Five No-Equipment Exercises To Improve Your Running

Woman performs shoulder bridge pilates exercise
(Image credit: Timbicus / Getty Images)

Whether you’re training for a 5K or a marathon, including strength workouts in your routine is the most effective way to improve your performance—outside of running, of course. It also reduces the risk of developing an injury, as long as you’re following a progressive running training plan.

We have an expert guide on strength training for runners and plenty of sessions, such as this home workout for runners and core workout for runners for you to try, but you can never have too many options so here’s another. It’s from Natalie Barrett, a STOTT Pilates instructor with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science, who currently teaches at boutique studio Willow LDN in London.

Barrett has put together these Pilates exercises, which she says are ideal for runners—or anyone looking for low-impact strength training. 

“These exercises strengthen the powerhouse [a Pilates term], as well as stretching the legs, hips and lower back,” says Barrett. “The powerhouse includes the abdominals, multifidus, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, and the muscles around the hips and glutes. Essentially, several core muscles and the muscles surrounding the core.”

Give the moves below a try before a run, after a run, or on a rest day. 

1 Inchworm


This movement acts as a warm-up. Stand, inhale and tuck your chin in towards your chest. Roll down, one vertebra at a time, and place your hands on the mat. Exhale and walk your hands forward into a plank position, with your hands under your shoulders, arms extended and body in a straight line from head to heels. Inhale and walk your hands back to your feet. Exhale and roll back up to standing, untucking your chin at the last moment. Imagine your spine is like a bicycle chain with each vertebra stacking up, one by one. 

2 Quadruped hip and shoulder dissociation (bird-dog)

Woman performs bird-dog exercise

(Image credit: Prostock Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Reps 8 each side 

Get on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Inhale and engage your abdominals to prepare, then as you exhale, reach one arm forward and extend the opposite leg behind you, maintaining a neutral spine and keeping your trunk and pelvis still. Return to the start, and alternate sides with each rep.

3 Side kneeling series

Reps 8 each leg 

Kneel, then lean to one side and place your hand on the mat directly under your shoulder. Raise and extend the opposite leg so it is at hip height. Inhale and sweep your leg forward with your foot pointed, then exhale and sweep your leg back with your foot flexed. Keep your leg at hip height throughout. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.

4 Shoulder bridge

Woman performs shoulder bridge pilates exercise

(Image credit: Timbicus / Getty Images)

Reps 4 each leg 

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat close to your glutes, and your arms extended by your sides. Inhale and engage your glutes and hamstrings to prepare, then exhale and drive your hips up until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a line, making sure your neck is not supporting your weight. Inhale and extend one leg. Point your toes and raise the leg to vertical. Exhale, flex your foot and lower the leg toward the mat. Do all your reps on one side and then switch.

5 Single-leg stretch

 Reps 10

Lie on your back, with your chin on your chest. Curl up your head and shoulders, engage your abdominals and inhale as you hug one leg in toward your chest, with both hands on the shin. Extend the other leg with your toes pointed forward. Exhale and switch legs, keeping your pelvis as still as possible. Rest your shoulders and head on the mat if it’s more comfortable.

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is an experienced health and fitness journalist, and was formerly health editor for TI Media’s portfolio of women’s titles. Lucy qualified as a level 3 personal trainer with Train Fitness in 2016, and also holds qualifications in pre- and post-natal fitness, as well as in nutrition for exercise.