6 Essential Bodyweight Exercises For Runners

You probably already know that running is excellent for building your cardiovascular health.

But what about muscular health for the rest of your body? 

By improving the muscular strength of the rest of your body you improve not only your overall health but also your running ability, as well as helping to reduce and minimize injuries in the future.

Some basic strength and conditioning training form an important part of any good marathon training plan.

So what are the best exercises you can perform and why should you consider doing bodyweight exercises alongside your running program?

In this post, we’re going to look at the 6 best bodyweight exercises for runners you can be doing to boost your running game.

The best thing about these exercises is that you can do them at home, with no equipment. You don’t need to be a gym rat either – all of these exercises are simple to follow along and are low-impact, low-risk – you can do them even if you’ve never set foot in a gym before!


Let’s jump in!

bodyweight exercises for runners pin

Why should you consider doing bodyweight exercises for runners?

Firstly, and most importantly, bodyweight exercises are free.

Many people are put off exercising outside of running because of pricey gym memberships or expensive equipment.

To perform these bodyweight exercises for runners you just need yourself, and gravity.

At most, you may need to invest in a decent pull-up bar if you don’t have anywhere you can safely perform them, such as a tree branch or sturdy pipe.

Secondly, you are much less prone to injury compared to using progressively heavier weighted exercises. This keeps you running for and in the game longer. Plus, stronger muscles and a healthier body will prevent general injuries when running in the future.

Looking for a more complete workout? Check out our 20-minute follow-along bodyweight workout.

What bodyweight exercises for runners should you be doing?

Working out is all about progression and balance, whilst tuning your program so that it complements your regular sports. 

In the case of balance for running, whilst a good amount of focus will be on your legs and lower body, working your upper body provides you with a strength that will keep you upright and balanced should you trip or slip.

So for the interest of balance, we will discuss a pushing exercise, a pull exercise, 2 core exercises, and 2 leg exercises so that you can target your more important areas but not neglect the rest of your body.

Let’s look at how to perform them.

Related: Weightlifting for Runners

The 6 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Running

#1: The Squat

bodyweight exercises for runners squats

The king of exercises. A well-performed squat works your legs and core as well as helping with some active flexibility for your muscles as well. Strong legs help greatly with improving your run times and preventing injuries.

The squat is a simple movement but must be performed correctly to prevent injuries and damage.

To perform the squat:

  • Stand straight with your legs just over shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back straight and your chest upright, bend at the knees to lower yourself down, as if you were sitting in a chair.
  • Once your hips are parallel to your knees drive upwards through your heels to raise your body back to a standing position.
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps, and increase the rep count as you improve.

bodyweight exercises for runners squats

Points to note: keep your feet flat through the movement and don’t allow your knees to track over your toes. Always keep your back straight and your chest upwards as well. Don’t allow your back to bend or you risk injuries to your lower back.

#2: The Lunge

bodyweight exercises for runners lunges

The lunge is another excellent exercise to work your legs, but in a much more unilaterally way.

This unilateral work will help to keep your legs even in their strength, preventing one from overworking compared to the other.

The lunge similar to the squat in that they both work the legs with a focus on the quads. The lung is again, very simple but requires some focus to ensure you perform it correctly and prevent injuries and issues.

bodyweight exercises for runners lunges

How to perform the lunge:

  • Standing straight with your legs shoulder-width apart, take a long step forward with one leg. Keep your back straight and your chest up through the entire motion of the lunge.
  • Land with that front foot far enough forward that your back leg is stretched, but not all the way. Land flat on your front foot.
  • Bend your rear knee to the ground carefully so that your front leg also has to bend to accommodate. Don’t allow your front knee to track over your toes. Both your legs will be nearly at 90-degree angles.
  • Push off of your front leg so that you explosively come back to a standing position.
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps, and increase the rep count as you improve.

Points to note: don’t allow your knee to slam to the ground or you risk injuring yourself. Keep it slightly above the ground as you lower it. Keep your feet the same shoulder-width distance through the motion.

#3: Single-legged deadlift

bodyweight exercises for runners single-leg deadlift

The single-legged deadlift is perfect for building your glutes, lower back, and balance.

Just make sure to always perform the same amounts of reps on both legs. Just as the squats will work the front of your legs and your core, this single-legged deadlift will work your hamstrings and the core giving you an even workout.

bodyweight exercises for runners single-leg deadlift

How to do perform the single-legged deadlift:

  • Make sure to pick a spot where you can lean forward and have your leg stretched behind you as you perform the exercise. Pick either leg to start with.
  • Start by Hinging at the hips, and tilting your body forward. Keep your back straight throughout the motion.
  • Reach your hands to the floor in front of you as you hinge your upper body towards the ground. 
  • As your upper body reaches 90 degrees with your leg still on the ground, your body and rear leg should be in a straight line.
  • Return your body to your original standing position whilst keeping your torso straight all the way through. Throughout the exercise, your body should not bend.
  • Repeat the exercise on both legs performing the same amount of repetitions on both legs.
  • Start with 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps each leg, and increase the rep count as you improve.

#4: Plank

bodyweight exercises for runners planks

The plank is a miserable time for most people but a brilliant, non-impactful core exercise.

Simple to perform and builds brilliant core strength.

How to perform the plank:

  • Pick a flat spot on the ground that you can lie comfortably on, face down.
  • When ready push yourself up onto either your hands with straight arms or your elbows forearms. Your only other point of contact with the ground is your toes.
  • Keep your body straight and your abs and glutes tight through the time you perform the plank.
  • Set your timer away when you raise yourself and go for as long as you can or for the amount of time you choose.
  • Begin with 30-60 seconds, and try to add 5 seconds each time you perform the plank.

Things to note: your body should be straight and tight throughout the exercise. Don’t dip at the waist or raise your hips too high otherwise you won’t feel the exercise working.

#5: The Pull-up

bodyweight exercises for runners pull-ups

The pullup is a hard exercise but is perfect for working your upper back, arms, and core.

All you need to perform the pull-up is a sturdy bar or ledge around 12 inches above your head-height, or at least high enough that you can lower yourself to full arm extension without any other part of your body touching the ground.

How to perform the pullup:

  • Grab your chosen bar or ledge with either an overhand or underhand grip.
  • Keep your arms extended at full length and lift your feet off of the ground so you are supported only by your hands.
  • Using your arms and back muscles, lift your chin to and above the bar or ledge. Keep your body straight throughout the motion and avoid kicking your legs up (kipping) for momentum to truly build the strength in your back.
  • Control your descent and lower yourself back down to full arm extension.
  • Aim for 3 sets of 5 reps. As you improve, increase the rep count.
bodyweight exercises for runners pull-ups

Points to note: the pullup is difficult to master. If need be use a resistance band to assist you in your pullups or use your feet to push yourself above the bar and focus on controlling the descent until you can perform the pullup fully.

If you still struggle, look into performing Horizontal Rows until you build up the strength to do a full pullup. 

#6: The Push-up

bodyweight exercises for runners pushups

The classic pushup will work your triceps and chest and will provide the PUSH part of your workout.

Again, this is a simple exercise but can take some time to build up the strength to perform correctly.

How to perform the pushup:

  • Like the plank, pick a flat spot on the ground you can lie face down.
  • Place your hands on the ground, palms down, at around chest height, just below the shoulder.
  • Using your chest and triceps, extend your arms and push yourself upwards with your only other point of contact with the ground being your toes.
  • Extend your arms to full extension and then lower yourself to the ground, but don’t allow your body to touch it. Keep your chest around 2 inches off the ground. 
  • Aim for 3 sets of 5-15 reps. As you improve, increase the rep count.
bodyweight exercises for runners pushups

Points to note: your body should be straight through the movement. Think of it as a moving plank and it will make more sense as to your bodily movements.

If you struggle to do a pushup, to begin with, start by performing them on your knees before moving to your toes. This will make it easier whilst you progress through the movement.

Takeaways – Bodyweight Exercises For Runners

Bodyweight exercises for runners are essential for a runner to build a powerful and strong body and core that will help them run better, faster, and for longer.

A stronger body helps build balance and core strength that improves posture and physical ability that will help prevent injuries down the line. 

While this list covers the basics of bodyweight training, there is so much more that can go into your training that you can neglect your running training entirely.

Remember that, especially in this case, bodyweight training is being used to supplement your running program and not the other way around.

But if you take the time to master some basic bodyweight training you can make a serious improvement to your running game and overall health. Dedicate that little bit of time each week to these 6 bodyweight exercises and you will see excellent results quickly.

Related article: The 6 Best Core Exercises for Runners

Photo of author
Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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