Basic Strength Training for Trail Runners


Trail running is not only more technical than road running, but it is also more physically demanding as well, involving the utilization of a host of different muscle groups. Strength and core exercises are important for all runners, but especially so for trail runners. Strength training is essential to help maintain proper running technique, to reduce muscle fatigue and to increase our power and strength on the rugged terrain.

Strength training should be a part of every trail runner’s weekly training routine however many runners are still not willing to do it.  Why is that? I hear the same excuses all of the time; “it’s boring”, “I haven’t got time”, “I don’t know where to start”.  If your excuse is based on not having any time to do strength training, then I would encourage you to make the time!  10 minutes less running with the 10 minutes spent on the exercises mentioned in this article would be a good starting point.  If your excuse is that you don’t know where to start, then read on.

The following routine is very straightforward and requires no gym equipment whatsoever.  The exercises concentrate on the core (to maintain proper running form), the upper body (to prevent fatigue and maintain good running technique) and the legs (to gain extra power and to minimize fatigue especially over longer trail runs).

This routine is quick to do and can be done after a training run or as a standalone workout.  Each exercise should last for 30 seconds with a 30-second rest before moving on to the next exercise.


Muscles Worked – Core

Beginner – On Knees
Intermediate – Normal Plank
Advanced – Plank with alternating lift of right arm/left leg, left arm/right leg

Single Leg Squat (30s each leg)

Muscles Worked – Quads, Hamstrings, and Calves

Beginner – Holding onto something for support
Intermediate – Arms by the side
Advanced – Hands-on head

Push Ups

Muscles worked – Pectoralis Major

Beginner – On Knees
Intermediate – Wide arms
Advanced – Narrow arms

Single Leg Deadlift (30s each leg)

Muscles worked – Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves

Beginner – Holding onto something for support, Intermediate – Arms by the side
Advanced – Hands-on head

Bird Dog (alternating arms & legs)

Muscles worked – Lower back, Glutes, and Hamstrings

Beginner – Hold the pose for 1 second, Intermediate – Hold the pose for 3 seconds, Advanced – Hold the pose for 5 seconds

Lunge (30s each leg)

Muscles worked – Quads, Glutes, and Calves

Beginner – Forward lunge
Intermediate – Forward lunge with a twist, Advanced – Jump lunge alternating legs (Do Twice)

Side Plank (30s each side)

Muscles worked – Obliques, Glutes

Beginner – Side of a knee on the floor
Intermediate – Both feet on the floor
Advanced – One leg in the air

Single Leg Bridge (30s each leg)

Muscled worked – Glutes, Hamstrings

Beginner – Resting foot on the floor
Intermediate – Resting foot raised, Advanced – Resting foot raised and holding each hip raise for 3 seconds

Flutter Kicks

Muscles worked – Core, Abductors

Beginner – 5 seconds flutter kicks with 5 seconds rest, Intermediate – 10 seconds flutter kicks with 2 seconds rest, Advanced – 30 seconds flutter kicks without rest

Donkey Kicks

Glutes, Hamstrings

Beginner – Hold the pose for 1 second, Intermediate – Hold the pose for 3 seconds, Advanced – Hold the pose for 5 seconds

About The Author

Mark Williams is Director and Co-founder (with Jeffrey Ross) of The Running Plan –, the Malaysian-based running training plan experts.

Visit their website for more information on trail and road training plans, or email  Learn from the best!

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