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Running Conditioning Exercises

author image Paula Quinene
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.
Running Conditioning Exercises
Do periodized, progressivley challenging strength training to improve your running performance. Photo Credit TuelekZa/iStock/Getty Images


Running requires the coordination of all the muscles in your body. Conditioning exercises improve the ability of your leg muscles to push against the ground, increase the frequency of your strides and enhance the endurance of your core and upper body muscles. Such exercises also augment the capacity of your cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular system to transport and utilize energy and oxygen. Include running-specific conditioning exercises to improve your running economy.

Upper Body

The muscles of your neck, back, shoulders and arms work to hold your body in an optimal running position--head up, chest open, elbows bent, shoulders relaxed and arms swinging. If your upper body muscles do not have sufficient endurance and strength, your running performance will suffer. Do one upper body workout per week including flat bench presses, standing cable rows, shoulder presses, biceps dumbbell curls, triceps dips and dumbbell shrugs. Complete two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per exercise.

Lower Body

Standing lower body conditioning exercises are more effective in improving your performance than leg exercises done sitting down. Dumbbell and barbell exercises also activate your core to maintain your balance, similar to running. Perform a lower body workout once a week including barbell back squats, walking dumbbell lunges, one-leg dumbbell dead lifts and step-ups on a bench. Do two to three sets of up to 12 reps per exercise. Strength training improves your running speed because it increases your muscular power, according to a 2010 article by Jason Karp, Ph.D., published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Abdominal and Lower Back

The abdominal and lower back muscles are constantly working during a run. These muscles stabilize your trunk so you can efficiently move your legs and arms. Do hyperextensions, crunches and ball bridges on an exercise ball. Complete three sets of 20 reps per exercise.

High Intensity Runs

Running workouts such as high-intensity interval and tempo training increase your capacity to run hard and fast over a longer period of time. Include interval training such as sprinting for 30 seconds then walking for 90 seconds for 20 minutes one day a week. Tempo training means that during a 20 to 30 minute run, you alternate between a specific running pace and a slightly slower and shorter recovery pace, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Do one tempo run per week. Hill intervals enhance the strength and power of your leg muscles during your runs. Sprint up a hill then walk or jog back down for 10 to 15 repetitions.

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