5 Important Areas To Strength Train In The Runner’s Body

by tinareale on July 15, 2013

This fall, I will be participating in the Women’s Running Series Nashville race series through FitFluential. As part of that partnership, each month I will share a running related post. This post is sponsored by Women’s Running Series. Let’s #beamazing and run stronger! You can join me in Nashville using code FITTNTINA for $10 off your registration.


I feel like a lucky runner. Why? Because my first workout love was strength training. I loved the weight room long before I loved the pavement. I find that typically that isn’t the case. Running is a relatively easy workout form for beginners to pick up. Put on some shoes, head outside or hop on a treadmill and run/walk to build up endurance…even with one of the numerous and easy to follow plans such as Couch To 5K.

Strength training, though? How the heck do you even know what to do?! Then, you have to join and go to a gym or buy a ton of equipment at home, right? And what is the most important area to work on? Do I work my legs even though they get plenty of work with training runs? Do I need to work my arms? What matters? What doesn’t? So. Many. QUESTIONS!

this is important too

I get it. I can see how it gets confusing and I hope to break it down a little bit for you. In fact, questions about what areas to strength train are quite common for me.

First up – what to train? What should a runner focus on in workouts? Now, every body is different, so please keep that in mind. While I share the common areas that appear weaker in runners, that doesn’t mean they are YOUR weak areas. If you struggle with aches and pains at all, I suggest seeing a physical or sports therapist to diagnose any imbalances for YOUR body and work on those. Okay? Good!

Common Areas Important to Strengthen For Runners

  • Hamstrings – The hamstrings are often weaker in relation to the quadriceps and tight hip flexors. It’s a good idea to correct or limit this imbalance by strengthening the hamstrings.
  • Gluteus Medius – Also known as the “side butt,” this smaller muscle does a load for runners as it helps stabilize the hips to improve running form.
  • Lower Back – When we think core training, we often think ABS! Then crunch our way into oblivion. In fact, the core is the entire mid-region of the body. Ever have lower back pain from running? Or even sitting all day at work? The lower back is often too weak to support your body for those extended periods on your feet for a run. Form suffers and aches begin. Get that lower back strong!
  • Rear Delts (upper back and shoulders) – Posture is HUGE for runners. The best running form, which also allows for better breathing, keeps the chest up and shoulders down and back. Yet how often do we hunch up our shoulders and sag down in the chest and core because we get tired during a run? A stronger upper back and rear shoulder region will help us to keep that posture.
  • Overall Lower Body Stability – The larger muscle groups in the legs most definitely get their share of a workout during the pounding they take in a run, but what about those smaller structures? The tendons and ligaments helping control everything? Stabilization in the lower body can benefit every runner, yet is often overlooked in training programs. Don’t miss out on it in your own workouts!

Now you know what areas are important to train, what exercises fit those needs? Below find a table with some sample exercises for each area.

Strength Training For Runners

You can use the above table to mix and match to create your own workout to fit alongside your running – choose one exercise from each group to put together into a functional running circuit along with some drills (like high knees and butt kicks) or focus on 1-2 areas in one workout and mix it up a couple times a week. And, of course, this isn’t a complete list of exercises but just a sampling. So get creative. Go for what works for you, but above all, get strengthening!

Exercise library for exercises mentioned above:

Lower Back

Rear Delts


Gluteus Medius

Overall Leg Stability

Your Turn – what are some of your favorite strengthening exercises, as a runner?

For more info, tips, inspiration, and discounts for other races from Women’s Running Series, be sure to follow WRS on Twitter or follow WRS on Facebook! And if you’re looking for a fall race, don’t miss out on these great options from WRS!


1 Miz July 15, 2013 at 7:47 am

Im not a runner but I SIT do much I need to focus on the hamstrings too.

2 Jamie @ Rise.Run.Mom.Repeat. July 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

Thank you for this! I knew what most of the exercises are, but the links are helpful for the exercises I haven’t heard of. :)
I’ve become a big fan of squats. My buns thank me when I run hills.

3 Fancy Nancy July 15, 2013 at 8:13 am

I am a runner how loves the iron too! These are great exercises! Quick question that I am always toying with…Cardio before or after weights?

4 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More July 15, 2013 at 8:50 am

AWESOME post, Tina!! When I’m regularly strength training, I find a HUGE difference in my running. Well…except when I strength train my legs, don’t stretch and am sore for DAYS expecting a good long run right after…silly. ;)

5 Danica @ It's Progression July 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

Love this post! When I trained for my first half marathon, over a year ago, I did very little strength training, and most of what I did was upper body/arm weights. I’ve trained for two more halfs since then and really learned the value of making upper body, lower body, AND core strength training a regular part of that training plan. It’s made me so much stronger (and faster!) as a runner!

6 Tami Grandi July 15, 2013 at 9:06 am

This is totally something I need to work on- I know it I just need to do it! Thanks for the resources

7 Heather (Where's the Beach) July 15, 2013 at 9:54 am

Great list of exercises. I’ve gotten so lazy about working my glutes. Love the firewalkers for hips.

8 Kim July 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

Thanks, Tina – great moves for all of us (runners or not!!).

9 Rachel July 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

Great workout! I pinned to do later :)

10 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions July 15, 2013 at 10:59 am

You’re my hero. Love this! I’m training for my first marathon right now and have made a real effort to incorporate some light strength training into my weekly routine. Since I’ve never run a marathon before I can’t really say if it’s making any difference or not compared to previous experience (since I have no previous experience!), but I do think my body appreciates what I’m doing and is more or less keeping me happy in the meantime (minor aches and pains, of course, but I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to go through marathon training without experiencing any minor aches and pains on runs), and that’s what counts!

11 Michelle July 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I am having issues with my hip flexors (thanks to pregnancy/postpartum hormones) and I can DEFINITELY tell you that the Gluteus Medius and Hamstrings are important to runners. :) I’ve actually been doing a few of these exercises for the few weeks and they are helping!

12 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast July 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Just pinned… awesome advice. I’ve been reminded lately that I need to focus on my hips more and I don’t do a lot of balance/leg stability. Adding these in this week!

13 Sami @Simply Sami July 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Great advice! I need more strength training in my life!

14 Allison @ With Faith & Grace July 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Totally bookmarking this! Thanks!

15 Davida @ The Healthy Maven July 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Great post Tina! Training for my first half-marathon so this is super helpful!

16 Brittany @ Delights and Delectables July 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Love this! My gluteus medius was not strong and I got really bad knee pain! I won’t make that mistake again!

17 Christine @ Love, Life, Surf July 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I love this Tina! I love strength training too and have realized how important it is for running. Definitely focus on my glutes and hips! Thank you for this!

18 Heather @ Better With Veggies July 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm

I’m so glad you showed exercises for more than just lower body, it’s a misconception that you only need to train your legs as a runner!! Great workout!

19 Wil Morales (@Apps_Delight) July 16, 2013 at 7:26 am

I’m NO runner ;) but I love these exercises and will be putting them to good use. Thanks!

20 [email protected] July 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm

This is an awesome post! And amen on the core being more than abs! People need to know that.

21 Melissa Burton July 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Injured runner here due to low back. Strength training is so very overlooked. Great tips!

22 Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food July 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Great post, Tina! Thanks for all the exercises…strength training is definitely so important!!

23 [email protected] July 17, 2013 at 6:57 am

Pinned and tweeted! Thanks!

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