Top 10 Starter Strength Exercises for Runners

by Natalie Johnston

Natalie March

Ever feel like you should be adding in a strength program, but are unsure where to start? Well, I am here to help get you on the right track. Below are two routines you can add into your training featuring my Top 10 Strength Exercises For Runners.

Now there are pluses and minuses to solely using heart rate training alone; however, I still believe it is a good tool in your tool box, and here is why.

Workout #1

  1. Slow Motion Marching​ — 3 X 5-10 yard passes
  2. Row Holds​ — 3 to 5 X 30s-45s holds
  3. Push Up Plank Holds​ — 3 X 30s – 1:00 holds
  4. Lateral Toe Taps​ — 3 X 10-15 each side
  5. Glute Bridge Isometric Holds​ — 3 X 30s-60s holds

Workout #2

  1. Farmer’s Sequence​ — Forward & Backward Walking, Forward & Backward Marches X 30s each way
  2. Squats​ — 3 X 10-20
  3. Deadbugs —​ 3 X 5-10 each side
  4. Hammy Bridge Holds​ — 3 X 10-30s holds
  5. Side Plank Holds​ — 2 to 3 X 10-30s holds

Here’s the Why behind each of these exercises :

  1. Slow Motion Marching​ – this is by far my favorite. It works on your running form while you are not running. Posture, foot placement, arm mechanics, oh my.You can also add these during your runs when you want to dial in on form during your run. Example: 4 X 1 Mile with 1’ of slow motion marching in between. Focus on posture, foot placement, arm mechanics and core control. Slow and deliberate soft landings too.
  2. Farmer’s Sequence​ – Great exercise to work on Double Leg & Single Leg stance strength and control, and by adding the weight to this sequence helps each athlete accept more load into the ground. Also, great for working on posture, builds strength in upper back, core, and legs.
  3. Row Holds​ – helps to position your arms in appropriate running arm position for running, while building back strength.
  4. Lateral Toe Taps​ – works on single leg stability during stance phase, along with working your glutes, specifically glute medius.
  5. Glute Bridge Isometric Holds​ – helps to get glute max fired up, which is important for extension in running.
  6. Push Up Plank Holds​ – another favorite of mine. Builds total body strength. Working on shoulder stability and strength, core strength, if you squeeze your glute and quads, you have those guys fired up too. Along with setting you up in a nice spinal alignment. Good for posture. There are also endless variations, so many ways to play around with the exercise once you master the fundamentals.
  7. Hammy Bridge Holds​ – great starter exercise for loading the hamstrings. If you’ve ever had a hammy strain too, this is a great place to start.
  8. Side Plank Holds​ – helps to ​build core strength, and targets lateral strength in the hips and torso.
  9. Deadbugs​ – ​is another great starter exercise for building stronger abdominals and developing core control. This exercise is also great for athletes that have back pain, because it can improve lumbo-pelvic control.
  10. Squats​ – Squats are just a great exercise overall and now we are bringing you more upright into functional movement. You get an opportunity to work your posterior chain (glutes, hammy’s) and quads in an upright position. Getting you geared towards doing movements that are specific to running. Always start with bodyweight movements, work on your form then progress from there.

Why so many isometrics? What does that even mean?

Isometrics​ are a safe place to start with loading your muscles. It also allows your brain/body connection in assisting you to engage the muscle. Isometric exercises mean that you are holding tension on a muscle and you stay fixed there.

Typically you would then progress to other forms of exercise that consist of concentric & eccentric contractions, plyometrics, and other forms of triplanar movements.

Ok that was jibberish again wasn’t it?

Concentric Exercises​: ​Any contraction where the muscle shortens under load or tension. Let’s take the squat as an example, the quadriceps muscles in the thigh contract concentrically (shorten) during the upward phase of the movement.

Eccentric Exercises​: ​An eccentric contraction refers to any contraction where the muscle lengthens under load or tension. ​Sometimes can be referred to as negatives. Going back to the squat example, the quadriceps muscles will contract eccentrically (lengthen) in the downward phase of the movement.

Plyometrics​: a​l​so referred to as “jump training” or “plyos.” These exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power
(speed-strength) along with conditioning the neuromuscular and elastic characteristics of the muscle. For endurance, they are also great because you take a whole lot of steps right while running? Well, they help you to better accept load through the body. Just one caveat: Less is more when adding these to your program for endurance based athletes.

Triplanar Movements​: When we run we are primarily in the sagittal plane. Which means forward and backward movements. That being said, we can tend to get over developed there, which could cause other movement patterns and muscles to get weaker. Frontal Plane movements are side to side, and Transverse Plane movements mean rotational. Why are they all important? Training in different planes of motion help to achieve balance in the body which then can help with injury prevention. Example: Sagittal Plane Exercise – Basic Squat & Lunges; Front Plane Exercise: Lateral Toe Taps, Transverse Plane Exercise: Rotational Lunge

Have questions or need some help structuring your training plans? Reach out we would love to help. And be sure to click on the exercise names to see a short video demonstration of each.


 Natalie JohnstonNatalie Johnston has been running since she was 13 years old, and has been a competitive athlete since the age of 3. She competed in sports ranging from horseback riding, competitive swimming, to dance. However, running was the one sport that stole her heart! She says,”Running frees my mind and soul, you can just grab your shoes and run anywhere!” Through many ups and downs in her life, running was the one place for her to let go, meditate (aka release her emotions), and grow as a person.  She believes running is more than just getting fast times, it’s about connecting to something deeper in yourself; She believes that running saved her life in many ways. Through High School and College all Natalie thought about was being the best and getting fast, since then she has changed her way of thinking, and believes that you should train like you want to run until your 100. With that mindset, she has been able to run faster, be less stressed, and enjoy her runs even more now than she did before! Learn more about Natalie and her coaching at RUN F.I.T. Coaching.