Basic Strength Training Exercises for Runners

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Avoid injury this marathon season by adding strength training to your weekly regimen. Emily Hutchins, co-owner of On Your Mark Coaching + Training, provides several simple exercises that you can use to strengthen your core and increase bone density.

Diaphragm Breathing: Lay down on back, place feet up on a bench or chair, knees bent 90 degrees. Breathe from your belly using full lung capacity at a comfortable pace to get a good slow, even breath. Fill up the lower belly as much as you can, concentrating on engaging your transverse abdominals. Brace your abs properly as you exhale, as well as the pelvic floor (not sucking in your stomach, but flexing, known as “bearing down”). Promotes the proper use of core muscles for stability, helps you avoid using your back muscles to balance.

Mini band training:

Side steps. Place resistance band on ankles or below kneecap or both (you may use two for more resistance). Walk sideways, side stepping ten steps to the left, 10 to the right, three sets total. Be conscious of what’s happening with your core (bracing element) by using your glutes while bracing from your belly button, not sucking in the gut.


Hip Flexor Knee Drive. Place resistance band around toes from each foot and lay on your back. As you keep one leg fully extended on the floor, drive the other knee “through” the chest. This forces hip flexion. Perform three sets of 20, 10 on each leg. Use a light mini resistance band for this exercise.

Hip Flexor Stationary High Knee Runs. Facing a wall, place hands on the wall, arms straight out and slightly raised. Drive knees up to chest as if running in place, but maintain a long posture. Helps with quickness and turnover from hip flexor as well and promotes core stability and knee drive portion of stride.

Butt Kicker. Work your hamstrings. Start by either standing in place (static) or travelling forward (dynamic). Keep quads locked in neutral position. Kick your heels up to glutes on each stride forcing hamstring turnover. Quicker response training and impact helps with bone density.

High Impact Bounding/Lateral Jumping Squats. Squat down with knees at 90 degree angle. Jump to the side back and forth finishing your landing with knees again bent at 90 degrees, same as when you started the jump, forcing the muscles to absorb the shock. Do two to three sets of 20 rightward jumps and 20 leftward jumps. Ju mp distance can be anywhere from two to five feet at the most. May increase the distance as you progress. A more explosive jump will increase your power.

Calf Raise: Stand on edge of a step, raise yourself up on your toes then slowly return back to starting position. Rise up quickly, and return back down slow. The important part of this exercise is the negative return back down (below the step) to strengthen the arch of the foot.

Planking. Lying prostrate, hold yourself up on your hands and toes, or knees and elbows, or any combination thereof according to your particular level of strength development. While holding the plank, focus on bracing from lower abdomen. Focus on what’s happening between the shoulder blades- think about grabbing the floor and pulling it towards your feet in order to engage the muscles of your middle back.