5 Essential Exercises for the Powerful Runner

Mackennon Klink


Seattle, Washington, United States

Strength and Conditioning


When it comes to improving running performance, runners usually fall into one of two camps:


  1. Those who just run more
  2. Those who prioritize strength training



I know because I spent years in the former category.


Strength Training Is a Critical Component

Unfortunately, many runners make the mistake of disregarding strength training despite the undeniable advantages of incorporating this kind of training into their running program.


Strength training is a critical component for any powerful, successful runner as it helps with:



This single tool—strength training, can help you get faster, prevent injury, and run more efficiently. No runner wants to get injured or sidelined, or even worse, miss a race.


Consider how many runners will get hurt this year.


Depending on the source, 35-80% of runners will get injured every single year.



The majority of runners take fitness classes, such as body pump, boot camps, or CrossFit. However, the problem with these fitness classes is they do not personalize the training for you or develop the necessary speed and power for running. Plus, you’ll be more likely to hurt yourself.


The best strength training for runners should have two characteristics:



  1. It should prevent injuries by focusing on the runner's specific needs, such as core stability, hips, and lower body strength.
  2. It should include compound, multi-joint movements like squats, deadlifts, and push-ups.


Here are the five best strength exercises for runners to routinely include in their training regimen. You cannot go wrong with these.


1. Deadlifts

The deadlift is one of the most effective running specific exercises as the deadlift will help you propel forward.


In addition, deadlifts will strengthen your glutes and hamstrings to help avoid knee pain.


Most knee pain results from being too quad dominant, meaning your glutes aren’t doing their job, causing your quads to work overtime.


2. Goblet Squats

Another great tool to have in your toolbox is the goblet squat. The squat is a multi-joint exercise that primarily strengthens the hips, quads, and hamstrings.



These muscles are crucial to improving your running performance while minimizing injury risk. Healthy, strong legs often equate to faster legs.


3. Split Squats

Split squats are one of the best exercises any endurance athlete can do as it closely mimics the actual running motion.



Running is a predominantly unilateral movement, meaning you’re using just one limb at a time, so it makes sense to prioritize single-leg strength. In addition, split squats will help identify any unilateral weakness that can lead to running injuries.


4. Hamstring Curls

Many people mistakenly believe that the hamstrings are not involved with endurance running but only with sprinting.


However, the hamstrings play a critical role in stabilizing the knee from collapsing when the foot lands on the ground.


Considering how many strides runners take with every race and training session, hamstring curls are essential for runners.


5. Leg Lowers

Having a strong, stable core is an underrated aspect of running.


Your core muscles keep your torso upright and reduce wobbling during running. The wobble is also known as an energy leak, meaning you're wasting precious energy and opening yourself up for potential injuries.


Leg lowers help stabilize your core.


6. Bonus: Band Glute Bridge Combo

So far, all the exercises listed are big compound, multi-joint exercises. However, runners can benefit from isolation work as well, especially to reduce knee pain.



Strong hip muscles are essential for efficient running and injury prevention. The band glute bridge combo works by directly targeting the smaller glute muscles that help stabilize and prevent your knee from collapsing inward while running.


A sample workout for runners:


1a. KB Deadlift 3 x 12 reps
1b. Single Leg Lowers 3 x 8 reps/leg
2a. Goblet Split Squats 3 x 6 reps/leg
2b. Pal-off Holds 3 x 20 seconds/side
3a. Bodyweight Push-Ups 3 x 6-10 reps
3b. Physio-Ball hamstring curls 3 x 8 reps
3c. Physio-Ball rollouts 3 x 8 reps
Finisher: Band Glute Bridge Combo 1 x 10 reps ea.


Putting Everything Together

When it comes to weight training for runners, there are three primary goals:


  • Injury Prevention: To toughen the connective tissues and strengthen the muscles to improve injury resilience.
  • Muscular Power: To produce force quickly so you can run faster and finish strong with a fast-finishing kick.
  • Neuromuscular Coordination: To improve the communication pathways between the brain and muscles for a higher running economy, efficiency, and a smooth stride


Strength training provides runners the best cross-training possible for improving performance and preventing injuries. With stronger muscles, connective tissues, joints, and more resilience to fatigue, you’ll be able to create more force, control your stride and landing while improving the running economy.


That will help you get injured less often while being stronger and faster simultaneously.


I don’t even consider weight training as cross-training. It’s just a part of the training that everyone—not just runners, need to do.

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