We all know strength and core exercises are important for runners.

We also know most of us don’t do them. We’re runners after all, and who wants to do more exercising after they’re done with a run?

Nobody, that’s who.

But — I’m sorry to say — strength work is a vital part of being a runner. It keeps us healthy, encourages proper form and less muscle fatigue, adds additional power and strength, and makes us a well-rounded runner.

In other words, it’s important. Whether we like it or not.

The Problem Most of Us Face

Over the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about what the big hang-up is when it comes to post run strength work. On a near daily basis, a runner complains to me about strength work on their schedule, or shares some outlandish excuse about why they didn’t get it done. And I get it, I share the same problem.

Thinking it was just a motivational problem, I’ve tried rewarding myself for every strength session. I’ve tried streaks, rules about not being able to go inside, and even accountability partners. None of those helped.

The struggle is real, folks.

On the surface, all that disdain for a few exercises doesn’t add up. It isn’t all that time consuming, and it doesn’t require much (if any) equipment.

So what gives?

What I’ve determined is that there are two major reasons most of us neglect strength work:

  1. It’s boring: Strength work doesn’t provide the same thrill as a tough workout or long run.
  2. We don’t know where to start (this is the more important one): The running slice of the internet is littered with articles about this strength exercise and that strength exercise, all guaranteed to make us faster, stronger, or more injury free. And you know what? It’s confusing as all get out! How the hell are you supposed to do all these exercises, and which really matter?

Few people (with the exception of Jason at Strength Running) are putting together quick and easy routines that take all the guess work out of the process.

Those two problems keep us from the exercise, and in turn, keep us from getting stronger.

Unable to let that rest, I’ve developed a solution …

A 6 Minute Strength Routine for Trail Runners

My solution is simple: A quick, fun, and flexible routine that requires no equipment and takes all the guessing out of your strength exercises. It even breaks from some traditional exercises with a yoga influence.

Because this is a routine for trail runners in particular, I’ve designed it to be all encompassing, and hit a number of key areas of the body:

  • Core for proper form and efficiency,
  • Upper body to prevent fatigue after long miles and maintain good form,
  • Specific leg muscles for extra power, and
  • Stabilizer muscles in your ankles, knees, and hips that get tested with each stride on a rocky trail.

The routine is designed to be added immediately following a run. It’s quick (only 6 minutes), so you have no excuses.

And it’s also completely adaptable. As you build in strength, loop back around and repeat the routine 2-3 times.

How it Works

I’ve included 9 strengthening exercises that work muscles across your entire body. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, using 10 seconds to transition to the next. The first 6 exercises are performed on the ground, and the last 3 standing. The only thing needed other than yourself is a wall.

After mastering the initial 6 minute routine, loop back and repeat the entire routine 2-3 times.

Tip: Set your phone timer to 30 seconds, and restart just before starting each exercise.

The Routine

Below I’ve listed and described each exercise. To make things even easier, I’ve put together a downloadable graphic of this routine you can print out and keep on hand for quick reference. Click here to download the free guide to this routine.

Major shout-out to the wonderful Lisle Gwynn Garrity for the animations.

Preform each exercise or pose for 30 seconds, taking no more than 10 seconds in between.

1) Push-ups | Arms, Chest, Shoulders, Core


Lie on your stomach with your hands beneath you, slightly wider than shoulder width. Set your feet about hip width apart, with the weight on your toes (curled under your feet). Push up with your arms, keeping your body as straight as possible. You’ve reached the top of the push-up once your arms are completely extended.

2) Boat | Hip Flexors, Core


Sit on the floor with your knees bent, and feet on the floor. Slowly lean back with your hips, lifting your legs off the ground. Begin to extend your legs out, creating a V shape with your upper body at one side and your legs the other. Extend your arms straight out in front of you. To make things more difficult, slowly raise and lower your upper body and legs, widening the V. Make sure there’s no arching in your back by lifting the sternum up and drawing your shoulders back.

3) Bridge | Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back


Lie on your back with your knees bent and firmly on the ground. Lift at the waist so your body forms a straight line from the knees to the shoulders, and place the weight on your feet and shoulders. Straighten one leg for 10 seconds before switching to the other. Make sure there is no weight on your neck.

4) Plank | Arms, Shoulders, Chest, Lower Back, Abs, Quads


Flip back over to your stomach, with your toes underneath your feet. Lift your body onto your forearms, while maintaining a straight line from your head to your heels.

5) Plank Twist | Lateral Core


Come up to a raised plank, or top of a push-up. Lift one leg and bring your knee to the inside of the opposite elbow. Hold for 10 seconds before switching to the other leg.

6) Locust/Bow – Back, Shoulders, Glutes


Lying flat on your stomach, lift your straightened legs and chest off the ground, creating a bow shape. Extend your straightened arms out behind you to deepen the bend.

7) Single-leg Squats (Pistol Squats) |  Stabilizers, Quads, Anklessquat-350

Stand on one foot, extend the oppose leg out in front of you. Begin lowering into a squat with the standing leg, while maintaining a straight back. Keep your arms extended out in front of your body.

8) Wall Sits | Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves, Quads


Stand with your back against a wall and feet hip distance a part. Move them roughly 2 feet in front of you and squat until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Your arms should be extended straight out in front of your body.

9) Single-foot Lateral Line Hop | Stabilizers, Ankles, Knees


Standing on one foot, hop back and forth over the line in a lateral direction. Each rep should include 10-20 hops. After completing one side, repeat on the other. Keep in mind that you should be landing on the ball of your foot. To make things more difficult, increase hop speed.

Click here to download the free printable guide to this routine.

Illustrations by Lisle Gwynn Garrity

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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6 thoughts on “The 6 Minute Strength Routine for Trail Runners

  1. Do planks work any muscles that are not worked by push ups? I think if I do push ups, I do not need to do planks.

  2. Love your routine, but I have one major issue.

    When I go trail running, I drive to there, so there isn’t anywhere to do floor work (like Boat, Bridge , Locust). Lying in the mud then sitting in the car isn’t an option.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Hey James, thanks for reading! I recommend either bringing a yoga mat/sleeping pad with you to roll out on the dirt, or just doing the exercises when you get home. I recommend just knocking them out right after a run, but as long as you get it in at some point, that’s a heck of a lot better than nothing.


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