10 strength exercises to improve your running (2023)


  1. 1Press-ups
  2. 2Dumbbell row
  3. 3Tricep dips
  4. 4Step-ups
  5. 5Squats
  6. 6Walking lunges
  7. 7Single-leg deadlifts
  8. 8Superman/back extensions
  9. 9Glute bridges
  10. 10Leg raises

As someone who has won the prestigious Western States 100-mile run, ultramarathon runner Tom Evans knows a thing or two about the importance of building strength as a runner. Below, he shares some full-body exercises that boost muscle in the legs, arms and core. Runners of all abilities should see a benefit by doing them, whether aiming to complete 5k or 100k.

I’d recommend starting these exercises using just your own bodyweight and progressing to using free weights as you feel yourself getting stronger

10 strength exercises to improve your running (1)

Tom Evans

“Strength training can have huge benefits for runners,” says Tom. “For starters, stronger leg muscles can deliver more power when running, while strengthening connective tissues such as your tendons and ligaments can make you less prone to injury.”

Improving your upper-body strength can also boost your running efficiency. “With a stronger core, you'll be able to maintain a stable upper body, minimising side-to-side movement and better hold your form at the end of a race when you begin to tire,” adds Tom. “And by developing strength in your arms, you'll improve your arm drive so you can inject more power into your stride.”

The workout below will also serve you well if you're intending to take part in the Wings For Life World Run – a unique annual running challenge taking place on 5 May 2024 that raises crucial funds for research into a cure for spinal cord injuries. Register for the Wings for Life World Run here and download the new Wings for Life World Run App for IOS or Android.

Find out how you can take part in Wings for Life World Run and support spinal cord injury research.

How to do these exercises

“Follow the below exercises in order, taking 90 seconds’ rest between each set and two minutes’ rest before moving onto the next exercise,” says Tom. “When following this routine, concentrate on nailing your form rather than completing the exercises as quickly as you can. Use a mirror or ask someone to check you’re doing the exercises correctly.”



Reps & sets: 10 reps; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Push ups help to strengthen the chest, shoulders and arms to improve posture and arm drive while you're running,' says Tom.

● Lay face-down with your hands on the floor either side of your chest. Your toes should be tucked under.

● Press down into your hands, raising your body off the floor. Keep your body straight and avoid stretching your neck.

● When your arms are almost fully extended (don’t lock your elbows), lower your body back down, almost to the floor, and repeat.


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Dumbbell row

Reps & sets: 12 reps on each side; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Rows are a great way to strengthen the upper back to balance out your chest strength,' explains Tom.

● Place your left knee and hand on a bench. Your upper body should be horizontal.

● Take a dumbbell in your right hand, arm extended towards the floor.

● Pull the weight up towards you, keeping your elbow close to your waist, then lower to the start position.


Tricep dips

Reps & sets: 12 reps; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Not one of my favourite exercises to be honest but dips help to strengthen the arms and shoulders so maintain an upright running posture,' says Tom.

● Sit with the heel of your hands on the edge of a bench with your fingers over the edge.

● Take the weight off your body with your arms and, bending at the elbows, lower yourself down. Push back up with your arms (avoid using your legs to lift yourself) and repeat.



Reps & sets: 10 reps on each side; 2 sets

Benefits: 'These work all major muscle groups in the legs, improving running power,' explains Tom.

● Stand in front of a bench or box (ensure it’s strong enough to hold your weight).

● Place one foot onto the bench and push off your rear leg to step up, keeping your body tall and your knee over your ankle on your supporting leg. Think about bringing your hips forwards and up rather than pulling forwards with your knees.

● Bring your trail leg up to a high knee position without it touching the bench. Then lower it back down to the floor.

● To increase difficulty, hold dumbbells in each hand.



Reps & sets: 15 reps; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Squats strengthen the major muscle groups used when running decreasing injury risk. Also improves flexibility for a faster, more efficient running stride,' says Tom.

● Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly outwards.

● Lower yourself down, bending at the knee and hip, as though you’re sitting down on a chair.

● Keep your knees over your ankles and your chest up. Focus on your bum going back.

● Lower down close to a sitting position, then push up through your heels and return to standing.

● To increase difficulty, hold a kettlebell at chest height while performing the movement, or rest a barbell across your upper back.


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Walking lunges

Reps & sets: 8 reps on each side; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Part of training should involve unilateral work to improve stability and coordination when you run. It can also increase stride length helping you to run faster,' explains Tom.

● Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

● Take a big step forward with one leg and lower your body and rear knee towards the floor, making sure it doesn't make contact.

● Keep your front knee over your ankle and your body upright.

● Push off your rear leg and step your front leg backwards to meet your rear leg.

● Repeat alternating your lead leg.

● To make this exercise more challenging, hold a dumbbell in each hand by your side (choose a weight that's suitable for you). Alternatively, to work your core more, hold a medicine ball in both hands out in front of you. As you step forward to lunge, keep your arms straight and bring the ball up above your head. Lower it down as you step back to standing.


Single-leg deadlifts

Reps & sets: 10 reps on each side; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Deadlifts of any variety strengthen the glutes and hamstrings to increase running power, while also improving stability for reduced risk of injury,' Tom shares.

● Stand tall with a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand.

● Take your left foot off the floor and extend your left leg behind you. Bend forward at the hip, keeping your back straight and your right arm extended towards the floor.

● Keep a slight bend in your right knee, and keep your hips level.

● Bring the weight almost to the floor and your back as close to horizontal as you can, before returning to the start position and repeating on the other side.


Superman/back extensions

Reps & sets: 10 reps; 2 sets

Benefits: 'These are harder than they look! The plus side is that they strengthen the middle and upper back for a more stable, upright running posture and improved running efficiency,' Tom says.

● Lay face down with your hands by your ears, palms facing down.

● Lift your chest and shoulders off the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep looking at the floor to avoid stretching your neck.

● Lower to the start position and repeat.


Glute bridges

Reps & sets: 15 reps; 2 sets

Benefits: 'When I'm traveling, these are part of my program as you can literally do them anyway. They target the glutes for improved activation when you run, helping you to keep your pelvis level and your legs, pelvis and torso aligned when you run, boosting your stability and therefore your running efficiency,' says Tom.

● Lay on your back with your arms by your sides and your feet flat on the floor.

● Raise your hips towards the sky to create a straight line between your knees, hips and shoulders.

● Keep your shoulders on the floor to protect your neck.

● Hold the position for two seconds before lowering slowly back down and repeating.

● To make this more challenging, hold your arms outstretched above you.


Leg raises

Sets and reps: 10 reps; 2 sets

Benefits: 'Another favourite: leg raises strengthens your hip flexors which are responsible for knee lift when you run. They also work the lower abdominals for a more stable torso,' adds Tom.

● Lay on your back with your arms by your sides.

● Bring your feet together and raise them up as close to vertical as feels comfortable.

● Lower them slowly back to an inch above the floor and repeat.

● To make easier, perform the exercise using one leg at a time.

Feeling inspired? Take part in the Wings for Life World Run on May 5, 2024 and run for those who can't. To register for the 2023 event, click here and follow the prompts.


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