6 Beginner Bodyweight Exercises for New Runners

These basic moves will build strength and reduce your risk of injury as you fall in love with running.

We get it: You like to run, not spend hours in a gym. But strength training, especially if you’re just getting into running regularly, will help you run your best. The following beginner bodyweight exercises build strong, powerful, and injury-resistant muscles to power up hills, sprint across the finish, and maintain good running form for kilokmetres. Best part: These moves require no equipment, so you can do them anytime, anywhere.

How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the specified number of reps. Mat Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and coach, demonstrates them below to show you proper form. Complete the workout twice a week on easy or rest days.

1. Squat

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped at chest. Send hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat until thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep chest lifted. Press through heels to return back to starting position. Perform three sets of 10 reps.

Make it harder: Turn it into a jump squat by exploding up as high as you can and land softly between each rep.

2. Backward Lunge

Start standing with hands on hips. Take a big step back with right foot and lower down so that right knee taps floor. Both knees should form 90-degree angles. Keep left knee over left ankle and chest lifted – don’t lean forward. Press through left heel to stand back up to starting position. Repeat on other leg. That’s one rep. Perform 8 to 10 reps.

Make it harderTry a jump lunge. Between each lunge, explode into the air, swinging your arms forward and switching your legs in midair like scissors. Land in a lunge with your opposite leg forward.

3. Bridge

Lie face-up on a mat with knees bent, arms at sides, palms down. Draw your belly button in toward spine, and press into heels to lift hips up off mat. Engage core, glutes and hamstrings to keep hips level; don’t let one side dip. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it harder: Try a One-Legged Bridge: Start in the same position. Extend left leg straight off the floor, keeping both knees in line. Drive through right heel to lift hips and glutes off the mat. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 reps and repeat. Repeat on the other side.

4. Rolling Side Plank

Start in a forearm plank with forearms stacked, shoulders directly over elbows, and core engaged so body forms a straight line from heels to shoulders. Don’t let hips dip. Engage core then shift weight to left arm as you rotate to the left and extend right arm straight up. Return to starting position and repeat for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: Start with a basic forearm plank to build core and shoulder strength, then progress to a basic side plank.


5. Mountain Climber

Start in a high plank position, wrists under shoulders, core engaged so body forms a straight line from heels to ankles. Bring right knee in toward chest, then return to starting position. Bring left knee in toward chest, then return to starting position. That’s 1 rep. Continue to alternate legs while maintaining proper form; don’t change your lower-back posture change as you move legs. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it harder: Alternate legs as fast as possible and continue to increase your speed.

6. Superman

Start facedown on a mat, with your arms and legs extended, forehead resting on the mat so your neck is not strained. Lift head, arms, legs as high as possible. Hold for 3 seconds, then lower back to starting position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it easier: Lift right arm and left leg. Then lift left arm and right leg. Continue to alternate.


Images by: Julia Hembree Smith

Related Articles