The 6 Best Strength Training Exercises for Runners

Caroline Geoghegan
Caroline Geoghegan,

This guest post on strength training is brought to you by strength and running coach, Caroline Geoghegan of

Like many of us, Caroline’s love affair with running started with a wake-up call that her choices were leading to poor health. Now she helps others achieve their running and health goals. Read on to learn how to squeeze some strength building and injury preventing moves into your day:

Strength Training Exercises for Runners You Can Do at Home

If you’re a busy mother runner and thinking about how you can fit strength training into your everyday routine, it can be overwhelming and daunting. In between family and work life–and running, it’s hard to find the energy sometimes to even think about working out, let alone fitting it in between play, bath, cooking, clean-up, run times…the list goes on.

When you’re a busy mom, you have to think more creatively about your strength training. The key is finding a workout that you cannot only fit into your busy lifestyle, but one that gets you results within a short space of time.

Simple strength exercises for runners
Here are 6 simple strength exercises runners can do at home.

The fact is many moms don’t have time to go for long runs and/or spend hours in the gym. These strength training exercises are beneficial for runners and have been designed with a busy mom in mind. They also share the same common theme – simplicity! Even better, you can do them at home easily.


Lunges are also some of the best leg exercises you can do to improve coordination and balance. The basic lunge is what you have to master first before attempting any weighted lunges or variations on the basic lunge. Once you’ve mastered the basic lunge and feel comfortable with it, you can build your way up and add weights.

Here’s how to do a basic lunge:

  1. Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up (pick a point to stare at in front of you so you don’t keep looking down). Always engage your core.
  2. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
  3. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor.
  4. Keep the weight in your heels as you push back up to the starting position.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Do stationary lunges whilst you complete so common household tasks, like cooking or cleaning.
  • Do walking lunges with weights on either side. Try some heavy cans of soup or bags of groceries. You could even hold your baby whilst you do it! Aim for 30 a day and build.

(Related: How to Not Get Injured Running.)


Squats are an efficient way to improve your strength and can be completed in many different ways. Using your body weight only or by adding a weight into the mix like a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell (or cans of soup or grocery bags if you prefer). Many runners suffer from knee injuries (including myself) – squats are great for knee health if done properly. If you have never squatted before, begin with the air squat (no added weight).

Here’s how to do a squat:

  1. Start by extending your arms in front of you.
  2. Sink your hips down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, making a 90-degree angle. The deeper the better.
  3. Go ahead and squat until your bum is below parallel.
  4. When standing back up, do not let your back cave in.
  5. Keep your knees behind your toes, your weight on your heels and your back straight while you squat.
  6. If this is too easy for you, go ahead and add a weight. Start small then build your way up.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Do 5 to 10 squats in between playing with your kids or putting the laundry away.
  • Do a few squats with your baby in your arms or while picking up toys.

Hip bridge

For you working moms, you may spend all day sitting behind a desk is a shortcut to weak glutes and lower back problems. All that time sitting too far forward causes your hip flexors to become tight and also results in the glutes effectively switching off. Activating them as part of your training programme does wonders not only for your physique but for your structural health, and hip bridges are a good way to facilitate this switch.

You should feel the burn in your glutes and your hamstrings if you’re doing it correctly. Picking up and carrying your kids can quickly lead to lower back pain. The hip bridge is also great for improving hip mobility and strengthening your lower back, two things that any mum can really benefit from.

How to do a hip bridge:

  1. Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line.
  4. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
  5. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Make it a game with your kids. Get them to crawl underneath your legs whilst you hold your position in the air.

Running and jumping on the spot

If you can’t go for a run as regularly as you’d like, running on the spot is a great way to burn energy and get some much needed cardio in your life. There are countless variations to this exercise, including simply doing tiny hops from side to side or large movements bringing both knees up towards your chest at the same time.

Run or jump in the same place for one minute or more at a time. This will increase your heart rate and you will soon feel the sweat.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Consider running or jumping on the spot in your kitchen in between household chores.
  • Make it into a dance and run or jump with your child in your living room or garden.

Fire hydrant 

Fire hydrants target the glutes and core. When done regularly, they can sculpt your glutes, improve back pain and lower the risk of common running injuries. The key with this exercise is to keep your core and pelvis stable. Your hip should be the only thing moving. You can even add ankle weights to this exercise to challenge your legs.

How to do a fire hydrant:

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Place your shoulders above your hands and your hips above your knees. Tighten your core and look down.
  2. Lift your left leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Keep your knee at 90 degrees.
  3. Lower your leg to starting position to complete 1 rep.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 reps. Repeat with the other leg.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Find some space in your living room and squeeze this in whilst your child is playing or watching TV.
  • This one is also great to do as part of a stretching routine or yoga session.

Single leg raise

Side leg raises, like fire hydrants, work your glutes and engage your hips. The move is also called a standing lateral hip abduction. Your hips are extremely important whilst running so it’s good to strengthen them when you can.

How to do a single leg raise:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. If you’re using a resistance band, place it just above your knees.
  2. Straighten your spine and face your toes forward. Squeeze your core.
  3. With your right knee slightly bent, lift your left leg to the side. Pause.
  4. Slowly lower your leg to starting position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Repeat with the other leg.

When to squeeze it in:

  • Use a kitchen surface for balance whilst you do this one whilst cooking or cleaning.

Adding these strength training moves in two to three times a week will make you stronger and keep you from getting sidelined. Be sure to check out Caroline’s 30-day strength plan for runners.


Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) is a UK Athletics qualified Leader in Running Fitness, Coach in Running Fitness and Level 3 NASM Personal Trainer. She helps people to become faster, stronger, and more motivated runners.


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