5 exercises every marathon runner should do

Essential marathon training tips

Making sure that you take steps to injury-proof your body should form a key part of your marathon training. Obviously as a marathon runner you don’t need to be throwing huge weights around and letting out aggressive roars in a gym. However, a small amount of strength and conditioning work can go a long way in helping your body to better adapt to the stress of running 26.2 miles. The following exercises are some that I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of the world’s best endurance athletes do. All of them require little or no equipment so they are easy to do as a mini circuit at home after a run. No excuses!

Side plank

This exercise strengthens your lateral core stabilisers to improve the stability of your spine, pelvis and hips when running. Lie on your side with your legs straight and your ankles together. Prop your torso up with your upper arm. Lift your hips upward until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your neck. Hold this position for 30 seconds, making sure that your hips don’t drop towards the floor. (If you can, check out your body position in a mirror to make sure that you’re not allowing your hips to sag!) Switch to the other side and repeat the exercise.

Glutes bridge

This is a great exercise to strengthen your glutees and hamstrings. Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutees and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your neck to your knees. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, remembering to keep your glutees switched on. Return to the start position and repeat for up to 10 repetitions.

Single leg dead lift

This exercise works the hamstrings and glutes to help improve the power in your stride, as well as challenging your core stability and balance. Stand on one leg, keeping a slight bend in the knee. Keeping your head up and your back straight, hinge forward at the hips. Your non-standing leg should lift up behind you.  Keep the hip and knee of the lifted leg extended throughout the movement. Return to the start position and repeat the movement for 10 repetitions on each leg. If you want a further challenge you can hold some dumbbells or a barbell for added resistance.

Step up drives

Step ups are a fantastic exercise for improving the strength of your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps, whilst again helping to improve the power in your stride. Stand facing an exercise bench or step (one that is around 30-40cm high is probably best). Step onto the bench with your left foot. Using your left leg to assist you, drive your right leg off the floor and drive the knee high, so that you assume an exaggerated running position on top of the step. Return to the starting position and repeat for up to 10 repetitions on both legs.


This is a great exercise for strengthening your back and core muscles to help improve the stability of your spine, pelvis and hips when running. Start on all fours. Squeezing your glutes and keeping your core muscles switched on, slowly extend one leg and the opposite arm. Keep the back and the hips level. Return to the starting position with control and repeat using the other arm and leg. Aim for 5-10 repetitions on each side. 

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to help you become a stronger, more injury proof marathon runner. Happy training!

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

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