Four Exercises From A Certified Running Coach To Help You Run Faster

Woman performs Bulgarian split squat with her rear foot raised on a couch. She holds a dumbbell in front of her chest
(Image credit: Hispanolistic / Getty Images)

The most effective way of becoming a better runner is, of course, to run regularly—that’s what we learned when we asked elite runner Mara Yamauchi how to run faster—but supplementing your running with strength training can also help.

“Doing low rep but challenging running-specific strength exercises can improve your running performance by up to five percent,” says certified running coach Richelle Weeks.

Weeks recently shared a workout on Instagram featuring four exercises that are designed to help you speed up.

You’ll get the most out of this workout if you perform it regularly. Weeks recommends doing it twice a week if you have time, increasing the weight over time.

“The weight should be challenging which means you have two to three reps left in you when you complete your last rep, but no more than that,” Weeks says. “If you can do another 10 or more repetitions, you need to add weight or resistance. If you can barely finish the last rep you might want to ease back a bit."

Complete three sets of 8 reps of each exercise (8 reps on each side where applicable. Take a look at Weeks’ Instagram Reel where she demonstrates the moves.

For this routine, you’ll need free-weights (kettlebells and/or dumbbells), a skipping rope and a bench (or couch—as long as it’s solid and stable).

The first exercise is a single-leg bent knee calf raise. “These are excellent for runners because they target the soleus,” Weeks says. The soleus is part of the calf muscle which plays an outsize role in running. 

“Almost 50% of your forward momentum when running comes from below the knee so calf strength work is key,”  says Weeks. “Keep the knee flexed and make sure you’re not straightening your knee at the top which uses your quads.”

Then move on to Bulgarian split squats, which are great for building strength in the quads and glutes, as well as single-leg balance and hip flexor mobility. “If you lean your trunk forwards you’ll target your glutes more and if you stay upright you’ll target your quads,” says Weeks.

The single-leg hip thrust also targets the glutes, as well as the hamstrings. Weeks’ number one form tip is to avoid arching your lower back during this exercise: “There should be a straight line between your tailbone and your head,” she says.

Finally, the routine finishes with skipping. “Skipping is a great way to build calf power and work on ground reaction time,” says Weeks. “Try to focus on leaving the ground as quickly as possible once you land.”

Weeks isn’t the only one to recommend skipping, WeRun running coach Chris Betteridge also includes skipping (albeit without the rope) in his selection of the best leg exercises for runners. And once you’ve mastered the routine above, try these exercises to run faster.

Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.