20-Minute Strength Training Workout for Runners – SELF

20-Minute Strength Training Workout for Runners  SELF

Strengthen the muscles that will help power you through your run with this short strength training workout that complements any running routine.

Katie Thompson

As a runner, I really know how easy it is to get caught up running and forget about other workouts my body needs. And I know I’m not alone: Many runners tend to spend so much time running that they neglect things like stretching and strength training (at least in my experience). Once I started strength training regularly a year or so ago, it started to feel easier to work into my routine. But still—especially leading up to a race, it’s really tempting to forgo other workouts to fit in lots of training runs.

Ignoring strength workouts isn’t doing your body or your race time any favors, though. “While it may seem like runners only need to run, it’s actually far from the truth. Supplementing running programs with additional strength training will not only help in decreasing the risk of injury, but proper strength training will increase balance and strength,” Jessica Glazer, a New York Sports Clubs elite trainer, tells SELF. Both of those things will help you maintain proper posture and running form, plus give your body more power so it can move quickly and efficiently when you’re running.

And research backs her up: Studies show that strengthening the hips and core can help prevent runner’s knee, which is something physical therapists recommend to those who experience knee pain from running. Experts suggest strengthening exercises to remedy a handful of beginner runner injuries. And numerous research studies have shown that strength training can improve muscle power and performance in endurance athletes (like long-distance runners).

We asked Glazer to put together a strength workout that runners can easily incorporate into their routines. She created the strength-training circuit workout below, which focuses on the muscles that are important for running.

The entire workout only takes 20 minutes, and Glazer suggests doing it twice a week to really strengthen the muscles that are important for moving you through a run and bolstering your body against the repetitive motions that can put stress on your muscles and joints. Plus, any good race plan calls for cross-training days anyway—we’re here to take the guesswork out of it, so you can get it done and get back to pounding the pavement.

Here’s how the workout is set up:

This workout is broken up into three circuits, each with three moves. For each exercise, you’ll do as many reps as you can (without compromising form) for 40 seconds, and then rest for 20 seconds before moving onto the next move. You’ll go through each circuit twice, and take one minute to rest before jumping into the next circuit.

Here’s more details on what each circuit looks like:

Circuit 1

  • Box Jumps — 40 seconds
  • Plank Renegade Rows — 40 seconds
  • Hip Bridges With Hamstring Curls — 40 seconds

Do this circuit two times before taking a 1-minute break.

Circuit 2

  • Single-Leg Deadlifts — 40 seconds
  • Hand Release Push-Ups — 40 seconds
  • Back Extensions — 40 seconds

Do this circuit two times before taking a 1-minute break.

Circuit 3

  • Thrusters — 40 seconds
  • Stability Ball Jackknives — 40 seconds
  • Lower Body Russian Twists — 40 seconds

Do this circuit two times. That’s the end of your workout.

And before you start, don’t forget to warm up! Here’s a good warm-up you can try if you don’t already have a favorite.

Here’s how to do the moves:

Katie Thompson

Box Jumps — 40 seconds

  • Stand in front of a box (or other secure, hard surface like a bench, bleacher, or stairs) with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend your knees and jump off the floor with both feet. “Focus on jumping ‘up,’ not ‘forward,'” Glazer says. Swing your arms, using them to help lift you off the ground.
  • Land on the box in a squat position (feet flat and hip-distance apart, hips and knees bent, chest raised).
  • Push through your heels to stand tall. Squeeze your core and glutes.
  • Step off the box one foot at a time. Get back into the start position.
  • Repeat this motion for 40 seconds.

To make the box jump a little easier, Glazer suggests starting with simply stepping up onto the box. “Make sure to alternate your lead foot,” she says. “Be sure to plant the entire foot on the box, do not allow your heel to hang off, and keep your chest up and core tight.”

Katie Thompson

Plank Renegade Rows — 40 seconds

  • Start in high plank—that is, the top of a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to toe. Hold a set of dumbbells in your hands, palms facing each other.
  • Row your right arm back to pull the weight toward your chest, keeping your elbow close to your body.
  • Bring your right arm back to the starting position. Repeat the row with your left arm.
  • Keep your hips as stable as possible and avoid rocking back and forth.
  • Repeat this movement, alternating sides, for 40 seconds.
Katie Thompson

Hip Bridge With Hamstring Curl — 40 seconds

  • Lie flat on your back with your heels resting on a stability ball. Extend your arms out to the side to support your body.
  • Squeeze your butt and push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Keep your hips elevated and core tight as you pull the ball in toward your butt. “Focus on bending the knees and pulling with the hamstrings, not hinging in the hips,” Glazer says.
  • Roll the ball back out, and slowly lower your hips back down to the ground.
  • Repeat this motion for 40 seconds.

“This exercise is great for strengthening your hamstrings and glutes, which are very important posterior muscles we tend to ignore. These bridges will also fire up the core,” Glazer says. To make it a little easier (or if you don’t have a ball and are just resting your legs on an elevated surface), focus on just the hip bridge portion and skip the hamstring curl.

Katie Thompson

Single-Leg Deadlift — 40 seconds

  • Stand with feet together, holding a weight in your right hand in front of your right thigh.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg. While keeping a slight bend in your left knee, raise your right leg straight behind your body, hinge at the hips to bring your torso parallel to the floor, and lower the weight toward the floor. Keep your back flat.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your torso and right leg should be almost parallel to the floor, with the weight a few inches off the ground.
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your left heel to stand up straight. As you do, keep the right leg straight and bring it back toward start. Tap your toe to the floor and slide the weight back to start.
  • Pause at the top and squeeze your butt. Think of it as moving your body in a seesaw motion.
  • Repeat for 20 seconds, and then do 20 seconds on the other side.

“The benefit of single leg deadlifts is more balance and core work,” Glazer says.

Katie Thompson

Hand Release Push-Ups — 40 seconds

  • Start in high plank. Focus on keeping your core tight and back flat, and make sure your shoulders are stacked over your elbows and wrists.
  • Lower down to the floor. Make sure the movement is slow and controlled. Keep your elbows facing behind you, not flared out to the sides.
  • With your chest resting on the floor, lift your hands up about an inch and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Place your hands back on the ground and push back up to plank.
  • Do as many reps as you can in 40 seconds.

To make the move easier, keep your knees on the ground. Make sure to keep your core and glutes tight.

Katie Thompson

Superman — 40 seconds

  • Lie face down with your arms out in front of you and legs extended behind you.
  • Lift your arms, torso, and legs off the floor simultaneously. Hold for two seconds, then lower back down slowly.
  • Make sure to keep your legs straight and neck neutral “by gazing down at the floor in between your arms, arms glued to your ears,” Glazer instructs.
  • Repeat slowly for 40 seconds.
Katie Thompson

Dumbbell Thruster — 40 seconds

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in. Hold the weights at your shoulders with your elbows bent.
  • Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat. Go as low as you can.
  • Push through your heels to stand back up. Press the dumbbells overhead as you stand. Immediately bring the weights back to your shoulders and lower into another squat.
  • Repeat for 40 seconds.

“Squats are obviously great for your lower body, but by adding an overhead weight you can really focus on core stabilization and balance,” Glazer says.

Katie Thompson

Stability Ball Jackknife — 40 seconds

  • Start in high plank with your feet balancing on a stability ball (like the one shown above). If it’s too hard to balance, rest your shins on the ball, too, instead of just your toes (as pictured).
  • Raise your hips and round your back to pull the ball in toward your chest. Keep your legs as straight as you can.
  • Make sure to keep your core tight and back flat throughout, and squeeze your core at the top of the movement, Glazer says.
  • Slowly lower back to start, making sure to keep your hips and torso from sinking below high plank position.
  • Repeat this movement for 40 seconds.

To make it easier, Glazer says you can simply pull the ball in to your chest and bend your knees as you do it, eliminating the hip lift portion. “These will certainly wake up your shoulders and core if done properly,” she adds.

Katie Thompson

Lower-Body Russian Twists — 40 seconds

  • Lie on your back with your knees directly above your hips and bent at about 90 degrees.
  • Extend your arms out to the sides to stabilize you. “Relax your neck and engage your core by pressing your belly button down, forcing your low back into the floor,” Glazer says.
  • Slowly lower your knees toward the right side of your body. Try your best to keep your shoulders square on the floor.
  • Using your core, pull your legs back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue this movement for 40 seconds.

Model Alle Johnson is wearing a Montiel Hazel Halter Crop (, $44), Lululemon Push Your Limits Crop Leggings (, $88), and Nike Air VaporMax Flyknit shoes (, $190).