‘Can’t I just go running?’ said many a runner. Yes of course, but to improve your overall running (technique, stamina, efficiency, speed), and to help stave off those pesky run-related injuries, strength work should be an essential part of anyone’s weekly diary. Ideally you should do some strength work two or three times a week. Cue the groans…but stick with me on this!

Before you read on, please note that I am not medically trained and the advice below is based purely on my own findings and internet searches throughout my running life. Any of the exercises you do are done at your own risk, but hopefully you’ll get used to them and feel the benefits.

What are biomechanics?

Think about your biomechanics – that’s the term coined in the 1970s by scientists to describe how we move and the forces that are exerted within our bodies as we go about various movements. I’m sure you’ll agree you don’t need to have a PhD in Biomechanics to realise that if we are not aligned when we move or if our body has a weakness in a particular area, then stresses are going to be put on places that aren’t designed to take them. The result is then pain in that area.

A good analogy here could be your car’s tyres. When you have new tyres fitted on your car, you’re told to get them balanced and to get the tracking (wheel alignment) done. If you don’t, your steering wheel wobbles and the car judders which will stress other mechanical parts unnecessarily. Failure to have the wheels balanced and aligned could ultimately lead to issues in your steering system and / or suspension and / or other parts of the car (the wheels themselves will be fine – the damage is passed on up the chain).

A quick internet search tells us that we put between 3 and 8 times our bodyweight through our lower body when we run so ensuring our lower body can take those forces – and in an aligned way – is essential. This is where strength training comes in.

Strength Exercises for Running

There are a whole range of exercises we can do to strengthen our core and legs but some of my ‘favourite’ (does anyone have favourite strength exercises??!) are shown here. Combine double leg exercises with single leg exercises to ensure that your weaker side gets a good workout too and your stronger leg isn’t always doing most of the work.

Some of my top tips for all strength exercises would be:

  • Always promote good form over range of movement – it doesn’t matter if you can’t get to the end position shown in the exercise. Go as far as you can to maintain good form and work on improving your range as your strength increases;
  • Really focus on your core muscles and glutes (buttocks!). Engage them to help you balance;
  • For single leg exercises, I prefer to do one leg at a time (either for a set of reps, or to failure) then do the other leg;
  • If you can, do these exercises in the mirror, at least the first time, so you can check your form. Often we feel like we’re in the right position but can be slightly out of alignment;
  • Where necessary, put your hands on your hips so that you can feel if your hips are tilting upwards / backwards / out of alignment;
  • Relax your upper body. If you feel any tightness or pain in your lower back or shoulders, reset your position and start again;
  • You do not have to do all of these exercises in one go – incorporate them into your daily life. You could do a lateral walk (aka crab walk) from your kettle to the fridge to get the milk for your tea, you could lunge walk along the hallway to get the post, you could do double leg squats whilst on the phone (put your phone on speaker and try not to heavy breathe too much!) – there are many ways to ‘get them over and done with’ just in your normal day!
  • You could add an exercise band to many of these exercises to increase the resistance needed – there are many cheap exercise bands available on Amazon and from other stores.

Single Leg Deadlift

Single leg deadlift

Double Leg Squat

double leg squat

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges

Single Leg Squats / Pistol Squats

single leg squats

Lateral Walk / Crab Walk

crab walk

Calf Raises

calf raises

And as a final takeaway, here’s Heather from Global Triathlon Network explaining more about exercises, and demonstrating some of them, and some variations, from the list above: