3 Strength Workouts for Great Trail Running

3 Strength Workouts for Great Trail Running
Presented by Spartan Training®

Get Ready for the Running Trail

You don’t need to be an elite-level runner to enjoy a good running trail. The running trail offers a nice break from pounding pavement, trail running is a fun way to diversify your regular routine—and it has a slew of physical and mental perks.

“For anyone who spends most of their time running on asphalt, it is such a treat to be able to mix things up, and in my case, get out of the city,” says Matthew Meyer, a coach at New York City treadmill running studio Mile High Run Club. “Any time you have the opportunity to try running in a new location, I say go for it. Everything feels so new and fresh: the sights, the way you run, the whole experience.”

Not only is the experience upgraded when you hit the running trail, but so is the workout itself. Running on an uneven surface demands a high muscle engagement from your core to your calves, and it can also increase your mental well-being. According to research by Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, exercising in natural environments is associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy, and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression when compared to exercising indoors. Study participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activities and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activities at a later date.\

It’s no wonder Spartan is getting in on the fun with its coming trail series. In 2019, there will be 12 Spartan Trail events—in either a 10K or 21.1K distance—starting on April 14 in Seattle. Courses will be technical, complete with natural obstacles, and provide an opportunity for veteran and new Spartan fans to conquer a new challenge.

Want to join the ranks of 9 million trail runners in the United States? Well then, you’re going to have to have to take some time to strength train, first. “As a runner, you’re spending your time with one repetitive motion. Left foot, right foot, repeat,” says Meyer. “For our bodies to be able to handle that, you need to have the muscular strength and stability to support a long event like that. With running-specific strength work, especially when it comes to trail running, we’re able to target the muscles that are going to be handling that impact and increase their ability to take on that force.” Here, Meyer offers up his essential strength workout to build a strong, trail-ready body.

Running Trail Simulation: Round One

Do: Three sets

You’ll need: Just your bodyweight

Reverse Lunge

  • Stand tall with both feet together, hands on your hips. Take a large, controlled step back with your right foot.
  • Lower your hips so that your left thigh (front leg) becomes parallel to the floor with your left knee positioned directly over your ankle. Your right knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle and pointing toward the floor with your right heel lifted.
  • Return to standing by pressing your left heel into the floor and bringing your right leg forward to complete one rep. Do 16 alternating reps.


  • Begin in a high plank position with your shoulders over your wrists. Keep your core engaged.
  • Bend your elbows behind you and lower your chest to the floor. Keep your upper arms tight to your body so your elbows are against your ribs on both sides.
  • Straighten your arms, coming back to plank position for one rep. Do eight reps.

Reverse Crunch

  • Start lying on your back. Lift your legs in the air with your knees bent, so that they’re over your hips. Place your hands on the floor with palms facing down. This is your starting position.
  • Slowly lower your toes down toward the ground. Tap, then bring back to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps.

Running Trail Simulation: Round Two

Do: Three sets

You’ll need: A medium-size kettlebell

Lateral Lunge

  • Start standing with your feet together with a kettlebell racked at your chest.
  • Step your left leg out to the side, lowering down into a lateral lunge by sending the hips back. Press back through the heel to return to start for one rep. Do six reps; repeat on the opposite side.

Single-Arm Row

  • Start standing next to a flat bench. Place your right hand on it under your shoulder, keeping your arm straight. Rest your right knee on the bench. Step your other leg out to the side. Pick up your kettlebell with your left hand. This is your starting position.
  • Engaging through the core and row the kettlebell up toward your chest until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Lower back down for one rep. Do eight reps; repeat on opposite side.

Side Plank Dip

  • Lie on your right side with your knees straight. Prop your body up on your elbow and forearm. Raise your left hand until it’s perpendicular to your torso. Your body should form a T.
  • Keeping your legs staggered to alleviate extra pressure on the lower back, brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.
  • Slowly down your hips, maintaining the tension in your core. Return to the top of the side plank position for one rep. Do 10 reps; repeat on opposite side.

Running Trail Simulation: Round Three

Do: Three sets

You’ll need: One medium to heavy set of dumbbells


  • Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbells racked at your shoulders.
  • Push your hips back and sit into the squat, bringing your thighs below parallel toward the ground. Push through your heels to return to start for one rep. Do 10 reps.

Calf Raise

  • Start standing upright holding two dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing in.
  • Raise your heels off the floor and contract your calves. Slowly return to the start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps.

Donkey Toes

  • Start in a tabletop position, on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  • With your foot flexed, press your right knee up so your thigh is parallel to the floor and your knee is in line with your butt. Keeping your knee at a 90-degree bend, push your foot up toward the ceiling.
  • Draw your knee back toward the start and hover above the ground for one rep. Do five reps; repeat on opposite side.

Give your training for the trail the ultimate spark: A New Spartan Trail Race.