Skip to main content

Best Circuit Training for Runners

6 min readSeptember 21st, 2023

It’s crucial for runners to engage in some sort of cross-training or varied exercises, and cross circuit training can be a great fit for runners.

Every year, 49 million Americans hit pavements and treadmills across the country. While running does offer numerous mental and physical health benefits, like any sport, it does come with risks.

Running injuries are extremely common, so it is essential that runners have a well-rounded fitness program that not only helps them achieve their running goals but strengthens their muscles and joints to prevent injuries.

Why Circuit Training for Runners?

Running is a fantastic way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but a startling 40% of runners will experience an injury that sidetracks their progress.

Overuse injuries are widespread, and poor running form and muscle imbalances that cause postural deviations contribute to the problem.

One of the most prominent challenges runners face is an upper limit for the mileage their body can withstand before experiencing diminishing returns. Your mileage may vary, but running does cause stress on our joints, particularly our knees and hips.

To address these common concerns, running coaches have recommended cross-training for wdecades. Cross-training is when you add exercises that are not your main athletic focus to develop a more well-rounded athleticism.

For runners, circuit training is the perfect cross-training tool to help you increase your speed and endurance and avoid injuries all year.

Circuit training is a workout that combines cardiovascular exercise and strength training using a series of exercises that you move through with minimum rest between stations, working at a moderate intensity.

Get our fitness newsletter

Stay on track with your fitness goals and get inspired! Sign up for the GymBird newsletter for twice-monthly expert fitness and nutrition tips.

Benefits of Circuit Training for Runners

Improve cardiovascular capacity with less joint stress

While running does not cause arthritis, advancing too quickly or over-training can contribute to injuries like stress fractures that can put you out of the game for months. Runners need to build cardiovascular capacity and endurance in other ways that offer similar benefits without the joint impact of running alone. Circuit training does just that.

Increase strength and stability

Every runner needs to strength train because every sport requires a strong foundation. Runners benefit significantly from a strong core and legs, especially.

Correct muscle imbalances and postural deviations

Irregularities in our body mechanics can lead to pain and injury down the road. Strength training allows us to achieve muscular balance. For example, we can correct rounded shoulders, pelvic tilts, and forward neck posture with a program that incorporates the proper stretches and strengthening exercises.

Keep fit in the off-season

The best athletes know that your athletic career happens in seasons. You cannot give 100% all the time. Therefore, you must structure breaks into your training schedule and take time off running if necessary.

The off-season for any sport is crucial because it gives you time to recover, grow, and improve. Incorporating circuit training will help you stay in shape, get stronger, and maintain your heart health while resting your joints.

Best Circuit Training for Runners

While there are many different ways to approach circuit training, the best two options for runners are

Repetition Circuits: This can be great for muscle strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health. Decide how many reps you want at each station and your rest period.

Timed Circuits: Another great option that improves cardiovascular health and endurance. You complete the exercise with as many repetitions as possible in the allotted time.

Repetition and timed circuits are best for runners as they emphasize cardio but leave room to address running-specific strength concerns. For example, studies show that runners tend to have weak glutes and core and would greatly benefit from strength training and stability work.

Another significant concern for runners is ankle strength and mobility. A well-written circuit will address all of these muscular concerns and reduce your risk of injury.

Circuit Training Workouts for Runners: Speed, Strength, and Off-Season

Before you start any workout, you should warm up properly. Start with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio to raise your body temperature and get the blood flowing, followed by myofascial release (rolling out), dynamic stretches, or targeted movements using light resistance.

Circuit Training Warm Up

10 minutes jogging

Roll out

20 squats

20 glute bridges

20 rows with light resistance band

30 bird dogs

20 walking lunges

[Repeat as 2-3x]

Speed Circuit

1-2x per week

If your primary goal of incorporating circuit training into your exercise routine is to increase your running speed, this is the circuit for you.

This circuit targets glute, quad, and hamstring strength to mimic the motions you produce while running. It also thoroughly addresses core strength and ankle stability.

You can add weight to any starred exercises for an additional challenge.

Squat jumps *30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10
Walking Lunges *30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10
Overhead Press *30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10
Superman30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10
Step-ups *30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10
Side plank30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10
Bosu Squat Hold30- 45 sec30 secs between rounds8 - 10

Strength Circuit

1-2x per week

If your goal is to increase your strength, prevent injuries, or correct common postural imbalances, give this circuit a try. Use weights that are challenging for the starred exercises.

This circuit helps address common weaknesses that lead to postural deviations, such as rounded shoulders and pelvic tilts. It also enables you to develop the core strength necessary to run injury and pain-free.

Add weight to any of the starred exercises.

Goblet Squat *8-1260 secs between rounds4-5
Walking Lunges *10 each leg60 secs between rounds4-5
Overhead Press *8-1260 secs between rounds4-5
Seated Cable Row*8-1260 secs between rounds4-5
Step-ups *10 each leg60 secs between rounds4-5
Side plank30 sec each side60 secs between rounds4-5
Face Pulls *8-1260 secs between rounds4-5

Off-Season Circuit

3-4x per week

While everyone’s off-season goals differ, many runners will dial back their mileage and include workouts that increase their strength and improve their posture. No matter the sport, it is essential that you give your body rest and recovery so it can adapt to the training stimulus. Changing up your workouts in the off-season will help prevent injury, and you will come back stronger than you were before.

This circuit focuses more on developing your muscular strength and size, something you’ll want to develop to help you run faster and longer in your peak season.

Add weight to any of the starred exercises.

Goblet Squat *8-1260 secs between rounds4-5
Walking Lunges *10 each leg30 secs between rounds4-5
Overhead Press *8-1230 secs between rounds4-5
Seated Cable Row*8-1230 secs between rounds4-5
Step-ups *10 each leg30 secs between rounds4-5
Side plank30 sec each side30 secs between rounds4-5
Face Pulls8-1230 secs between rounds4-5

Best Circuit Training Videos for Runners

HIIT Circuit Training for Runners

5 Most Important Exercises for Runners

5 Best Drills for Speed Training

Bottom Line

Circuit training is an excellent cross-training tool for runners as it improves cardiovascular fitness and increases strength and stability. Running injuries are common, so taking the time to improve your stability, core strength, and posture with circuit training will keep you running injury-free for many miles.

More Circuit Training Advice from GymBird Experts