Gym workouts to help you to run faster

Workouts specifically designed for runners

As a runner the only training that you need to do is running, right?! But whilst it’s true that the majority of your training should be running, you also need to ensure that your body is strong enough to cope with the increased load. A small amount of strength and conditioning work can go a long way; it can help to prevent injuries and can also improve running form and efficiency.


Numerous studies have shown that strength training improves endurance performance by increasing anaerobic capacity, neuromuscular function and delaying fatigue. Just one strength session a week is enough to reap the benefits, although this should be periodised around heavy periods of training or racing. 

Check out these gym workouts — including a bodyweight circuit, stability circuit and strength circuit — all specifically designed for runners.

Bodyweight circuit

Exercise Aim Sets Reps Recovery Tips
Walking lunges Single leg strength 3 10 (5 each leg) 60 secs Keeping your head and chest up, switch on your core muscles and take a wide step. Drop your back knee towards the floor. Be sure that your knee and ankle on your forward leg remain in alignment. Using your glutes, drive your hips through and take the next forward step. If you want to challenge your core stability and strength further, you can perform this exercise whilst holding a medicine ball above your head.
Side plank Core strength 3 30-45s (each side) 60 secs 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!)
Glute bridge Lumbo-pelvic stability 3 8-10 60 secs Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes 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 glutes switched on. Return to the start position and repeat.
Single leg calf raises Lower leg strength 3 15-20 60 secs Stand on a step with your heels hanging over the edge. Raise up onto your tip toes and then concentrate on lowering your heel slowly back to the starting position.
Swan holds Postural strength 3 10 x 5 sec holds 60 secs Lie on your front with your head in neutral, your chin tucked in and your arms by your sides. Switch on your core and squeeze your glutes. Allow your palms to float upwards and press your shoulders back as you raise your head and chest from the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together.


Stability circuit

Exercise Aim Sets Reps Recovery Tips
Runner touch Single leg strength & stability 3 10 (5 each leg) 60 secs

Start in a textbook running position, with one knee held high at 90 degrees to your torso. Balancing on one leg, hinge at the hip to touch the toe with the opposite hand. Make sure that the standing leg stays stable and prevent the knee from collapsing into the midline. To do this you will need to switch your glutes on. Return to the running position without losing your balance.

Supermans Core stability & postural strength 2-3 8-10 each side 60 secs 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.
Single leg drives Single leg stability & power 2-3 5-10 90 secs 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.
Single leg lowers Core stability 3 10 each side 60 secs Lie on your back with your spine in neutral. Lift both legs off the floor so that your knees are bent at 90o and are in line with your hips. Activate your core muscles by drawing your belly button into your spine. Without arching your lower back, slowly lower one leg until the heel touches the floor. Return the leg slowly to the starting position with control.
Single leg balance Balance and proprioception 2-3 20 secs each side 30 secs With bare feet stand on one leg. Close your eyes and focus on maintaining your balance.


Strength circuit

Exercise Aim Sets Reps Recovery Tips
Single leg deadlift Single leg strength, balance and core stability. 3 10 each leg 90 secs 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.
Foot inversions Tibialis posterior strength & lower leg stability. 3 15-25 each leg 60 secs Sit on the floor or a chair and loop a resistance band around your foot. Anchor the band around a fixed object. Turn your foot inwards against the resistance of the band as if to look at the sole of your foot.
Back squats Strength 3-5 5 2 mins Keep your head and chest up and switch your core muscles on. Initiate the movement from the hips by pushing your bottom back and placing your weight through your heels. At the bottom point of the movement, push through the floor and drive with the hips and glutes to come back up. Squeeze the glutes and keep your core activated as you return to the starting position. Start with bodyweight to master the correct movement pattern. Once you have achieved this you can then start to add load, providing that you maintain good form.
Swiss ball hamstring curls Posterior chain strength 2-3 6-10 90 secs Lie on your back with both feet on the ball. Raise your hips to form a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Switch on your glutes and your core muscles. Keeping your hips high, pull your heels and therefore the ball towards you. Return to the starting position with control. Once you find this exercise relatively comfortable you can progress to single leg curls.
Medicine ball Russian twists Rotational core strength 3 20-40 90 secs Sit leaning back slightly with both knees bent and your feet elevated so that you assume a ‘V position’. Hold the medicine ball with both hands. Keeping your hips facing forward and your trunk fixed, rotate your upper body and the medicine ball to each side, turning your head as you twist.

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