A full-body circular workout to strengthen your running muscles

Taking a break from the road or the treadmill with strength training can do wonders for your body. It can help you not only improve your strength, but also improve your performance when you return to your running shoes.

While your strength workout can focus on specific parts of the body, like your butt or back, if you really want to maximize your time, your best bet is to follow a full-body circuit workout, like this one created by Dane Miklaus, founder of CSCS at WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California.

“A full-body strength training program is absolutely vital for any runner, whether it’s a weekend warrior or a supported athlete,” says Miklaus. Runner’s world. “Not only will it help improve your running speed and efficiency, but it will correct imbalances and act as insurance against injuries.”

The benefits of circuit training for the whole body

This circuit was designed by Miklaus to strengthen all the major running muscles (from head to toe!). It also saves you time thanks to compound exercises that hit several muscles at once. With a set of dumbbells, you can also add more resistance, which helps you build strength and also raise the level of challenge.

Throughout your workout, you get a mix of movements that engage your muscles in new directions and in creative ways, helping to challenge you outside of the traditional forward motion of running. With each movement, the goal is to stabilize your core so you learn to build core strength, while working your entire body. You’ll also raise your heart rate during this exercise, helping you build aerobic capacity in a new way.

How to use this list: Do each exercise in the order below for 45 seconds, resting for 15 to 20 seconds between each movement. Complete 2-3 sets. Each step is demonstrated by Cory Pickert, a certified trainer at WORK Training Studio, in the video above so you can master proper form. You will need a set of dumbbells. Exercise mat is optional.

Miklaus recommends practicing his routine two to three times a week on infrequent days.


1. Press Jack

Dean Miklaus

Why it works: This movement is great because it strengthens the main running muscles in one very cardio movement — the shoulders, core muscles, lateral hip muscles, and the muscles around the ankle. Miklos says this exercise stabilizes and challenges runners to move in the right direction in a way they likely overlook.

How do I do it: Stand with feet together, arms at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand, held at the shoulders, palms facing your face. Jump your feet wide while simultaneously extending your arms over your head in a Y shape. Then, jump your feet together and bring your arms to your shoulders. repeats. Land softly with each jump.


2. Curved reverse press

Full body circuit, full body workout

Dean Miklaus

Why it works: Practicing this movement helps strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the shoulder, as well as the back and triceps muscles. Miklaus says runners usually have an active arm swinging the way up and a passive arm swinging the way down—this movement will help strengthen your arm muscles so you have a stronger swing on the way down, too.

How do I do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing behind you. Keeping the core engaged and back flat, knees slightly bent and hinge forward at the hips, torso roughly parallel to the floor and arms hanging directly below the shoulders. This is the starting point. Keeping the neck neutral and the elbows straight, press the arms back and up until the dumbbells are raised higher than the hips. Slowly return to the starting point. repeats.


3. Slider with reverse lunge

Full body circuit, full body workout

Dean Miklaus

Why it works: Miklos says this move will help runners stay strong in every step. The complex movement targets the important running muscles of the legs and torso, and will help develop a solid core.

How do I do it: Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart, dumbbells in each hand. Hinge at the hips, keeping the back flat and dress taut, pushing both arms behind you. Then push the feet into the floor and extend at the hips (use your butt for strength), simultaneously raising both arms straight up and back with the left foot in a reverse lunge, knees bent 90 degrees. Press through with right foot to stand back up, immediately return to hinge position with feet hip-width apart and lead with weights behind you. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternately.


4. Push up to the rebel row

Full body circuit, full body workout

Dean Miklaus

Why it works: Push-ups are one of the most effective exercises for helping runners strengthen their core muscles. “By adding a dumbbell row with this variation, the goal is not so much to activate the upper back muscles as to stimulate more core activation,” Miklos says. This is because your core has to fight to avoid rotating your hips.

How do I do it: Begin in a high plank position with each hand on a dumbbell, wrists under the shoulders, cores interlaced so that the body forms a straight line from head to heels. Place the feet a distance greater than the width of the hips. Bend the elbows to form a 45-degree angle with the body, lowering the chest and body completely to the floor. Exhale and push up onto the plank. Then engage the back muscles to slowly pull the right hand back into the rib cage and then slowly return the weight to the floor. Repeat on the left side. Continue to push up and one row on each side.


5. Squat to Woodchop

Full body circuit, full body workout

Dean Miklaus

Why it works: Practicing this movement is a must for runners who love to go on outdoor adventures. Practicing this move “makes you associate your mind with your movement and body more, and can help develop agility and reaction,” says Miklaus, which is what you need to tackle different terrains. This exercise is also great for working in a different plane of motion, as it gets runners moving in the transverse (or rotational) plane.

How do I do it: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms down in front of you with dumbbells together. Lower into a squat position by sending your hips down and back, dumbbells reaching the floor. Then drive through the feet to stand back up, and as you do, swing the pivot foot and twist the torso to the left (keep the shoulders above the hips), bringing the dumbbells at shoulder level. Lower the weights forward and down while lowering into a squat. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternately.


6. V-Up

Full body circuit, full body workout

Dean Miklaus

Why it works: “The goal is not only to lift with both the torso and legs as high as possible, but also to be able to go downhill with complete control,” Miklos says. This exercise targets the abdominal and hip muscles.

How do I do it: Lie face up with legs extended, arms above head with both hands holding dumbbells horizontally. Lift the head, shoulders, and legs off the floor and into the V position. Slowly lower the back. repeats.

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