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The 6 Best Exercises for Beginners New to Running

These basic bodyweight moves build strength and reduce your risk of injury as you fall in love with running.

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We get it: You like to run, not spend hours in the gym. But strength training, especially if you’re just getting into running regularly, will help you run your best and build up miles without the risk of injury. Building up strength through exercise is important, especially for beginner runners.

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These exercises use your own body weight to build strong, powerful, and injury-resistant muscles to power up hills, sprint across the finish, and maintain good running form mile after mile. Best part: These moves require no equipment, so you can do them anytime, anywhere. And yes, bodyweight exercises for beginners can help you build muscle.

How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the specified number of reps. Mat Forzaglia, certified personal trainer and coach at Neo U Fitness in New York City, demonstrates them so you can learn proper form. Complete the workout twice a week on easy days or rest days. These exercises are a great way for beginners to start working out at home.

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How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped at chest. Send hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat until thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep chest lifted. Press through heels to return back to starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it harder: Turn it into a jump squat by exploding up as high as you can and land softly between each rep.

Backward Lunge

How to: Start standing with hands on hips. Take a big step back with right foot and lower down so that right knee taps floor. Both knees should form 90-degree angles. Keep left knee over left ankle and chest lifted—don’t lean forward. Press through left heel to stand back up to starting position. Repeat on other leg. That’s 1 rep. Perform 8 to 10 reps.

Make it harder: Try a jump lunge. Between each lunge, explode into the air, swinging your arms forward and switching your legs in midair like scissors. Land in a lunge with your opposite leg forward.


How to: Lie faceup on a mat with knees bent, arms at sides, palms down. Draw your belly button in toward spine, and press into heels to lift hips up off mat. Engage core, glutes, and hamstrings to keep hips level; don’t let one side dip. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it harder: Try a One-Legged Bridge: Start in the same position. Extend left leg straight off the floor, keeping both knees in line. Drive through right heel to lift hips and glutes off the mat. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 reps and repeat. Repeat with the other leg.

Rolling Side Plank

How to: Start in a forearm plank with forearms stacked, shoulders directly over elbows, and core engaged so body forms a straight line from heels to shoulders. Don’t let hips dip. Engage core then shift weight to left arm as you rotate to the left and extend right arm straight up. Return to starting position and repeat for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Make it easier: Start with a basic forearm plank to build core and shoulder strength, then progress to a basic side plank.

Mountain Climber

How to: Start in a high plank position, wrists under shoulders, core engaged so body forms a straight line from head to heels. Bring right knee in toward chest, then return to starting position. Bring left knee in toward chest, then return to starting position. That’s 1 rep. Continue to alternate legs while maintaining proper form; don’t change your lower back posture change as you move legs. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it harder: Alternate legs as fast as possible and continue to increase your speed.

[Want to learn more? The Big Book of Running for Beginners will take you through everything you need to know to get started, step by step.]


How to: Start facedown on a mat, with your arms and legs extended, forehead resting on the mat so your neck is not strained. Lift head, arms, legs as high as possible. Hold for 3 seconds, then lower back to starting position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 reps.

Make it easier: Lift right arm and left leg. Then lift left arm and right leg. Continue to alternate.

Julia Hembree Smith / Zack Kutos

Images by: Julia Hembree Smith

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