Stretching and Strengthening Exercises For Runners

April and May are typically the months when temperatures are getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and runners are venturing outside more. Unfortunately, many of the Spring and Summer races have either been moved to a virtual option only or cancelled all together.

While running outside is still a great choice during this time, most of us are likely spending a lot more of our day inside. This is the perfect time to mix it up and start incorporating stretching and strengthening exercises into your running schedule.

Adding core and leg strengthening exercises like the ones below two or three times per week can be very beneficial to reduce your risk of injury, increase muscle endurance during runs, and improve your overall performance.

Just because races have been canceled and we are being encouraged to practice social distancing, does not mean your training and dedication to fitness must come to a halt.

Running Exercise Program

Printable version of Exercise Running Program


For all stretching exercises, perform 3-5 repetitions on each side.

Hip Flexor

  1. Start in a kneeling lunge position. Keep trunk straight and tuck rear.
  2. Gently slide front knee forward to stretch back leg. Hold 20-30 seconds.

Hip Flexor    Hip Flexor


  1. Use a wall or countertop. Place one leg back to stretch calf. Make sure toes are pointed straight towards the
  2. Keeping back knee straight and heel on the ground, lean forward until you feel a stretch. Hold 20-30 seconds.
  3. For an additional stretch, perform this same exercise but allow the back knee to bend slightly.
  4. Continue to keep the back heel on the ground. Hold 20-30 seconds.

Calf    Calf


  1. Lie on back, pull knee towards opposite shoulder to feel stretch
    in gluteal.
  2. Hold 20-30 seconds.



  1. Lie on back. Place one foot on opposite knee to make a Figure 4. Place hands under thigh and pull knee to chest to feel stretch in gluteal.
  2. Hold 20-30 seconds.



  1. Grab hold under the thigh. Keep thigh perpendicular, gently straighten the knee until you feel a stretch in the back of the knee.
  2. Hold 20-30 seconds.



For all strengthening exercises, perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.

Supported Heel Slides

  1. Tighten core/lower abdominal muscles. Keeping contraction, slowly raise right knee by letting heel slide on floor. Do not let pelvis move or arch your back.
  2. Keeping contraction, slide right leg back to starting position.
  3. Slowly relax contraction.
  4. Progression: This exercise can be advanced by straightening the knee a couple inches above the floor rather than sliding.

Supported Heel Slides    Supported Heel Slides

Single Leg Bridge

  1. Lie on your back with one knee bent and one straight.
  2. With your abdominal muscles tight, keep your buttocks contracted and slowly raise your hips up.
  3. Hold 5 seconds, making sure hips are level.
  4. Lower back down, being sure to keep your buttocks and abdominal muscles tight.
  5. Relax buttocks then abdominal muscles.

Single Leg Bridge


  1. Lie on side, both hips and knees bent.
  2. With a tight core, keep your heels together and slowly raise your top leg and point the knee cap towards the ceiling as high as you can without letting your hips roll back.
  3. Hold this 3 seconds, then slowly lower leg.
  4. Progression: once your kneecap is pointed towards the ceiling, straighten the knee and hold for 3 seconds before lowering back down.

Clamshell      Clamshell

Sidelying Leg Lift

  1. Lie on one side, with the leg touching the floor bent at the knee and the upper leg straight.
  2. Tighten core, slightly turn upper knee and foot toward the ceiling, making sure not to roll back, and raise that leg straight up. Move at hip only, Do Not allow pelvis to move or back to arch.
  3. Slowly lower leg and relax.

Sidelying Leg Lift      Sidelying Leg Lift

Prone Hip Extension

  1. Lie on stomach, left knee bent to 90 degrees.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and, keeping contraction, slowly tighten buttocks.
  3. Keeping abdominal and buttocks muscles contracted, slowly lift you left knee up a few inches and hold for 5 seconds. You do not want your back to extend.
  4. Progression: This can also be performed with the knee straight.

Prone Hip Extension      Prone Hip Extension

Quadruped Bird Dog

  1. On hands and knees, find a neutral back and spine position.
  2. Keeping your core tight, slowly raise your left arm and right leg to be approximately parallel with the floor. Do not shift or let your trunk move. Do not raise your leg too high, or you will arch your back.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, keeping your core tight, until you bring your arm and leg back down.

Quadruped Bird Dog

Forward Plank

  1. Lie on stomach. Tighten your core/lower abdominal muscles.
  2. Lift stomach off the floor by bracing yourself on your forearms and toes.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.

Forward Plank

Side Plank

  1. Lie on right side, hips and knees comfortably bent, propped up on right elbow. Tighten your lower abdominal muscles.
  2. Lift your hips up, bracing on your elbow and knee. ‘
  3. Hold for 10 seconds.
  4. Progression: this exercise can be advanced by extending your hip/knees, and bracing on your elbow and side of foot.

Side Plank      Side Plank Extension

Single Leg Deadlift

  1. Stand on one leg. Keep the knee slightly bent.
  2. Bend forward from your hips and reach your opposite hand to the outside of the foot. Make sure to keep back straight.
  3. Come back up to your starting position.

Single Leg Deadlift      Single Leg Deadlift

Resisted Sidestepping

  1. Band can be placed either around your thighs or around your ankles. Placing the band around the ankles will make this exercise more challenging.
  2. Perform a mini-squat.
  3. Stay low and side step, keeping tension on the band.

Resisted Sidestepping      Resisted Sidestepping

Lateral Step Down

  1. Start standing on top of a 4-6” step.
  2. Slowly lower your heel toward the ground, attempting to keep your hips level.
  3. Return to starting position.

Lateral Step Down      Lateral Step Down

Lunge to Step Up

  1. Lunge forward making sure to keep knee behind toe.
  2. Come out of lunge bringing opposite leg up and raise up on toes maintaining balance.

Lunge to Step Up      Lunge to Step Up

If you have questions or would like to meet with an Optimum Stride therapist to develop a customized plan, please call (402) 609-1750.

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