Build Runner's Strength With Targeted Training

As passionate advocates for performance enhancement and the pursuit of fitness goals, we at 2XU understand that running isn't just about pounding the pavement day in and day out. It's also about building strength in key muscle groups, and improving endurance, speed, and stability. 

This article will help you incorporate targeted strength training into your routine to build your runner's strength and boost your performance on the track, trail, or treadmill.

What Is the Importance of Strength Training for Runners?

Often, runners overlook strength training, focusing mainly on clocking miles. However, strength training plays a pivotal role in improving your running performance. By targeting key muscles used during runs, you can enhance your speed, increase your endurance, and reduce your risk of injuries.

Specifically, strength training helps improve your running efficiency, making each stride more powerful and effective. It also builds resilience in your muscles and connective tissues, allowing them to withstand the repetitive impact of running. That way, you can go farther and faster without breaking down. 

And here's where 2XU's commitment comes into play — our high-performance compression gear is designed to complement your strength training, helping you reach those milestones safely and effectively.

Which Muscles Are Important for Running?

To maximize the benefits of strength training, it's essential to understand the major muscle groups engaged during running. These include the quadriceps and hamstrings in your thighs, the glutes in your buttocks, and the calves in your lower legs. Your core muscles — including the abs, obliques, and lower back — also play a significant role in maintaining stability and balance while you run.

Each of these muscle groups has a unique role in propelling you forward. For instance, your quads help lift your legs off the ground, your hamstrings pull your heel up towards your buttocks, and your calves help push you off the ground. Glutes and core work harmoniously to maintain balance, stability, and posture. 

By targeting these muscles with strength training, you can enhance their functionality, improving running performance.

Strength Training Exercises for Quadriceps

The quadriceps are crucial for lifting your legs during each stride. Strengthening them can help improve your running speed and stride length. 

Here are some effective exercises:


Squats are a fundamental exercise for strengthening the quadriceps. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lower your body as if sitting back into a chair, then push up through your heels to stand. Keep your chest up and knees over your toes to maintain proper form.


Lunges are another powerful exercise targeting the quadriceps. Take a step forward, lower your body until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle, then push back up to stand. Ensure your front knee doesn't extend past your toes to avoid straining your joints.

Leg Press

The leg press is an effective exercise that focuses on the quads. Sit on the machine, place your feet hip-width apart on the platform, then push through your heels to extend your legs. Slowly lower the weight back down to complete the rep.

Goblet Squats

Goblet squats target the quads while also engaging the glutes and hamstrings. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest level, stand with feet hip-width apart, then squat down. Push through your heels to stand, keeping your chest lifted throughout the exercise.

Single-Leg Step-Ups

Single-leg step-ups are a fantastic exercise to isolate and strengthen the quadriceps. Find a sturdy platform or step, place one foot on it, and push through your heel to lift your body up. 

Keep your chest lifted and engage your core for balance. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat with the other leg.

Strength Training Exercises for Hamstrings

During a run, your hamstrings are responsible for pulling your heel up towards your buttocks. Strong hamstrings can enhance your running efficiency and speed. 

Consider these exercises:

Nordic Hamstring Curls

Nordic hamstring curls are a challenging exercise that specifically targets the hamstrings. Kneel on a soft surface with your feet anchored under a stable object or have a partner hold them down. 

Slowly lower your upper body forward while keeping your core engaged and maintaining a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Use your hamstrings to control the descent, and then push through your toes or use your hands to push yourself back up to the starting position.


Deadlifts are a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the hamstrings. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell or dumbbell in front of your thighs. 

Hinge at your hips, lowering the weight towards the ground while maintaining a flat back. Push through your heels to stand back up, squeezing your glutes and engaging your hamstrings.

Romanian Deadlifts

Similar to regular deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts focus on the hamstrings. Hold a barbell or dumbbell in front of your thighs with your feet hip-width apart. 

Hinge at your hips, keeping your back straight, and lower the weight towards the ground while feeling a stretch in your hamstrings. Engage your hamstrings and glutes to stand back up.

Hamstring Curl

Hamstring curls can be performed using a machine or resistance band. If using a machine, adjust the settings to your desired weight. Lie face down on the machine, secure your ankles under the pad, and curl your legs towards your glutes. 

If using a resistance band, anchor it to a sturdy object and loop it around your ankles. While standing, bend your knees, curling your heels towards your glutes against the band's resistance. 

Pro Tip: Our Light Speed Compression Shorts can support your hamstrings during this exercise.

Glute-Ham Raises

Glute-ham raises are a challenging exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings while also engaging the glutes and lower back. Start by kneeling on a glute-ham raise machine or secure your feet under a stable object. Lower your upper body forward while keeping your torso straight and core engaged. 

Use your hamstrings to control the descent, and then contract them to lift your body back up to the starting position.

Strength Training Exercises for Glutes

Your glutes play a major role in maintaining your balance and stability while running. Strengthening your glutes can improve your running posture and reduce the risk of injuries. 

Try these exercises:


Clamshells are a simple yet effective exercise for activating and strengthening the gluteus medius, which is important for hip stability. Start by lying on your side with your knees bent and your feet together. 

Keeping your feet touching, lift your top knee while keeping your pelvis stable. Lower your knee back down and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. Switch to the other side and repeat.

Glute Bridge

Glute Bridges engage your glutes and hamstrings. Lay on your back with your knees bent, and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Lower back down to complete the rep.

Hip Thrusts

Hip Thrusts focus on your glutes. Sit against a bench and lift your hips by driving through your heels. Lower your hips back down to complete the rep. Our Force Compression Tights offer targeted support to the glutes during this exercise.

Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats are a challenging exercise targeting glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Stand in a lunge position with one foot forward, and the other foot elevated on a bench or step behind you. Lower your body by bending your front knee while keeping your torso upright. 

Push through your front heel to return to the starting position. Complete the desired number of repetitions and switch sides.

Monster Walks

Monster walks activate the gluteus medius and help improve hip stability and control. Place a resistance band just above your knees. 

Start with your feet hip-width apart and slightly bend your knees. Step to the side with one foot, followed by the other, maintaining tension on the resistance band. 

Continue stepping sideways, focusing on engaging your glutes and keeping your core stable. Repeat for the desired number of steps.

Strength Training Exercises for Core

A strong core can improve your running posture, enhance your balance, and reduce your fatigue during long runs. 

Core exercises for runners can include:


Planks target your entire core. Rest on your forearms in a push-up position, keep your body straight from your head to your heels, and hold. Wearing our Core Compression Tights can provide added stability during planks, helping to maintain proper form.

Russian Twists

Russian Twists work your obliques and core. Sit with your feet off the ground, lean back slightly, and twist your torso from side to side. This exercise can be challenging but very effective for core strength.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers work your entire core while providing a cardiovascular workout. Starting in a high plank position, drive your knees towards your chest one at a time. Wearing our Refresh Recovery Tights can aid in muscle recovery post-exercise, soothing muscle stiffness and supporting recovery.

Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle crunches engage your abs and obliques. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, and bring one knee towards your chest while simultaneously twisting your torso to bring your opposite elbow towards the knee. Alternate sides in a pedaling motion, as if riding a bicycle.

Dead Bug

The Dead Bug exercise targets your deep core muscles. Lie on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. 

Slowly lower one arm behind your head while extending the opposite leg straight out, pressing your lower back into the ground. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Incorporating Strength Training Into Your Running Routine

Integrating strength training into your running routine isn't just about cramming in a session whenever you can. It's about making it a fundamental part of your schedule, just like your regular runs. 

With this in mind, here are some tips to help you effectively incorporate strength training into your running routine:

  • Start Small: If you are new to strength training, start with one or two sessions per week. Start with light weights or bodyweight exercises and gradually increase the intensity over time.
  • Balance Your Workouts: Try not to run and strength train on the same day. If you must, always run first to avoid fatigue affecting your form while running.
  • Full-Body Workouts: Aim for a full-body strength training routine that targets all the major muscle groups used in running. This ensures balanced strength and prevents imbalances that could lead to injury.
  • Focus on Form: When it comes to strength training, quality trumps quantity. It's better to do fewer repetitions with good form than many reps with poor form.
  • Recovery Time: Allow for ample recovery time between your strength training sessions. Your muscles grow and get stronger during recovery periods, so these are just as important as the workouts themselves.
  • Progress Gradually: Don’t increase the volume of your strength training too quickly. Aim to increase either the weight you're lifting or the number of sets or reps by no more than 10% per week.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you're feeling overly tired or notice a decrease in your running performance, you may be overdoing it. It's okay to scale back your strength training or take extra rest days as needed.
  • Consistency Is Key: Just like with running, consistency is the key to seeing results from strength training. Make it a regular part of your training routine.
  • Use Proper Gear: Wear the right gear for your strength workouts, such as our high-performance compression gear, to offer support, promote faster recovery, and enhance performance.
  • Consider Professional Guidance: If you're new to strength training, consider working with a fitness professional. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure you're performing exercises correctly and safely.

Sample Weekly Training Plan for Runners

A well-rounded training plan for runners should incorporate both running and strength training sessions. Here's a sample weekly plan:

  • Monday: Easy run + Lower body strength training
  • Tuesday: Rest or active recovery (like yoga or stretching)
  • Wednesday: Interval running workout + Core strength training
  • Thursday: Rest or active recovery
  • Friday: Tempo run + Upper body strength training
  • Saturday: Long run
  • Sunday: Rest

Remember, listening to your body and adjusting your plan accordingly is key. If you're feeling tired or if your muscles are sore, take an extra rest day.

Wrapping Things Up

Strength training does more than just improve your running performance in the short term. It can help prevent injuries, improve your running form, and enhance your overall physical fitness.

At 2XU, we believe in empowering athletes to be the best they can be. With our high-quality compression gear and your commitment to strength training, we're confident that you'll be able to reach new running milestones.

Whether you're preparing for your next marathon or just looking to hit a new personal record, remember that strength training is your ally. So get out there, start lifting, and see the difference it can make in your running!


Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier | Mayo Clinic

Core Anatomy | Learn About Core Muscles | ACE

What muscles are used for running? | Live Science

Rest and recovery are critical for an athlete's physiological and psychological well-being UC Health