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5 strength exercises every runner must do

30 October, 2017
Running strength exercises

Guest Article - Patrick McNamara

The importance of strength training for runners cannot be overstated. There is a long-held belief amongst the running community that that if runners lift weight, they will put on unnecessary muscle bulk which will negatively impact their running. Strength training has been shown to have massive improvements on running economy and reducing injury risk. Whether you’re preparing for the Olympics or are training for a 5km fun run, these exercises should become a staple for you.

A study done in 2014 looking at over 25,000 runners found no benefits to stretching, and found that running injuries can be prevented by training strength

  • Strength training reduces injuries to less than 1/3
  • 50% overuse injuries can be halved with adequate strength training

Important: you should perform all of the following barefoot! Actually using the foot and developing some awareness and proprioception (balance awareness) in the foot and ankle can have massive benefits to your running.

Calf raises – straight knee and bent knee

  • The soleus muscle (lower half of the calf) takes up to 6x your body weight with every step when running
  • Raise up for 1 second, and take 3 seconds to lower down. Start with double leg and progress to single leg. Perform both with a straight knee AND a bent knee
Calf raise
Calf raise


  • This exercise targets the glute max and hamstring muscles
  • The glute max is a massive power generator, used to extend the hip
  • Hamstrings are also used to extend the hip. My old coach used to say “quads are for show, hamstrings are for GO”
  • With feet flat on the floor and knees at 90 degrees, drive into the ground through your heels and lift bottom off the floor. Try and get the hips as high as possible! Start with two legs and progress to one leg. The further your foot is away from your bottom the harder it gets.
Bridge exercise

Crab Walk

    • Targets the glute medius muscle – responsible for maintaining a stable core and pelvis when on one leg, which directly affects all structures and joint further down the leg. This is important for runners because running is performed entirely on one leg. Get strong glute meds!
    • With a simple theraband or resistance band around the ankles, bob down into a slight squat position with bottom poking out behind you, and walk sideways for 10m, driving from the hip and avoiding tilting your torso side-to-side.

    Crab walk
    Crab walk

    Single leg deadlift

    • The mother of all running exercises – this one trains balance, proprioception, hamstring strength and flexibility, glute max and med strength, and core strength
    • Start with no weight and practice the movement. On one leg, with a very slightly bent knee, keeping the back perfectly straight, slowly hinge forward at the hips until you feel a stretch through the hamstring muscles, and drive back up to the top using the hamstring and glute. Keep your other leg in line with your torso. Progress by adding in a handheld weight, held in the opposite hand to your stance leg.

    Single leg deadlift

    Dynamic side plank

    • Runners need a strong core. Being strong in the core helps control the rotation of the spine that we get with each stride, and prevents overloading other structures further down the leg
    • Have fun with this one, and vary it as much as possible in lots of different positions. Keep strong through the core, continue breathing and don’t let the hips sag down. Start with 30 second holds and progress to 60 second holds.

    Side plank
    Side plank

    As a general rule, all of these exercises should be performed in 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps. If you find yourself able to do over 15 reps without fatigue, the resistance is too low for you. Progress!

    Gains in strength take 8-10 weeks to develop. Find a routine that works for you, be diligent with your exercises and then reap the benefits.

    This article has been provided by Patrick McNamara. Pat is a qualified Physiotherapist with a Doctor of Physiotherapy, working at iMove Physiotherapy in Rozelle, Sydney. As a physiotherapist, running coach and an accomplished runner over distances from 5km to 100 miles, Pat knows what it takes to run efficiently and injury free. Pat’s passion is treating runners of all abilities and developing programs to get your running in the best way possible. 
    Appointments can be made online at

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