areas are essential to run with good form. When they are weak, it can lead to injuries.
It’s not just the lower body that needs to be strong when you’re a runner. Trust me – with a strong upper body and core you’ll find it much easier to power through your long run.
Bodyweight exercises can make a big difference to your running performance. They help to correct muscle imbalances – where one side is weaker than the other, strengthen joints, and improve your running economy. A strong body helps you run with proper form.
This 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine concludes that most middle and long-distance runners will benefit from 2 to 3 strength training sessions per week.
What Exercises Do Runners Need?
A good strength training program will target your specific weaknesses. The body weight exercises I recommended here are great exercises for most beginner runners.
However, you may find that a personal trainer or running coach will tailor your bodyweight workout specifically to your individual needs.
How Many Times A Week Should A Runner Strength Train?
The key is to fit in a great workout around your training sessions for running. 2-3 short sessions a week will get you the best results. These sessions don’t need to be long – just 15 minutes is often enough.
Don’t try a strength session before you run – fit them in after easy runs or possibly speed sessions.
Too much strength training will affect your ability to train and leave you with heavy legs when running – so don’t overdo it!
The Exercises Are Too Hard
Some people will find these bodyweight workouts straightforward and others will find them hard. If you’re struggling find a way to regress the exercise.
For example, you can use your sofa for support for split squats and lunges, regress a side plank leg lift to a side lying leg lift, and start with a double leg glute bridge before progressing to the single leg version.
The aim is to challenge your body but not strain your body. When you’re trying a new bodyweight exercise – less is more. Start with just a few repetitions and don’t overdo it. The exercises should help you stay injury free – you don’t want the exercises to cause injuries by pushing too hard with an untrained body. So always find a way to regress the exercise if there’s any risk of straining.
11 Of The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Runners
Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise and aim to complete the entire set 2 – 3 times per week. A complete set should take around 15 minutes. Don’t rush – complete each exercise smoothly with good form and posture.
#1 Single Leg Glute Bridge
As the name suggests this is a great exercise for targeting your glutes and gives good hip extension with core stability.
If you’re like me you’ll find that one side is stronger than the other. I like to throw in a few extra reps on my weak side.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
- Straighten your left leg and flex your foot. Raise your left leg so it’s in line with your right leg.
- Keep your upper back on the floor, engage your glutes and raise your hips. Squeeze those glutes tight! Make sure you’re feeling the effort in your glutes and not your hamstrings.
- Lower your hips to the floor and repeat 10 times. At the end of your set repeat with the right leg.
Regression: keep both feet on the floor and perform a double-leg glute bridge.
#2 90 90 Push Backs
This exercise I’ve borrowed from Tom Morrison. If you want to get to old age and still be able to move, I can highly recommend his mobility program.
- Start on the floor with your right knee in front and your legs in a 90 – 90 shape, each leg forming a 90-degree angle.
- Keep your body as close to upright as possible.
- Raise your rear leg and push back the rear foot parallel to the ground.
- Bring back into the body and repeat keeping the rear leg off the ground throughout the set. Repeat 10 times, then repeat the set with your left knee in front.
Regression: Use a hand to support your body.
This is an excellent exercise for your lower back but it also works your glutes, hamstrings, upper body, and abdominals.
- Start on your stomach with arms straight in front and legs straight behind.
- Lift your arms and legs off the floor keeping your head in a neutral position. Aim for your hands and feet to be about 4-6 inches off the floor.
- Hold for 2-3 seconds.
- Lower to your starting position and repeat 10 times.
Regression: Take it in turns to raise your upper body and lower body until you’re strong enough to raise both at once.
As one of the best-known core exercises, the plank doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s one of the best bodyweight exercises for runners for improving running posture and of course core strength.
Make sure you keep your back straight to form a straight line when you’re doing this exercise and don’t let your hips sag.
- Start in a plank position facing downwards and resting on your forearms and toes.
- With your core engaged try and keep your body in a straight line. Your shoulders should be down – not up around your ears.
- Hold for the plank position for 30 seconds. As you get stronger try and hold for longer, working up to holding the plank position for 2+ minutes.
#5 Side Plank Leg Lift
Another great exercise for a strong core!
- Start in a plank position resting on your elbows and with your core muscles engaged.
- Rotate your body so you’re resting on one elbow with your feet stacked on top of each other.
- Try and lift the upper leg in the air without letting your hips drop.
- Hold for a few seconds. Lower the leg and repeat from this position. Try for 10 repetitions on each side.
Regression: Get into the starting position resting on one elbow and hold.
#6 Windshield Wipers
This is a good exercise for working your obliques.
- Start lying on your back with your knees together and bent at right angles to your body, arms straight out on either side.
- Raise your feet just off the floor and slowly lower your stacked legs to one side.
- Without touching the ground, raise back up and lower to the other side before returning to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times.
Make this exercise harder by trying with your legs outstretched.
#7 Split Squats
Another favorite exercise of mine. Split squats build strength and improve mobility in your ankles and knees.
It’s easy to confuse split squats with lunges but this great video will clear up any confusion.
Aim for 10 repetitions on both legs.
Regression: Hold onto a door frame or rest a hand on your sofa.
#8 Reverse Lunges
Many of you will have heard of the forward lunge – I like to do mine as a walking lunge around the house, but reverse lunges are a better option if you have any knee issues.
- Start in a standing position and engage your core muscles.
- Take a big step backward with your left foot.
- Sink your right knee until it’s at 90 degrees and at the same time lower your left knee so it’s hovering just off the floor.
- Push back up and return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times on each side.
#9 Single Calf Raises
These bodyweight exercises for runners are so important. Your calf muscles absorb impact and propel you forward. Try hopping on one foot at a time to test for weakness.
- Start by standing on one leg.
- Slowly rise up onto the ball of your foot raising your heel as far off the ground as possible.
- Hold then slowly lower to the starting position.
- Repeat up to 15 times on each side.
Regression: Start with lower reps or start by standing on both legs and raising both heels at the same time.
#10 The Squat
The squat position works your lower body and core. Plus it’s a good exercise for improving your hip mobility.
- Stand with your legs just over hip-width apart, feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your back straight and your chest upright.
- Bend at the knees and squat down as far as possible.
- Drive through your heels to return to the standing position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
#11 Single-Leg Deadlifts
This is an excellent exercise for targeting your glutes, hamstrings and lower back while working on your balance.
- Start with your weight on one leg. Engage your glutes.
- Hinge at the hips and tilt your body forward with your weight-bearing leg slightly bent and your free leg pivoting straight out behind you.
- Keep your back straight.
- Reach your hands to the floor in front of you.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 – 15 times on each leg.
Make it harder for yourself and challenge those hips with some clockwork single-leg deadlifts!
This is a selection of some of the best bodyweight exercises for runners. For consistent improvement, seek out exercises that target any weaknesses. If you find a movement difficult, it’s probably something you should be focusing on improving.
Aim for steady continuous improvement by working these bodyweight exercises into your weekly training. It’s a good way to prevent injuries and improve your running performance.