Running is great and injuries suck, but how do we prevent injuries when we just don’t feel like we have the time to do anything but run? I have a lot to say on this concept but that is for another time. Today is all about the best exercises for runners to keep you injury free and running faster!
Why Are These Exercises Important for Runners?
I see all over the place people promoting running by saying that all you need to do is simply run. Which is true.
I mean it will get you by for a while.
But if you get bit by the running bug and want to keep running (injury free) and get stronger/faster, then this just isn’t the case.
Sorry to be the bearer of complicated news.
If you want to get faster and stay on the road running without injury you need to do strength training. It is a non-negotiable. But, it doesn’t need to be complicated.
What is even better is I’ve done the work for you. But first the meat/the why behind these exercises
These exercises have been specifically selected to keep you injury-free and help you become a stronger, faster runner. And yes, there is an upper-body exercise in there. Get over it.
When to do these Best Exercises for Runners
This is where I think runners tend to over complicate things. Or maybe it is just me but scheduling is always a struggle for me.
You should be doing full body strength workouts 2 times per week. Try to schedule them to be on the same days you do harder runs.
Easy days need to stay easy. Even though you aren’t getting the cardio work for the strength training it is still work and shouldn’t be done on easy days.
Personally, I think adding these 6 exercises at the end of the run works the best. Schedule yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to run through these all 2-3 times.
That’s the next point. do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of each of these. You can do them circuit style (one after the other and then back to the first) or in a more traditional way of doing all your squat sets/reps before moving on to the next exercise. You do you on that one.
What are the Best Exercises for Runners
There are a lot of different exercises out there. Like millions. I don’t know if that is the actual number but there are a lot.
Remember that these are just a few and my professional recommendations. If you talk to another Physical therapist, run coach or trainer you would likely get a different set of exercises.
That’s okay too. There is no one right answer.
While I am a Physical Therapist this is not medical advice and always get evaluated to make sure your are healthy enough to exercise!
The squats are up there with some of my favorite exercises to do with anyone. For runner’s they are a great overall lower body strength exercise. Not only is it one of the most functional movements that the human body does, the options are limitless too! You can do goblet, narrow, wide, sumo, etc. That list can go on and on. Switch it up regularly to keep things interesting.
If you are periodizing as you should for running then in your phase of strength a few weeks prior to a race you can switch these out to squat jumps to work on plyometric work!
2. Push Ups
I like multi purpose exercises. The push-up is one of them. Many people classify the push up as an upper-body exercise but honestly it is a full-body one.
You are working your arms and chest sure. However, to maintain the position your core needs to be engaged and so do your legs from the butt to the toes. Love it!!
To modify start with doing them on a bench or countertop for your hands instead of dropping to the knees. That way your body trains to do the real deal down the whole length.
3. Single Leg Deadlift
This is my favorite exercise. I not only love to do them but I love making others do them as well. First of all, uber functional. I like dual-purpose exercises. I like those exercises that not only help your running but also your day-to-day life and this is one of those!
The reason that this exercise is so good for runners is the work it does on the posterior chain. More specifically, your gluteals.
I consider the glutes part of your core and the base of support. I talk about them a lot so this is nothing new. If you want to know more about the glutes then check out my post about Hip Extension!
4. Single Leg Glute Bridge
Oh Look! I added another glute/hip exercise. According to Lehecka et al (one of my awesome instructors from school) a single leg bridge with the knee bent to 135 degrees ( a lot) gives you the most glute activation.
It has also been argued that if there is one exercise for runners to do it is this one.
5. McGill Airplane
This is one of those gold mine exercises. The Airplane has been promoted by Dr. Stuart McGill for a few years now for back pain patients. However, I think they are essential for runners.
These are multi-beneficial. The airplane not only works on active mobility but also on stabilization and control of the hips and core. This is going to be a must for injury prevention for runners.
6. Dead Bug
Planks are great for developing the core and teaching you how to activate the core. But, I think we can do better. As runners, we are rarely standing still and don’t really need to train our core to work in a static position.
That is where these come in. This dead bug exercise teaches you to stabilize and strengthen your core while your arms and legs are moving, similar to how you move when you run.
If you are someone that needs more structure and help with programming I’ve got you covered on that too. My Run Strong strength training program is designed to optimize strength cohesively with a periodized running program preparing for a race.
Be sure to also follow along on Instagram for regular full-body workout routines and to stay up to date on my training and what is going on with the blog!
Remember too, warming up properly for a run and for strength training is super important. It will help you perform better and help prevent injuries. If you don’t know where to start with a warm up check out this post about dynamic warm up exercises for runners specifically!
Dr. Abby Siler, PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist with 10 years of experience in a variety of settings. She has spent the majority of her time treating athletes in orthopedic clinics and worker’s compensation cases. She is a runner herself for the past 15 years and a lifelong athlete. Dr. Abby loves to teach runners how to stay injury free and out of her clinic.