Try These 5 Runners Lunge Variations For Improved Performance

It is now well known that runners should be doing at least some form of resistance training if they are looking to maximise performance. Lunges should play a crucial part of a runners strength programme because they are one of the most effective single leg strengthening exercises, which provides the adaptations a runner is looking for. Let’s look at 5 different lunge variations you can use in your strength programming.

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Sean Klein
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Sean Klein
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In This Resource
  • Runners Should Strength Train
  • Why Should Runners Lunge?
  • Improve Performance
  • Mitigate Injuries
  • Trail Running + Hills
  • How To Implement Strength Training Into Your Training Plan
  • Try These 5 Runners Lunge Variations For Improved Performance
  • Reference

Runners Should Strength Train

Runners should be doing consistent strength training if they are striving towards health and performance. This is as true for recreational runners as it is professional runners. It is now the norm among the best runners in the world and this should trickle down to recreational runners. Your strength regime should not take up too much of your time or training volume, yet is still a key part of your week, not only will it have benefits to your running but also help build a foundation of health.

Why Should Runners Lunge?

Lunging is one of the most effective ways to build single leg strength, this is why it should be part of your strength training routine. Lunging will target your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, all of which are critical to running performance.

Improve Performance

Lunging is a brilliant way to build strength in your lower body, which will allow you to improve your running economy. Through improving the force production in the lower body, every stride you are able to travel further with the same amount of perceived effort. This is why an appropriate dose of resistance training is crucial if you’re looking to maximise performance and do everything you can to improve your running economy .

Mitigate Injuries

Having strong bones and joints should not be taken for-granted when you are long distance running, yes you will not need high levels of muscle mass but you will need to have enough that the impact of the running doesn’t create injuries. I have seen clients who have had multiple bone fractures due to extremely high running volume and low bone mineral density. Resistance training can help mitigate these sorts of injuries through increasing and maintaining bone mineral density and strengthen the muscles around your joints. Lunges will no doubt help with these adaptations that will help mitigate injury. Remember that volume plays a huge role in injuries sustained while running, you need to be careful you are not running too much too soon and putting yourself at risk of injury.

Trail Running + Hills

Having strong powerful legs is often something we think about when we think about trail runners. Trail runners have to tackle a lot of elevation, this requires muscular legs to be able to strive forward whilst traveling up hill. This muscle can be gained slowly through years of trail running, or it can be drastically sped up through resistance training and using exercises like the lunges in this list. Trail runners will not regret the extra effort they put in at the gym when they are facing tough peaks in the mountains.

How To Implement Strength Training Into Your Training Plan

Runners should be strength training once to twice a week depending on how much time they have to train and how close they are to a race. Lunging is best done as a primary exercise, meaning that it is done at the beginning of the session, this is because single leg strength is one of the most important aspects of development for runners.

Try These 5 Runners Lunge Variations For Improved Performance

The DB Quad dominant reverse lunge is a great lunge variation for runners looking to strengthen the quadriceps and strengthen the knee joint. This exercise is not an easy variation so if you are new to resistance training you may want to consider using an easier variation to find your groove with the lunge movement pattern.

The Barbell Squat in lunge is one of the most effective lunge variations for long term strength and hypertrophy, the barbell is very practical to load and therefore allows us to progress slowly over time. Loading on the back means that the limiting factor is always the legs and not the holding of the weight.

The reverse lung is also a great variation for runners looking to make improvement in both stability and balance. The reverse lunge differs from the squat in lunge in the sense that the foot is always moving, which puts greater emphasis on balance and stability rather than just focusing on load. Running requires spending a lot of time on one leg, making balance and stability an important physical characteristic. However this exercise will come at a cost and it will not be able to be as aggressively loaded as the squat in lunge version might be.

The A-Stance to reverse lunge is a brilliant warm up variation that can be practiced before strength training or even before a run. It allows us to get used to spending time on one leg, warming up the muscles and joints of the lower body. If your new to running and resistance training, doing this kind of exercise will help you improve your stability a great deal and I highly recommend it.

The rear foot elevated squat in lunge is one of the most potent lunge variations in terms of adaptation created. It is a very challenging exercise and not for those who are just learning the lunge movement. It allows you to move through a longer range of motion so will be more challenging due to this, but also more effective at building muscle and strength through the lower body.


  • Barnes KR, Kilding AE. Strategies to improve running economy. Sports Med. 2015 Jan;45(1):37-56. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0246-y. PMID: 25164465.
  • Hong AR, Kim SW. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018 Dec;33(4):435-444. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435. PMID: 30513557; PMCID: PMC6279907.
  • Šuc A, Šarko P, Pleša J, Kozinc Ž. Resistance Exercise for Improving Running Economy and Running Biomechanics and Decreasing Running-Related Injury Risk: A Narrative Review. Sports (Basel). 2022 Jun 24;10(7):98. doi: 10.3390/sports10070098. PMID: 35878109; PMCID: PMC9319953.
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    This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

    Sean Klein


    Programme is a workout app that plans every workout for you

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