5 Best Strength Moves for Runners

Linking up with Friday Five to talk about the 5 best strength moves for runners. However, any athlete can apply these moves to improve power, form and fitness.  My top 5 strength moves for runners are deadlifts, planks, single leg glute bridges, calf raises and push-ups. 


I’ve shared before that I hate the word off-season because it makes me anxious. Instead, I rename it as the “refocus season” where I shift my focus away from running and explore other areas of fitness. One of the biggest things I make sure to do is strength train. Strength training now will lead to better fitness when race specific workouts begin.


In my opinion, the following exercises are the 5 best strength moves for runners because they strengthen the major muscles used in running, improving form, power and running economy. Coaching tip: you can increase the challenge of these workouts by adding weights, doing single leg versions, using bands, etc., however they are all great with just bodyweight.




5 Best Strength Moves for Runners



I shared this move recently on my Instagram, but I can’t say it enough. Deadlifts are definitely number one on strength moves list. Few other exercises work the legs, core, glutes and back ALL AT ONCE. The hamstrings and glutes generate the power in a running stride; these muscles tend to be weak for runners, especially if you sit a lot!


Single leg deadlifts are my preferred version of deadlifts because you can mimic your running form. Plus, when we run, we are always on one leg, so it makes sense to practice balancing and strengthen the stabilizing muscles.


single leg deadlifts



single leg deadlifs


To perform: stand with both feet on the ground and medium weights in hand. Engage core muscles and raise one leg to 90 degrees. Hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back flat. Swing your elevated leg behind you until parallel to the ground (or as close to parallel as you can get), and lower weights to your knees. Stand back up, swinging your leg back to 90 degrees to mimic the leg swing during running. Repeat 8-15 times and then switch legs.




The plank is another one of the best strength moves for runners because it is also a total body workout. A plank primarily targets your core, but it also works your back, shoulders and arms. A strong core is important for runners to help maintain good posture and form late in a race.  There are a ton of plank varieties, but my favorite plank is the bent arm plank. It’s the bread and (vegan) butter of planks.


5 best strength moves for runners planks


To perform: Prop yourself on your elbows with feet hip with apart. Align shoulders over elbows. Tighten your abs and back so you maintain a neutral spine. If you clench your fists, flip your hands down like a Sphinx or towards the sky like you are holding a serving tray. Don’t forget to breathe!

Variations: Bent arm plank with hip dips, straight arm plank, side plank, starfish plank, or single leg planks. Many more!



Single Leg Glute Bridge

Glutes, booty, tuchus, derriere, whatever you call it, your glute muscles are probably weak. However, the glutes play a key role in holding your pelvis level, keeping your hips, torso and legs in line, extending your hip and propelling you forward. Weak glutes are a chronic problem for runners because we spend so many hours of the day sitting, and can lead to IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, shin splints and many other common injuries. An easy strength move for runners to improve glute strength is the glute bridge.




To perform: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend one leg out. Rock back on the heel of the stationary leg and left your hips off the floor. Lift and lower 8 – 15 times, then switch legs.

Variations: Glute bridge on a medicine ball (pictured above), weighted bridge, banded bridge to activate external hip rotators, pulsing bridge, etc.


Calf Raises

Strong calves give you better form and foot flexion, allowing you to generate more power as you stride. Calves propel you up hills and act as the brake on the way back down. Strengthening the calf muscles can also reduce risk of injuries like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.  Calf raises are one of my favorite ways to do so – they’re also great for trail runners!



To perform: Stand with feet hip width apart. Raise up on toes and slowly descend, trying to make the descent longer than the raise. Repeat 10-20 times.

Variations: single leg calf raises (pictured above), weighted raises, raises with hops, etc.




You might think it weird that I include push-ups on my list of the 5 best strength moves for runners, but hear me out.  Like deadlifts and planks, push-ups are a total body workout.  They work the arms, chest, back, shoulders and core.  Push-ups develop upper body strength and posture, which is key to maintaining good form.  Have you ever seen a race photo of yourself hunching over late in the race, looking miserable?  ME, ME, ME! Runners benefit from doing push-ups because it’ll help with posture, form and therefore running efficiency.



A push-up is basically a moving plank.  To perform:  Align your hands directly over your shoulders and raise up on your toes.  Feet should be slightly apart and back flat.  Eyes forward (I have bad form in this photo and am looking down). Slowly lower towards the ground until elbows are 90 degrees, then push yourself back up.  Breathe! Exhale as you push up towards the start.

Variations:  Asymmetrical push-up, push up on a medicine ball (pictured above), wide arm, narrow arm, walking push-up, etc.



Deadlifts, planks, single leg glute bridges, calf raises and push-ups. In my opinion, the 5 best strength moves for runners.  Adding these strength moves to your routine will help you build better power, form and running economy.



What are your favorite strength moves?  If you do any of these moves, I’d love to see it!  Tag @Rabbitfoodruns on Instagram so I can see you building a strong foundation for better results.  


Happy running,




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Chelsea Stockdale

I’m for sure going to have to add these to my cross-training list! I am really hoping to increase my speed in 2018 so I bet these would help a ton!! Thank you so much for recommending these! 🙂


These are all great moves and I do them all with my clients.


These are all wonderful exercises. I don’t do deadlifts but it would be beneficial if I did!

Kimberly Hatting

I do all of these (well, I don’t do the dead lifts as often as all the others #oops). Thanks for the reminder. These all are great for over-all fitness 😉