Want to run more efficiently and with a lower risk of injury? Strength-based exercises are an essential part of your training plan. Try this equipment-free, lower-body strength workout for runners…

When running faster or longer is on your radar, strength training is undoubtedly your best ally to improved performance. While it allows you to get stronger, regularly performing a strength workout for runners also boosts energy efficiency, reduces the risk of injury due to overuse, and improves mobility and stability. Performed consistently, strength training helps your muscles work more efficiently, saving energy when running at a higher speed and maintaining your effort for longer.

Which strength exercises are best for runners?

Lower-body exercises (squats, lunges, deadlifts) will help build ankle, glute and leg strength, making them some of the best strength exercises for runners. But you’ll benefit from training your upper body, too. Core and upper-body strength are fundamental to keeping your torso upright when you run, improving arm drive and stabilising the upper body.

Try to be consistent by doing 20- to 30-minute conditioning sessions, two to three times a week. While it might be intimidating to go to the gym at first or try new exercises, starting with small weights will help avoid bad form. When comfortable, slowly increase the weights.

How to do this strength workout for runners:

To run faster and further injury-free, get stronger with this lower-body strength workout for runners by Sarah Riandet (see below). Start with just your body weight and then challenge yourself by adding dumbbells to the mix. Don’t forget to warm up and stretch, too. Perform each exercise in order for three rounds, taking 60 seconds of rest between sets.

sarah riandet entertor

Sarah Riandet is an ultramarathon and marathon runner. She has competed in a number of international ultramarathon races, including the Ultra X World Championships 2022. Riandet works with Enertor to help runners stay pain- and injury-free.

Lower-body strength workout for runners

Start by performing this workout using your bodyweight. Then, up the intensity with a pair of dumbbells.

  1. Single-leg deadlift
  2. Alternating reverse lunges
  3. Alternating renegade row
  4. Calf raises
  5. Glute bridge
  6. Side plank

Keep reading for full exercise instructions.

woman demonstrates single leg deadlift woman uses a pair of dumbbells in single leg deadlift

Single-leg deadlift

Focus area: Hamstrings, quads and glutes. Improves flexibility
Reps: 12 (each side)
Sets: 3

  • Start with your weight on your left foot. Hold a dumbbell in each hand if using weights. Check your left leg is straight but not locked (A).
  • Bend your torso parallel to the floor (B). Option to extend your right leg behind you, which makes it tougher and looks like a T-shape with your right leg in line with your torso. Make sure your hips face the floor and that the standing leg is straight.
  • Come back up by pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes. For an additional balance challenge, lift your right leg up to a 90-degree angle without touching the floor with your hands before switching sides.
alternating reverse lunges in strength workout for runners woman demonstrates how to do alternating lunges with dumbbells

Alternating reverse lunges

Focus area: Hamstrings, quads, glutes. Improves balance and mobility
Reps: 12 (each side)
Sets: 3

  • Start by standing with feet hip-width apart and chest up. Hold a dumbbell in each hand if using weights (A).
  • Take a step backward with your left foot, bending your right knee so that both knees are at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your right knee doesn’t go over your right ankle (B).
  • To come back up, push through your right leg and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
woman performs alternating renegade row with dumbbells in strength workout for runners alternate renegade row

Alternating renegade row

Focus area: Core, upper body (especially triceps and back muscles). Improves stability
Reps: 10 (each side)
Sets: 3

  • Start in a high plank position, with your hands holding the dumbbells if using weights (A). Option to begin on knees to make this move easier.
  • Make sure you pull your belly button towards your spine (but don’t forget to breathe!). Your hands are directly under your shoulders and your hips should be aligned with the rest of your body (don’t stick your bottom out).
  • Row by pulling your left elbow -up and lifting your dumbbell or hand to your side rib (B). Make sure your hips do not rise up.
  • Lower it back down and repeat using the opposite arm.
calf raises demonstration woman demonstrates calf raises strength workout for runners

Calf raises

Focus area: Calf muscles
Reps: 12
Sets: 3

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand if using weights (A).
  • Push through the balls of your feet and your toes.
  • Raise your heels until you are standing on your toes (B).
  • Slowly bring your heels back down and repeat.
glute bridge demonstration woman demonstrates glute bridge in strength workout for runners

Glute bridge

Focus area: Glutes, hamstrings and lower back
Reps: 12
Sets: 3

  • Lie on your back on the floor (or a mat), bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Your arms can stay by your sides (A).
    Start lifting your hips by pushing your heels to the ground and squeezing your glutes. Don’t forget to brace your core (B).
  • Once your knees, hips, shoulders form a straight line, hold the position for a couple of seconds. Squeeze and hold.
  • Ease back down and repeat.
woman demonstrates side plank in strength workout for runners side plank demonstration

Side plank

Focus area: The core, including six-pack abs, side abs, deeps abs and lower back
Reps: 30 secs
Sets: 3

  • Lie on a mat on your right side, resting on your right forearm, elbow directly under your right shoulder. Either stack one foot on top of the other (A), or one behind another for balance.
  • Engage your core and lift your knees and hips from the ground. Your body should form a straight line (B).
  • Still bracing your core, stay still and prevent your hips from sinking down. Hold.
  • Return to the start and then repeat.

Words: Enertor | Model: Nicki Petitt-Ward | Photography: Eddie Macdonald | Clothing: Mindset Bra and Studio Pocket Legging (both vuoriclothing.co.uk), Under Armour HOVR Trainers