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Build Total-Body Strength (No Weights Required!)

New to strength training? Harness the power of your own bodyweight to build practical strength that will help you become a better runner.

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You don’t need any weights to do this total-body strength workout, which makes it great for beginning runners or anyone working out at home. Try adding it to your routine once or twice a week; start with one round, and work your way up to two to three sets of the circuit.

Once you’ve got this one down, mix things up with more total-body strength workout circuits.

Total-Body Strength Workout

Giant Walking Lunge | 10 per leg

Illustration of man performing walking lunges
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Walk slowly forward by taking the longest steps possible. With each new step, imagine you’re trying to break your “personal record” for the largest step you’ve ever taken. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides. If this is not challenging, perform the exercise with a dumbbell in each hand.

Side Plank | 30 seconds per side

Illustration of woman performing side plank
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Lie on your left side with your ankles together and your torso propped up by your upper arm. Lift your hips upward until your body forms a diagonal plank from ankles to neck. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, making sure you don’t allow your hips to sag toward the floor. (Watch yourself in a mirror to make sure you’re not sagging.) Switch to the left side and repeat the exercise.

Chin-Up | 10 reps

Illustration of woman performing a chin-up
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Begin by hanging from a chin-up bar with an underhand grip on the bar and your hands positioned slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. Pull your body upward toward the bar until your chin is at bar level. Pause briefly and slowly lower yourself back to the start position.

If you cannot complete at least eight chin-ups, do a modified chin-up. Set a Smith machine barbell at a height of three to four feet above the floor. Sit under the bar and grab it underhand with your hands positioned at shoulder width. Raise your hips up and form a straight line with your whole body. You are now “hanging” from the bar with only your heels touching the floor. Pull your chest to the bar and then return slowly to a hanging position.

Step-Up | 10 per leg

Illustration of man performing a step-up
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Stand facing a sturdy 12- to 18-inch platform such as an aerobic step with your right foot on it and your left foot on the floor. Now use your right leg to pull your body upward until you’re standing on the bench on your right foot. Concentrate on not pushing off the floor with your left foot. (One way to ensure you do this is to lift the toes of your left foot before you engage your right leg to lift your body.) Make your right leg do all the work of lifting your body. Step back down with your left leg. Repeat until you’ve completed a full set, then switch legs.

Alternating Single-Leg Reverse Crunch | 10 per leg

Illustration of woman performing single-leg reverse crunch
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Lie on your back with your head supported by a large pillow or foam roller. Begin with your legs bent 90 degrees and your thighs perpendicular to the floor, feet together. Engage your deep abs by drawing your navel toward your spine and trying to flatten your lower back against the floor. While holding this contraction, slowly lower your right foot to the floor. Return immediately to the start position, and then lower the left foot. If you find this movement easy, you are failing to hold the contraction of your deep abs. Keep your back pressed so flat to the floor that a credit card couldn’t be squeezed between them!

Push-Up | 20 or to failure

Illustration of woman performing a push-up
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Assume a standard push-up position with your hands just outside shoulder width. Imagine your body being a straight line from ankles to neck; don’t allow the hips to sag or your butt to stick up too high. Tuck your chin so that your head is close to being in line with your body. Lower your chest to within an inch of the floor. Look straight at the floor the entire time and keep your core braced tightly. Press back to the starting position.

If you can’t do at least 10 standard push-ups, instead do elevated push-ups with your hands positioned on an exercise bench. If you can do more than 20 push-ups, instead do resisted push-ups with a resistance band wrapped over your shoulder blades and the ends pressed to the floor under your hands.

Balance Ball Leg Curl | 10 per leg

Illustration of man performing leg curls with a ball under his feet
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Lie on your back and place your heels together on top of a stability ball. Raise your pelvis so that your body forms a straight plank from head to toes. Contract your gluteal muscles and hamstrings and roll the ball toward your body. Pause briefly and return to the start position. Focus on keeping your pelvis from sagging toward the floor throughout this movement. To make this exercise more challenging, perform single-leg curls with one heel on the ball and the other foot elevated a few inches above it.

Glute Bridge Hold | 30 seconds

Illustration of woman performing reverse plank
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Lie on your back on the floor with your arms folded on your chest, your knees bent 90 degrees, and your feet flat on the floor. Contract your glutes and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from neck to knees. Hold this position.

Inverted Shoulder Press | 10 reps

Illustration of woman performing inverted shoulder press with bench
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Assume a push-up position but with your feet elevated on an exercise bench or other sturdy platform of similar height. Position your hands close enough to your feet so your body forms an inverted V with a 60 to 90 degree bend at the waist. Bend your elbows and lower the top of your head toward the floor between your hands, stopping just short of making contact. Press back to the start position. The higher you elevate your feet and the more you bend at the waist, the more challenging this exercise will be.

Eccentric Heel Dip | 10 per leg

Illustration of a man performing eccentric heel dips
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Balance on one foot on a sturdy platform such as an aerobics step, with the ball of the foot resting on the edge of the platform so that the heel is unsupported and hanging off the back of the platform. Rest your fingertips against a wall or some other support for balance. Lower your heel toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your calf muscles. (Your heel will now be below the level of the ball of your foot.) Then raise your heel back to a neutral position. At first, when you lift your body back to the starting position, do so with both legs so that you are not overloading the calf muscles. Once you’re stronger, you may attempt the lifting phase with one calf. Always use one for the lowering phase. Complete a full set and then work the other calf.

Adapted from Racing Weight Quick Start Guide: A 4-Week Weight-Loss Plan for Endurance Athletes by Matt Fitzgerald, with permission of VeloPress.