Bodyweight Exercises: Become a Stable, Efficient, and Powerful Runner!

Coach Casey · July 7, 2019

More often than not it’s the little things that you add to your daily training that can make all the difference. Running is, maybe surprisingly, about much more than just running. To really take your running and race preparation to the next level it’s time to start thinking about the extra, like bodyweight exercises! Gone are the days of waking up, heading right out the door to run, finishing your run, and heading right into the shower. It’s time to take the next training step, get faster, and keep your running legs under you for years and years to come!

By taking 20 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week to add in the extra bodyweight exercises listed below (no equipment necessary) you can decrease your injury prevalence, increase your power output and through added stability, flexibility, and body awareness become an incredibly efficient runner!

*Note: For more detailed explanations and demonstrations on the movements, follow the links in the movement titles!

Lateral Shuffle

Help strengthen your glutes (gluteus medius specifically) with this basic bodyweight exercise. Staying in a 3/4 squat stance with a tall chest, and feet firmly planted slowly shuffle laterally in each direction. I always recommend two sets of ten lunges per direction. That’ll really get your glutes engaged…it’s harder than it seems, promise! For an extra challenge add a mini-band just below your knees or around your ankles!

Air Squats

One of the most fundamental bodyweight exercises out there. The key to getting the most out of a squat with no added weight is absolutely flawless form and slow, controlled movement. Feet shoulder-width apart, heels on the ground, chest up, and getting those hips below the knees without letting your knees collapse in will create a beautiful squat. Go down and up at consistent speeds and don’t rush. It’ll pay off.

Fire Hydrants

Stretching and strengthening your glutes, groin, and hips and working core stability all in one “canine” movement. Starting on all fours, it’s as simple as raising one bent leg at a time (keep the good 90 degree knee angle) and imitating a dog relieving itself on a fire hydrant. Not the most attractive motion, but as useful as any on this list.

Donkey Kicks

Keeping with the animal trend, and extending our strengthening to the hamstrings (along with the glutes) the donkey kick is a great compliment to the above Fire Hydrants. Still on all fours and continuing to keep that good 90 degree knee angle, this time you’re raising that leg up and behind you in a controlled, even motion.

Planks

Strength, stability and form all starts and ends with your core. Having a strong core makes everything a lot easier and more effective. Sets of 30 second planks on all planes (front elbows, each side, back elbows) is a great way to keep your core in condition. Keep track of that straight line from your shoulders, though your hips and to your heels. You may not feel these right away but over time it’ll make a HUGE difference.

Push Ups

Back to basics here. Don’t forget that your arms and chest are an integral part of running too! Well executed push ups work on full body stability, upper body strength and keep that core working and engaged. Start with a more fundamental wide-hand stance. Once you’re comfortable there challenge yourself to work the triceps a bit more with narrow hands or really mix it up with diamond or inclined push ups.

Forward to Reverse Lunges

This movement combination is a great way to hit all the key lower body muscles in one fell swoop. Focusing on your quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and calves (specifically your soleus). Additionally, you’ll engage those great knee stabilizing muscles as you fine-tune your balance. Remember to keep that tall upper body, 90 degree knee angle and sit your hips down into the lunge so that they’re in line with your quad and knee.

Inch Worms

Want to stretch AND get jacked at the same time? This is the movement for you. Not only will you get a good hamstring stretch but your deltoids, pectorals and core will also stay firing throughout the exercise. Feet about hips width apart and maintaining straight legs, the goal is to drop your hands to the ground and walk them out until you’re in a strong push up position without your feet moving at all…oh yeah, and then you have to do it in reverse. Have fun!

Leg Swings (Both Planes)

Functioning as both a warm up/cool down and a bodyweight strength exercise, leg swings are great when done purposefully and consistently. Working both planes of movement (across your body and to the side) this will help immensely with hip mobility. With increased hip mobility comes less injury, faster, easier stride turnover and more power, all good things for any runner!

Doing as few as 10 repetitions of each of these above bodyweight exercises a few times a week will put you leagues ahead of most other runners. Why not try it?

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