Running is a sport that involves so much more than just strong legs. While physical strength certainly plays a key role in a runner’s success, cardiovascular efficiency and mental strength do as well. One of the best ways to gain power in all of these areas is with HIIT exercises.
High intensity interval training is incredibly beneficial for runners.
Completing regular HIIT workouts helps improve running efficiency, form and power. HIIT exercises utilize dynamic movements to increase the intensity and benefits of many bodyweight movements.
Not only are HIIT exercises helpful for runners hoping to gain strength throughout their body, but they promote cardiovascular function by incorporating high intensity movements in short periods of time.
Related: 30 Ways to Become a Better Runner
Below are some of the most effective HIIT exercises for runners. These exercises strengthen muscles throughout the body that are crucial for running efficiency, promote overall balance and healthy form, and help improve your cardiovascular function.
Incorporating simple HIIT workouts into your training plan is a great way to gain cardiovascular strength without ever having to hit the gym or purchase fancy equipment. These HIIT exercises require no equipment and can easily be completed right at home.
Try some or all of these 10 HIIT exercises for runners to enhance your training each week!
10 Effective HIIT Exercises for Runners
This HIIT exercise strengthens some of the most important running muscles. Jump squats target the quads, glutes, hips and hamstrings while helping improve balance and overall cardiovascular efficiency.
Stand with your feet about hip width distance apart and bend at the knees to lower your body towards the floor. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, as if you were about to sit in a chair. From the squat position, quickly straighten your legs and jump into the air, landing with both feet flat on the floor.
Burpees are a powerful HIIT exercise that strengthen just about ever muscle group in the body. Not only is this exercise physically involved, but it challenges your cardiovascular system with continuous bursts of movement.
Begin in a standing position, and bend forward to reach both hands down towards the floor. Plant the palms of your hands on the floor and jump both feet out behind you, landing with your legs straight in a plank position.
From your plank position, bend at the elbows to lower your body and complete a single push up. Next, jump both feet in underneath your hips, and then straighten back to standing. Jump into the air, lifting both arms above your hand, and land back in your original starting position.
This is another HIIT exercise that’s particularly beneficial for runners, as it helps strengthen the quads, calves and glutes. In addition, jump lunges encourage full body balance and help prevent muscular inactivity on the run.
From a standing position, take one large step forward with a single foot. Bend at the knees to lower your body towards the floor, continuing to lower until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
Quickly straighten both legs to jump into the air, switching your foot position as you do so. Land back in a standing position with the opposite foot in front.
Legs Down with Hip Lift
This classic core exercise becomes a higher intensity exercise with the addition of a hip lift. Legs down is a powerful HIIT exercise for runners, as it helps maintain a strong core to promote healthy posture on the run.
Begin by lying flat on your back, with arms next to your sides. Lift both feet into the air, keeping the legs straight as your feet hover directly above your hips to form a 90 degree angle. Lower both legs down towards the floor, continuing until the hover a few inches above the floor.
Lift both legs back into the air, keeping them straight, and use your core muscles to lift your hips from the floor as you do so. Lower your hips back down to the floor once you begin to lower your legs.
Plank Jacks are another core exercise that have many benefits for runners. This HIIT exercise takes a standard plank to the next level with the addition of a simple jumping movement.
Lower down on to your hands and knees, and then walk your feet out behind you until your legs are straight. Be sure your back is flat and hips do not sag in this plank position.
Next, jump both feet out to the sides, spreading them wider apart. Then, jump them back in to their original position. Continue to repeat while balancing the rest of your body in plank position.
This HIIT exercise is an efficient way to strengthen your entire lower body while promoting optimal cardiovascular function. High knees takes a simple running motion one step further to encourage healthy form and function for runners.
Stand with your feet about hip width distance apart. Begin running in place, making special effort to bring your knees up as high as possible with each stride. As you do so, your run will turn into more of a jump. Maintain arm swing to help propel the motion and keep it continuous.
Another great HIIT exercise for runners, butt kicks help strengthen the glutes and calves while promoting blood flow and engaging your cardiovascular system.
Begin with feet spread about hip width distance apart, and slowly jog in place. As you do so, bring your heels up as high as possible, attempting to kick your butt with each step. Alternate arms as you run in place to keep the motion smooth and continuous.
This HIIT exercise is a powerful tool for runners and all athletes, as it strengthens the entire body. Mountain climbers utilize the core, back, legs and arms while keeping your cardiovascular system involved throughout the movement.
Lower down onto your hands and knees, and then walk both feet back behind you until your legs are straight. In this plank position, maintain a flat back even as you begin moving. Step one foot forward underneath your hips, and then quickly alternate feet as if you were running in place.
This seemingly simple HIIT exercise is often surprisingly mentally challenging. Chair jumps strengthen not just your muscles, but your mind as well.
Stand about one foot away from a sturdy chair, box or platform. Jump both feet into the air, propelling your body up and forward in order to land on the chair. Land with both feet planted firmly on the chair, and then step one foot backwards at a time to return to the floor.
This HIIT exercise is quick and simple, but utilizes a great deal of strength and power to complete. Tuck jumps are an excellent choice for runners to help strengthen their lower bodies and gain control.
Begin by standing with both feet about hip with distance apart. In one motion, jump both feet into the air, bringing your knees up towards your chest, lifting them as high as possible. Use your arms to help accentuate the jump and tuck your legs in towards your body.
These HIIT exercises are so beneficial for runners. Whether you choose to complete just a few or group them all together to create a HIIT workout, your entire body will reap the benefits each time.
Enhance your running with some high intensity interval training each week to hit your goals and gain fitness quickly!