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This Circuit Workout for Runners Builds Total-Body Strength

This total-body strength workout is ideal for runners of all levels. Start with one round and work your way up to two to three sets.

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This is a great total-body strength workout for runners of all levels that can be done with minimal equipment. Try mixing these 10 moves it into your routine once or twice a week; start with one round, and work your way up to two to three sets of the circuit. Remember that the key to strength training is slow, controlled movements—you want to make a mind-muscle connection as you’re working out more than raise your heart rate.

Total-Body Strength Workout

Single-Leg Squat | 10 per leg

Illustration of man performing a single-leg squat
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Stand on your right foot and bend the left leg slightly to elevate the left foot a few inches above the floor. Lower your posterior slowly toward the floor, keeping most of your weight on the heel of your support foot. Reach the left leg either behind your body (easier) or in front of your body (harder) to keep it out of the way and to help maintain balance. Squat as low as you can go without your pelvis swinging outward. Return to the start position. Complete a full set and then repeat the exercise on your left foot.

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.

Split Squat Jump | 10 per leg

Illustration of man performing a split squat jump
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Start in a split stance with your right foot flat on the ground and your left leg slightly bent with only the forefoot of your left foot touching the ground a half step behind the right. Lower yourself into a deep squat and then leap upward as high as possible. In midair, reverse the position of your legs. When you land, sink down immediately into another squat and then leap again. Use your arms for balance and to generate extra upward thrust with each leap.

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!

Half-Kneel Cable Pull | 12 per side

Illustration of woman performing a half-kneeling cable pull
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Assume a half-kneel position with your left knee and your right foot on the floor. You may want to place a pad under your knee for comfort. Position yourself three feet away from a cable pulley station with your torso facing it at a 45-degree angle. Attach a V-rope to the cable at ankle height. Grab a segment of the rope in each hand. Begin with your arms fully extended toward the attachment point. Pull your hands to your chest, pause briefly, and then extend your arms fully upward and away from your body. The cable should move in the same line in both parts of this movement. In other words, when you extend your arms in the second part of the movement, the cable should continue to move in exactly the same direction it did when you pulled your hands to your chest. After extending your arms fully, pause briefly once more and then return to the start position in one fluid movement. Your torso should not rotate while performing this exercise. Complete a full set, then reverse your stance and do another set.

Romanian Deadlift | 10 reps

Illustration of a man performing RDLs with dumbbells
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Stand with your feet close together, knees bent very slightly, with a dumbbell next to each foot. Bend forward at the waist and grab the dumbbells. With arms at your sides and knees locked in a slightly bent position, return to a standing position. Pause briefly and then bend forward to do another repetition.

Reverse Plank | 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 gluteals 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.

X-Band Walk | 12 steps each direction

Illustration of man performing X-band walk
Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Loop a half-inch or one-inch exercise band under both feet and stand on top of it. Your feet should be roughly 12 inches apart at the start. Cross the ends of the band to form an X and grasp one end in each hand. Pull your chest up and shoulders back, keeping tension on the band throughout the ensuing movement. Start walking sideways with small lateral steps. The leg that’s on the side of the direction you’re moving will have to overcome the band’s tension to take each step. Make sure you keep the hips and shoulders level, and don’t deviate forward or backward as you step to the side. When this exercise is performed correctly, you’ll feel the movement in your gluteals.

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