Strengthen your stride, and reduce common running injuries with these body weight exercises.

by Karen Meadows

No gym? No problem! Here are a few of the best bodyweight exercises you can do to strengthen your stride, prevent common running injuries, and maintain better posture.  

Here’s how to use the list:  

  1. Try incorporating the exercises below after an easy run when you are already warm at least two times a week.  
  2. Do 8 to 12 reps of each exercise for one to three sets. Once you can easily finish 12 reps, consider adding lightweights. 
  3. If new to strength training, proceed gradually and consider watching yourself in a mirror.

Mountain Climber 

Why Do it?  Mountain climbers are a full-body exercise building strength in your legs, core, and arms.

How to do it?  Begin in a high plank, keeping your core engaged and body straight from shoulders to hips to heels.  Pull one knee toward chest, then quickly step it back to plank position. Repeat on other side. 

Walking Lunges - forward and backward

Why Do it?  Walking lunges are a dynamic movement that actively stretches the hip flexors while strengthing the core and lower leg muscles.

How to do it?  Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step forward with right foot, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Drive through right heel to stand, while stepping left foot forward and dropping into a lunge on the left side. Repeat by stepping backward.

Squat

Why Do it?  The squat strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, and the glutes. 

How to do it?  Stand with feet a little more than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out.  Push your hips back keeping your weight on your heels as if sitting in a chair. Keep your back straight as you lift through your heels to stand.

Bridge

Why Do it?  The bridge isolates and strengthens your gluteus muscles and hamstrings and enhances core stability.

How to do it?  Lie on your back with bent knees and lift your hips up keeping a straight line from shoulders to knees with feet at a 90-degree angle directly below hips.  Squeeze glutes and hold briefly before lowering hips. For a more advanced more, extend one leg out. Drive through the heel and lift and lower the extended leg. Switch sides.

Monster walks

Why do it? Monster walks strengthen the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, and helps to stabilize your knees and hips.

How to do it?  Stand with knees slightly bent with a band around mid-calf or above the knees and walk side to side while keeping constant tension on the band.  

Step-ups

Why do it?   Step-ups help strengthen legs for improved hill running and they are great for hip stability.

How to do it?  Stand facing a box, bench, or step.   Place your right foot on top of the box, so that your hip, knee, and ankle all form 90-degree angles.  Press your right foot into the box and push your body up until your right leg is straight. Bring your left foot onto the bench at the top or for a more advanced move try to hold it in the air.  Step back down to the floor then switch sides.

Single-Leg deadlift

Why do it?   The single-leg deadlift strengthens your posterior chain, develops balance, and improves mobility.

How to do it?  Stand on one leg with a slight bend in the knee. While maintaining a flat back with squared hips and shoulders, inhale a breath and begin to slowly hinge at the hips extending the opposite leg behind you until fully extended.  The extended leg, hips, shoulders, and head should be in a straight line. Pause at the top of each repetition. Slowly return to a standing position by pressing hard into the ground. Perform the desired number of reps then switch sides.

Swimmers

Why do it?   This exercise strengthens your lower back and core muscles. 

How to do it?  Lie on your stomach with arms and legs extended.   Squeeze glutes, lift arms and legs and while elevated, quickly move your arms and legs up and down.  Continue alternating legs and arms for as long as you can while maintaining good form.

Bird Dog

Why do it?   The bird dog improves stability and strengthens the core and lower back.  

How to do it?  With your hands and knees on the ground, raise your opposite arm and leg, keeping knees under hips and shoulders under wrists.   Focus on keeping your back flat, and hips and shoulders square. Draw right elbow and left knee toward each other, hovering just above the floor. Repeat for the desired number of reps then switch sides.

Leg Lift

Why do it?   The leg raise targets the iliopsoas and also strengthen the rectus abdominis muscle and the internal and external obliques.

How to do it?  Lie faceup, legs straight, hands under low back for support. Keeping low back flat against the mat, lift legs up toward the ceiling, keeping knees as straight as possible.  Slowly lower legs back down toward the floor. Continue to press low back into the mat. When legs hover just an inch off the floor, lift back up and repeat.

 

Coach Karen is a USAT and USA Track and Field Certified Coach and Personal Trainer who lives in Panama City Beach where she trains with her athletes extensively on the Ironman Florida and 70.3 Gulf Coast race courses.  She has run more than 50 marathons including multiple Boston Marathons and she has qualified for ITU Long Course, Duathlon and Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  She has coached athletes to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, ITU National Championships, The Boston Marathon, and personal bests.  She can be reached at coach-karen.com and can be found showcasing functional strength exercises to improve strength and mobility on Instagram @coachkaren30a.