By Dr. Mike Riccardi, DPT, FAFS, CSCS

Runners should be sure to remember the importance of strength training. A balanced, strong lower body (and core) will mean more success and fewer injuries in your running. The exercises below target your hamstrings and glutes (while also working your quads), helping to make sure that your lower body is balanced. Everyone’s workout schedule will be different, but aim to do these exercises at least once a week, on a day when you’re not doing an intensive run. Before strength training, you should warm up with at least 5 minutes of walking, dynamic stretching and/or foam rolling.

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Squats | 3 sets of 10

How to do it

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re more comfortable with your toes pointing outwards slightly, that’s okay. Lean your chest forward slightly and shift your hips backward as you drop them towards the floor. Try to go low enough that your hips are below your knees, but don’t allow your knees to go past your toes. Then stand up, squeezing your glutes as you do so. Try not to  arch your back too much.



Can’t get all the way down? If you feel like you don’t have adequate range of motion and can’t get as low as you’d like, holding a small weight in front of your chest can help improve your form because it helps shift your center of mass forward, making it easier to maintain your weight on your heels.

Switch it up: Try to do each set with your feet a different distance apart. For the first set, use a shoulder-width stance. For the second set, a wider one. For the third, a narrower or staggered stance.


Side Lunge with Forward Reach | 3 sets of 10 reps (per leg)

How to do it:

Start with your feet together, feet pointing forward. Lunge to the side with one leg, shifting your weight to the heel of your lunging leg. Sit back, shifting your hips backward as you drop toward the floor – don’t let your lunging knee go past your toes. Lean your chest forward toward your lunging leg, reaching both hands toward and past that knee. Then return to standing and repeat. Complete the reps for one leg, then switch and repeat. (Leaning your arms forward will help you keep the weight in your heel – which in turn will help ensure you feel this exercise mostly in your hamstrings and glutes in the lunging leg.)


Walking Forward Lunge with Same Side Rotation | 30 steps total

How to do it:

Take a large step forward (a lunge!) with one leg. Keeping your back leg straight and in line with your back leg, lean your chest toward the lunging leg, reaching your hands over that leg and shifting almost all of your weight into the heel of that foot. Then rotate your chest toward your lunging leg, holding the rotation a moment and then returning to neutral. Now stand up on your lunging leg and take a step forward with the alternate leg, repeating the same exercise.


Bulgarian Split Squat | 3 sets of 10 reps (per leg)

How to do it:

Start by elevating one foot behind you on a chair or bench. Keeping your weight in the heel on the ground, lean your chest forward and back straight as you bend both knees, sinking straight down towards the floor. Making sure your front knee doesn’t pass your toes. Then return to standing.  Do one or two sets where you keep your body neutral at the bottom of the squat, and one or two sets where you rotate your chest towards your front knee at the bottom of the squat.

Add some weight: Use both hands to hold one medicine ball as you squat.


Single Leg Deadlift | 3 sets of 10 reps (per leg)

How to do it:

Stand on your one leg with a slight bend in that knee, letting your back leg extend out behind you as you bend over until your chest is parallel to the floor. Keep your back flat and hips level as you go. You’ll feel a slight stretch in your hamstring on the standing leg. Hold for a moment, then slowly raise back up – squeezing your glutes and hamstrings in your standing leg as you do. Complete the reps for one leg, then switch legs and repeat.


Add some weight: Hold a light weight in the same hand as the leg that you are lifting in the air.


 Reverse Step Downs | 2 set of 15 reps (per leg)

How to do it:

Stand with your heels against the edge of a box or a bench that’s 8-12 inches high. Leaning your chest forward, slowly step backward with one leg until you can lightly tap the floor with your toe. Your goal is to barely tap the floor and keep all the weight on the leg on the step, and then stand up, staying balanced on one leg, and repeat. Then switch legs.



Switch it up: Instead of stepping your foot straight back, step it diagonally behind you.



Make it tougher: As you bring  your leg up after each tap, drive that knee up to your chest before reaching the leg back for the next tap.



Towel Slides/Back Lunges| 2 sets of 15 reps (per leg)

How to do it

Lightly rest one foot on a towel while planting the other on the floor. Keeping as much weight as you can on the front leg, slide the foot on the towel backwards, bending your front knee and leaning your chest forward as you do so. Slide the leg back to return to standing and repeat. Then switch legs. The most important part of this exercise is to keep as much weight as possible on the front leg and as little as possible on the back.


Switch it up

Instead of sliding your foot straight back, slide it diagonally behind the other leg.




Single Leg Bridges | 3 sets of 10 reps (per leg)

How to do it

Lay on your back with one knee bent and foot planted on the floor, and your other leg in the air at a 45-degree angle. Push through the heel of the foot on the floor to lift your hips up, keeping your hips level and your back straight (not arched). Then lower your back to the mat.  Complete the reps for one leg, then switch legs.


Make it tougher

Start with your back/shoulders resting on a bench or chair.  This elevates your upper back, meaning you will have to push through a greater range of motion.



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