My preferences for strength training continually change, and currently I prefer either the small stability exercises with the band (clamshells, band walks, donkey kicks) or combination upper body and lower body (compound) exercises with weights. Anything in between – bicep curls, for example – and I just can’t motivate myself to actually strength train. Thankfully, those two types of strength training exercises sufficiently provide the strength and durability I need as a runner.
What equipment I prefer to use changes also: I go through phases of using dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls. Right now, my favorite type of gym equipment is the medicine ball.
Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, which accomplishes two things. One, you complete a total body strength workout in less time. While I’ll gladly run for an hour or more, I don’t want to spend an hour lifting weights in the gym Two, you train your muscles to work in coordination with each other – which is key for healthy running.
In this total body medicine ball workout for runners, each exercise combines upper body and lower body exercises – which means you will also work your core as you stabilize through the coordinated movements.
You want to move slowly through each exercise with a weight only heavy enough to add some resistance. The focus should be on stability, balance, and proper form, not max strength or speed.
Total Body Medicine Ball Workout
Single Leg Deadlift to Reverse Lunge (2-3 sets, 12 reps per side)
This exercise works single leg strength and stability, thus reducing muscular imbalances and your risk of injury.
Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding the medicine ball with both hands in front of you. Stand on your right foot and hinge at the hips as you raise your leg leg behind you and lower your chest towards the ground, so that your torso and leg left form a T shape with your right leg. Let your arms hang down straight toward the floor. Slowly return to standing and then, without resting your left foot on the floor, step back into a reverse lunge. Hold the lunge and curl the medicine ball up to your chest. Return to standing to complete one rep.
Form cue: During this entire exercises, keep your abs engaged, back flat, and shoulders down away from your ears.
Side Step Squat to Overhead Press (2-3 sets, 20 reps total)
Along with strengthening your glutes, core, and upper back, the lateral movements in this workout will strengthen the small stability muscles often neglected by runners.
Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart and hold the medicine with both hands in front of your chest. Step your right leg out to the side and lower into a wide stance squat. Engage your glutes to stand back up and step your left foot in. Push the medicine ball overhead, pause, then slowly lower down. Repeat by stepping out with your left foot. Alternate until you complete all reps.
Form cue: For proper form on the squat, be sure to keep your knees in line with your ankles, your back straight, and your core engaged.
High Plank with Ball Pass to Pushup (2-3 sets, 10-12 reps total)
This exercise strengthens all the major muscle groups and works on anti-rotational core stability, which is essential for runners.
Start in a raised plank position with the medicine ball resting just beyond your body and below your left shoulder. While maintaining the plank position, grab the ball with your right hand and roll/drag it to your right side. Perform one pushup to complete one rep. Alternate sides until all reps are complete. If needed, you can do the pushups on your knees.
Form cue: Keep your shoulders down and engaged, abs engaged, glutes squeezed, and back flat throughout this entire exercise.
Single Leg Bridge (2-3 sets, 15 reps per leg)
By elevating one leg for the bridge, you activate and strengthen each individual glute. This exercise also improves hip stability and strength, with a bit of added isometric work for the upper body.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet close to your butt. Hold the medicine ball with both hands and extend your arms straight up above your chest. Raise your right leg up. Keep your hips level as you raise them up, forming a straight line from your knees to shoulders, then slowly lower back down. Complete all reps on one side and then switch sides. If you want to add a challenge, include a medicine ball pullover between each bridge lift.
Form cue: Squeeze your glutes and keep your abs engaged for this exercise. Avoid rounding your shoulders by drawing your shoulder blades down and together.
Linking up for Wild Workout Wednesday!
What’s your favorite piece of equipment for strength training?
Receive Weekly Running Tips & Motivation
Subscribe for my weekly newsletter and receive a free download of injury prevention exercises for runners.