5 Strengthening Exercises for Runners That You Should Do

December 3, 2021

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What are some useful strengthening exercises for runners that you can easily implement into your training regimen? Becoming a “better” runner means something different for everyone, but improving form, reducing mile times, and boosting endurance are all excellent ways to start. Making sure that your muscles are strong is one of the most useful things you can do to become a more effective runner and stronger all-around athlete. Today, we’re going over some useful strengthening exercises for runners recommended by Dr. Ken Clark, our founding physical therapist. Let’s get started.

Step-up Variations

The goal of strengthening exercises for runners should be to ensure that all of your leg muscles are well-rounded and able to take on the impact of running. This will prevent any one muscle or muscle group from taking on too much stress and sustaining an injury.

This exercise is perceived by many as a gym staple, and that’s for good reason. Step-up exercises are a fantastic way to strengthen your thigh and glute muscles, and different variations allow you to target different muscle groups specifically, depending on your needs. Be sure not to rush through your step-ups; go slowly, allowing yourself to feel the burn. When it comes to strength training, time under tension is more important than reps or even weight.

Single-leg Squat

Work you way up to single-leg squats: once you’ve mastered standard two-leg squats, especially with added weights, you should be able to tackle these. SL squats are a great way to strengthen both your quads and your glutes. Be sure to keep your core engaged as you squat for an added bonus, and don’t forget to squeeze your glutes every time you come up (just as you would for a two-leg squat).

Prisoner Calf Raises

Named because they require you to place your hands behind your head, prisoner calf raises are perfect for targeting your calves. Because they require your arms to be locked in place, these are also great for improving overall balance. For an effective compound exercise, consider adding squats to each rep: lower yourself into a squat, then raise yourself into a calf raise when you come up. Don’t forget to go slowly and squeeze your glutes for maximal effectiveness.

Psoas Marches

Psoas marches are fantastic for your hip flexors: lay with your back flush to the ground, then begin to “march,” with one leg fully extended while the other is brought into your center. Keep your core engaged the entire time and go slowly. Over time, resistance bands may be added for increased intensity.
Runner’s knee isn’t just uncomfortable or inconvenient; it can lead to more serious injuries in the long run. We strongly recommend that you waste no time in talking to a trusted physical therapist about how you can address it.

Storks with Swiss Ball

The stork exercise is a great option to not only help with hip stability, but to strengthen all of your gluteal muscles. Add in a Swiss ball for some leverage and to help you maintain your stability.
All of the exercises outlined above can be excellent ways to ensure your muscles are more well-rounded and capable of sustaining you through your runs safely. When done correctly – and preferably under the guidance of a physical therapist – these strengthening exercises for runners can also help you run faster while reducing your rate of fatigue and risk of injury.

The best way to become a stronger runner is to work with a physical therapist who can help you create a customized plan rooted in exercise science. To get started on mapping out the best training regimen for your needs, click here and set up your first consultation with us.