Hey there, WILDR folks! It was hard to choose just five bodyweight exercises for running. Depending on where you are as an athlete and your strengths and weaknesses, we can pick a variety of different exercises to help you get better at running.
However, I have chosen these five that I think will benefit you the most if you incorporate them into your training. These exercises come out of two different buckets: exercises that help build strength and power in your primary drivers—the muscles that are used the most to help you run fast—and exercises that help us mitigate injury when it comes to running.
I made a few of these exercises, combo exercises, as my sneaky way to kind of give you 10 exercises in five. Don’t be afraid to break these movements down into their components to work on specific parts of each exercise.
And remember, technique is more important than speed, intensity or the amount of weight you add. So, do things right first and then you can add some spice.
Exercise 1: Rotational Single-Leg Deadlift into a Step Up
To start, let’s work on those primary drivers. The first strength exercise for running a rotational single-leg deadlift into a step up.
Set up facing a small box or step. Keep your hips level as you stand on one leg. The leg that is lifted in the air is going to rotate as far out as you can to the side and then towards your midline.
Complete your single-leg deadlift, then power up to get that lifted leg onto the bench in one strong motion. You can always start by breaking up each part of this exercise as well, doing a few of the rotations, single-leg deadlifts, and step-ups in a row.
This exercise requires glute activation on both sides. You should not feel pain or discomfort in the lower back. If that happens, relevel your glutes, make sure both hips are pointed towards the box and try again.
Bodyweight Exercise for running 2: Quarter Depth Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat Jumps
Using the same step or box as with the previous exercise, walk about three feet lengths away from the box. Place one foot behind you on the box for stability, while the other remains in front in a lunge position.
The important thing to remember when you’re doing this exercise is to focus on feeling it in the front leg. Your back leg should be dead weight.
Sink your hips down into about a quarter depth compared to going all the way to the floor. Then power up using that front leg only, keeping your hips level to get a little bit of space between your front toes and the floor.
Exercise 3: Core Holds and Runner Switches
These exercises are going to build a strong torso. That’s going to help us mitigate injury, but also help us have a very strong and powerful stride.
Lying on your back, use a sweater or band between the hollow of your back and the floor. Tilt your pelvis backwards towards the ground so that you cannot move that band left or right at all.
From here, we’ll do two movements. The first is a straddle hold. What you’ll do is move both legs out at forty-five degrees away from the body. Lift your shoulder slightly off the ground, reaching your hands towards your feet. Then hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
If that feels good, you can move on to Runner Switches. Starting in the same position with that low back pinned to the ground, tuck one heel close to underneath your hips and extend the other leg out straight away from you. Then you are going to switch without losing the contact between your lower back and the floor and without losing that pressure on the band.
Exercise 4: Hip Dips and Lateral Drives
These bodyweight exercises for runners are great for building hip stability and strength. These are going to help you run faster, but also mitigate any injuries of the lower body by building a strong torso.
You’ll need your box or step again and a wall that you can balance against. Stand on the box with one foot floating off the side. Your hips are totally level at this point.
From there, you’re going to drop one hip bone towards the floor, keeping both legs straight so that it is actually the hip unit that is moving and not our knees that are bending.
Then return that hip back to level. From there, raise your knee to ninety degrees and push into the wall beside you.
You’re going to be using your TFL (Tensor fasciae latae) as well as your glutes to stabilize the hip and exert force on that wall.
Final Bodyweight Exercises For Running: Toe Raises to Calf Raises
Our final exercise addresses your calves as well as our tibial interiors.
Stand with your feet underneath your hips and go into about a quarter squat position. From here, you’re going to try and peel the front half of your shoes off the ground by kicking your toes up and lifting them towards your knees.
Then from that position, put our toes down and push into them to complete a calf raise.
Start by trying to do 15 to 20 of these. And if that gets too easy, you can also add weight to progress this movement.
Now, this is by no means an extensive list of bodyweight exercises for runners. Depending on who you are as an athlete and what your goals are, there’s a variety of other exercises you can use to get strong for running—including those in our eight-week Trail Running Ready program!
However, I think this is a very good overview of my top five exercises to get you ready for running.
I hope you have a WILDR day and you enjoy incorporating these into your strength work!