Best Full-Body Strength Workout for Female Runner?
July 1, 2014 9:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm slowly building up my speed and stamina as a runner -- I do roughly 15 miles of hilly outdoor running a week right now, and absolutely love it. I'd like to add in a full-body strength workout (+/- 30 min, 40 including stretching) three days a week. I'd also like this workout to be something I can do at home, with an absolute minimum of supplies (just body weight would be great), and that I can use for a long period of time.

Ideally, this strength workout would either help work the muscles that aren't getting much exercise from the running, or make me a better runner, or both.

Current strengths and weaknesses: I'm strong for my size and always have been. My core and thighs are especially strong, though my arms are a tad on the noodle-y side. I'm in my late twenties, and am looking to exercise to feel good more than to look good. In terms of improving my running, distance is more important to me than speed.

I played sports year-round in high school and know a lot of exercises from back then, especially body weight exercises, but I'm not sure which exercises to use now or how to put them together into a workout or even which muscles I need to focus on? The only equipment I have currently is a small medicine ball, and I'd prefer to keep it that way. However, I'd be open to getting some other small equipment if necessary.

Please recommend easy-to-understand and ready-made workouts rather than books or places to find general fitness/health information. I've tried to read through books and very in-depth internet links to build a workout myself, but it's just not a topic I grok very well and I end up getting overwhelmed and without a workout to follow after all.
posted by rue72 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I always have a wonderful time working my way through the beautifully presented exercises on this site: - I love the extremely specific pre-fab monthly routines, which make it easy for me to not have to think about what to do in each workout. They're all bodyweight routines. You might also consider Sworkit, which also takes the thinking and planning out of bodyweight/circuit training routines.
posted by starcrust at 10:02 PM on July 1, 2014 [13 favorites]

Seconding Sworkit. I've been using it for years now, but it is still fresh as the exercises can be randomised every time. There are loads of ready-to-go workouts but you can also create your own or download custom ones too.
posted by atlantica at 12:37 AM on July 2, 2014

Lately I've been doing NTC (Nike Training Club) workouts from their app by the same name. Each workout is between 15-45 min and includes some stretching at the end. I LOVE this app because it has a wide variety of individual moves that are incorporated into prefab workouts that you choose based on goals (get lean, get strong, get toned etc) and experience level that take all the guesswork out of a workout routine. The interface is easy to use and nice to look at. Each "move" has both step by step photos and a video to explain how they work and you can customize workouts by swapping moves for something similar.

Once you actually select and start a workout, the app provides both audio and visual cues to guide you through the entire thing, and, at any time during the workout you can pause to view the instructional video for the particular movement you're on. A voice tells you which moves to do next, how much time you have remaining in your intervals, and will give helpful hints along the way. This aspect of it is huge for me, because if I'm left to my own devices I tend to dilly dally and noodle about and won't get as great a cardiovascular benefit from my training as when someone us telling me what to do (even if that someone happens to be a robot).

Oh, and it's free. All workouts require no more than a medicine ball and/or dumbbell but a ton of the movements are body weight.

I'm decently in shape, run HIIT sprints a few times a week, and a 30 min beginner level NTC Get Strong workout slayed me in a good way. I haven't had a non-running workout that intense since working with a personal trainer years ago.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 1:08 AM on July 2, 2014

Best answer: IronStrength is a workout specifically for runners (e.g., "the key to a happy running life is a strong butt") from Runner's World. It takes about 50 minutes (though you could skip segments to shorten it) and requires a set of hand weights.

I've just started it (and am a weakling lady), but it kicks my behind.
posted by teditrix at 3:23 AM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe check out Fitness Blender ( They have a TON of full-body, equipment-free workout videos on their website in the vicinity of 30-40 minutes, and there's no fee to access them. Good luck!
posted by schooley at 9:33 AM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, for the no- and minimal-equipment workout link suggestions. I'd love to hear more, as well as any of your own concoctions.

The only thing is that I can't do anything with video. I plan to be watching a show while I'm working out, which is why I wanted to stick to around 40 mins (the length of a show). And I just hate workout videos in general, though obviously they're great for a lot of people.
posted by rue72 at 11:21 AM on July 2, 2014

I've been liking the fitloop program a lot so far. It has videos to show you how to do everything, but after that you don't need to watch them every time. I really like that they have some exercise progressions instead of just adding more reps.
posted by randomnity at 2:03 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned yoga yet. Yoga can be very good for strength-building and all you need is a mat. If you have an iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend the Yoga Studio app, it has a few built-in classes that focus specifically on strength (as well as a few classes of "yoga for runners").
posted by Librarypt at 3:10 PM on July 2, 2014

Best answer: Born Fitness has a great post on building your own bodyweight workouts.

Al Kavadlo is a big name in bodyweight workouts. He has some mininmal equipment workouts on his blog, and lots of good bodyweight workouts on

If you're looking for programs designed by women, Jen Sinkler has released a program called Lift Weights Faster. It's not free, but it does go on sale occasionally. The program has 130 workouts (written, no videos to watch), broken down by equipment available (bodyweight only, minimal equipment, dumbells, kettlebells, barbells, or full gym) and by time (10, 20 or 30+ minutes). She recently published a variety of 12-week scheduling for the workouts, for minimal equipment use or to accompany additional training. I would describe the workouts as cardio strength training circuits. You can find a variety of example workouts on her blog. I personally love these and they're perfect for my minimal equipment, home-based workouts! You can get a lot done with some adjustable dumbells and/or kettlebells at home.
posted by geeky at 6:17 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dips or push-ups, chins, burpees. Try and work up to around 100 of each (not in a row, unless you're a beast). They will take care of your noodle arms and balance out your quad/hamstring development.

Scale things so you have a few more left "in the tank". Break things up -- say, a circuit of as many jumping pull-ups, push-ups, and burpees (jump and clap at the top) as you can do, then stretch or foam roll your ITB, back, calves, etc. while you recover. Do 3-5 rounds through this or something similar, 3 or so times a week, and record how many reps total you did. Then try and add a few reps or get closer to the "real thing" each time. For example, if you can't do a full pull-up or push-up, try to get a little closer on the first few passes each time. If you don't usually jump and clap at the top of a burpee, start.

Eventually you will get too strong for this to challenge you any more. That will be a good problem to have. Feel free to grab the medicine ball with your knees while doing pull-ups or dips, try to do 75 burpees in a row, or similar if you wish, but eventually you will outgrow these movements. By then, you won't need anyone else's help to design a program. :-)
posted by apathy at 7:26 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came in to recommend It's pretty amazing -- lots of variety, REALLY easy to navigate, clear diagrams, all bodyweight, aesthetically inoffensive, and free to boot!
posted by nosila at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2014

Maybe it sounds boring, but


Just these moves can cover a lot of territory. If you are not strong enough yet for the full movement, you can look up progression ideas on youtube.

Access to a good pullup bar is the biggest hurdle, but no matter what approach you take, I strongly recommend installing one permanently where you will use it. This is an important set of muscles that is very difficult to attack outside of the gym with bodyweight-only exercises and no bar.
posted by jbradley at 8:54 AM on July 8, 2014

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