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The Ultimate Strength Workout for Runners

Resistance Training for Runners

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The secret to running stronger, faster, and longer? Forget about running (at least, for a little bit)! Cross training can help build muscle, boost agility, and fend off injury. This workout, created by fitness expert Jessica Smith, is specifically designed to targets all the primary muscle groups used during running. Add this sequence to your pre-run routine or do it on your days off to help maximize your stride and stamina.

You’ll need: A Swiss ball

Workout details: After the warm-up, do 3 sets of 15 reps of each exercise.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Improve Your Running Technique

Photo: iStock

Warm-Up: Heel Walks

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A great warm-up for a workout (and your run), walking on your heels helps strengthen the muscles in your shins, feet, and ankles and may help prevent muscular imbalances that can throw off your stride.

How to do it: Flex your feet, lifting your toes off the floor completely, balancing on just your heels. Walk forward for as long as you can on your heels for up to 1 minute. Rest and then repeat 2 more times.

Internal Rotation Leg Press

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This move works your abs, hip flexors, glutes, quadriceps, and inner thighs to help you develop strength that will support every step of your stride.

How to do it: Lie faceup with your hands behind head. Bend your knees 90 degrees and flex your feet. Internally rotate your legs, pressing your knees together and turning your heels out to the sides as far as you can. Brace your abs in tight and lift your upper back off the floor. Extend your legs out into a wide ‘V’ position at about 45 degrees, pressing out through your heels. Bend your legs and squeeze your knees back together, keeping your upper back lifted, to return to the starting position.

Swiss-Ball Circles

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Build core strength and stabilization with this dynamic plank exercise. By using the ball, you'll engage your deepest abdominal muscles.

How to do it: Get into plank position with your feet hip-width apart on the floor and your forearms on the Swiss ball, hands clasped. Brace your abs in tight and begin to trace a clockwise circle with your elbows, pressing your forearms into the ball during the entire movement. Try to keep your body as steady as you can, and don’t let your chest rest on the ball. Complete 15 circles total, alternating the direction of your circle with each rep.

RELATED: The 10 Best Exercises for Women

Swiss-Ball Overhead Squat

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This squat engages your entire body, with extra emphasis on your core, legs and glutes—the primary movers for running.

How to do it: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold the Swiss ball overhead with your arms extended. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower into a deep squat, bringing the ball slightly in front of your head (keeping arms extended) as you lower. Press through your entire foot to return to standing.

Swiss-Ball Hamstring Curls

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This exercise helps develop strong hamstrings, which play a key role in extending your knees and flexing your hips during runs.

How to do it: Lie faceup with your arms pressed into the floor by your sides, knees bent, heels placed on top of the ball. Press your heels into the ball, brace your abs in tight, and lift your hips up off the floor. Keeping your hips high, slowly extend your legs and roll the ball away from your body (be careful not to lock out your knees). Bend your knees and curl the ball back into your body, returning to the start position. That's one rep. Aim for 15 reps total.

Swiss-Ball Figure-4 Glute Bridge

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Your glutes are key to help stabilize your hips while running, and since most of us spend a lot of time sitting on our buns, these muscles don't get a lot of action. This exercise is designed to wake up your rear and create a backside that is both tight and supportive.

How to do it: Lie faceup with your arms pressed into the floor by your sides, knees bent, heels on top of the ball. Cross your right ankle on top of your left thigh, turning your right knee out to the side. Press your left heel down into the ball and raise your hips up as high as you can (focus on using your glutes to lift your body, not your hamstrings). Hold for 1 count and then slowly lower. Do 15 reps in a row and then switch legs and repeat for 15 more reps.

Related: 5 Ways to Improve Your Track Workout

Swiss-Ball Spine Extensions

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This move helps strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize your spine (Bonus: It also helps tighten and tone your tush!).

How to do it: Assume a position with your hips and stomach on top of the Swiss ball (it should be positioned just about under your belly button). Straighten your legs, tuck your toes under, and place your hands behind your head. Extend your spine and lift your chest as high as you can off the ball. Hold for 1 count, then slowly return to the starting position. If your feet start to slide during this move, you can press your feet against a wall for more stability.

Swiss-Ball Crunch and March

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This static crunch helps develop core and hip stabilization.

How to do it: Lie with your hips, lower back, and shoulders in contact with the Swiss ball. Place your hands behind your head and pull your elbows back so that they're in line with your body. Lift your shoulders off the ball, looking down towards your legs. Brace your abs in tight as you slowly lift your left leg up to hip height, keeping your knee bent at 90-degrees, trying not to move your body. Lower your foot back to the floor and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Repeat 15 times total.

Swiss-Ball Inner-Thigh Crunch and Lift

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Your adductors (inner thighs) also play a primary role in stabilizing your knee and hip joints during running. This multi-joint exercise targets your adductors, hip flexors, and abs.

How to do it: Lie faceup with the ball between your bent knees, feet flexed. Place your hands behind your head and focus on squeezing your ankles and knees into the ball. Brace your abs in tight and crunch up, lifting your head and shoulders off the floor as you bring the ball in towards your chest. Slowly lower back down to your start position.

RELATED: Top 10 Moves for Thinner Thighs