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BEST Unilateral Core + Glute Exercises for Runners

Let’s go beyond squat and plank with these unilateral functional core and glute exercises for runners–because while those are great for you, runners also need to work each side individually. Link up with Running Coaches Corner, and find out more about my awesome Pins To Kill leggings.

Best Unilateral Functional Core and Glute Exercises for Runners

Unilateral Core and Glute Exercises for Runners. These are the best functional exercises to help you run faster and prevent injury! Find out more at


Yes, the plank and squat and deadlift are great exercises for runners as they built dynamic and static strength and stability in key running muscles as well as improve neuromuscular efficiency and activation (basically, how your muscles and brain communication with each other). However, you don’t run with both of your legs striding and kicking in unison, and totally independent of your torso, do you?

Didn’t think so.

Thus, it is imperative that runners also work on each side independently and in a functional manner that strengthens, stabilizes, and activates the main running muscles as a system. As an added benefit, working on each side independently will help you identify muscle imbalances that you might not otherwise know about! 

Here are five of my favorite unilateral core and glute exercises for runners to increase functional strength and neuromuscular efficiency.

Donkey Kicks


One of the best glute exercises, Donkey Kicks dynamically work the Hamstrings and Glutes while also engaging the stabilizers in your core. Make sure to keep hips and shoulders parallel to floor. Donkey kicks don’t necessitate going through the full range of motion–instead, concentrate on moving your knee a few inches above parallel using your glues and hamstrings.

Pallof Press


Pallov Press are a great exercise for runners. Unlateral Core and Glute Exercises for Runners. These are the best functional exercises to help you run faster and prevent injury! Find out more at

The Pallof Press is an amazing stabilization move for the core. Make sure that you keep your body from twisting at all, and the resistance should be hard enough that you can feel the pull in your obliques, but not so hard that you cannot support the weight with your arms. This move is not about your arms!! Bring your hands in and out with control.

Spider Planks

Spider Planks are a great exercise for runners. Bilateral Core and Glute Exercises for Runners. These are the best functional exercises to help you run faster and prevent injury! Find out more at

I demonstrated spider planks as part of the BOSU challenge last year, and if you are competent at doing them on the floor, the BOSU is a great progression.  These will help your core and hip flexors learn to work together while also engaging your core as a tradition plank would. For more information, check out this post. Make sure to minimize twisting!

Curtsy Lunge

Curtsy Lunges are a great exercise for runners. Unilateral Core and Glute Exercises for Runners. These are the best functional exercises to help you run faster and prevent injury! Find out more at

The curtsy lunge is one of the best exercises for runners because it works the entire glute complex as well as the abductors and adductors and even core stabilizers. Plus, you get the stretch in your outer glute which many neglect! Think about moving laterally, rather than backwards, and pretend you are doing a big ol’ debutante curtsy.

Hip Hikes (Glute Drops)


Hip Hikes aka Glute Drops are a great exercise for runners. Unilateral Core and Glute Exercises for Runners. These are the best functional exercises to help you run faster and prevent injury! Find out more at

One of my absolute favorite exercises, and a great option for your cool down! There are a few different ways to go about hip hikes, which are sometimes called glute drops. You can change the focus by changing how you lift your hip–whether you are focusing on the lower aspect of the move or the upper aspect of the move. Focusing on the lower will work more on your glutes, the upper more on your obliques. Trying to keep torso as still as possible and keep your belly button in the same place!

Unilateral Core and Glute Exercises for Runners. These are the best functional exercises to help you run faster and prevent injury! Find out more at

No regular planks here! Check out this unilateral core + glute workout! #runchat #fitfluential… Click To Tweet

Pins to Kill Custom Leggings

If you have read the blog or followed me on social media for any amount of time, you know that one of my little phrases is #Idontdoquiet. Life, in my opinion, is best lived in color! Pins to Kill is a company that shares my belief.

According to the Pins to Kill website, “Based in Melbourne, Australia, Pins to Kill is a customised online clothing website developing personalised garments, specialising in leggings. We encourage our customers to upload their own design, photo or artwork to create their own custom leggings, which they wear with pride and confidence. In addition, customers can also order from our range of funky leggings, including bold animal prints and geometric patterns.”

Pins to Kill Custom Leggings let you design and create your own patterns and prints! Check out a review of them at

Yup, that means you CAN CREATE CUSTOM LEGGINGS. Prints, pictures, and words! Or you can opt for one of their awesome house prints/patterns, as I did. (I am wearing the Indie Geo). The fabric is sleek, silky, and comfortable to the extreme, and perfect for everything from yoga to ballet/barre to strength training. Runners, these will become your go-to’s when you are out of your running shorts and tights. I know that I am living in mine! 

How cute are these @pinstokill leggings?! Perfect for doing my #running prehab! #pinstokill Click To Tweet

Check out the Pins to Kill site and create or pick your own pair of these awesome custom leggings, and then start following Pins to Kill on Instagram–one of the most breathtaking accounts that I follow. 

Pins to Kill provided me with a pair of their leggings for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own!

Now it is time to link up with Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner!

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I am also linking up with Patty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia for Friday Five. and Ilka and Angela for Food and Fitness Sunday,

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  • Reply Coco

    Great exercises. Donkey kicks are such a classic move – I guess they have staying power for a reason!

    August 24, 2016 at 5:38 am
  • Reply Emily

    Those leggings are SO cute! I hadn’t seen all of these exercises. Thank you for sharing Susie!

    August 24, 2016 at 5:40 am
  • Reply Lisa

    This is a great post. Great illustrative photos and explanations of the benefits of each move. I will incorporate these into my gym workout today. Strength training is all about injury prevention in my world…

    August 24, 2016 at 5:51 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Definitely the same for me. But hey, not a bad reason, right ?

      August 27, 2016 at 8:43 am
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    These are all great- and you know I can use all the core and glute work I can get! I like that you and Laura both mentioned the pallof press this week. I had never heard of it before but I definitely want to give it a try!

    August 24, 2016 at 5:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know! I thought that was pretty hilarious, but just goes to show you how important it is!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:42 am
  • Reply Michelle @ Fruition Fitness

    Love all these exercises…and totally need them! Thanks for sharing!

    August 24, 2016 at 5:56 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We all need them!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:41 am
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    Well, this post is pretty timely πŸ˜‰ I do most of these moves…just not consistently. And those leggings… stuff!!

    August 24, 2016 at 6:31 am
  • Reply Kimberly G

    Donley kicks are great and I definitley feel the burn when I do them!

    August 24, 2016 at 6:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I need to do them today actually

      August 27, 2016 at 8:41 am
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    I’m loving those sassy leggings girl!

    August 24, 2016 at 6:45 am
  • Reply Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday

    1.) LOVE your leggings.
    2.) Sub “core” for “quad” and you have the perfect name for my current, very-fatiguing PT routine. You’re only ever on one leg when you run, so you might as well act like it when you’re strengthening!

    August 24, 2016 at 6:47 am
  • Reply Bri

    Love the pallof press! And hip hikes! Must-dos for runners. Also in love with those leggings!

    August 24, 2016 at 6:48 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You need you some, girl!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:40 am
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    What a great group of workouts! I need to add some of these to my routine. Love your demos and those fierce leggings.

    August 24, 2016 at 6:50 am
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    Love the donkey kicks and thanks for reminding me that I have not done the hip drops in a while. You know I am all over custom leggings! Thanks for the link up

    August 24, 2016 at 7:10 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You would LOVE these!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:38 am
  • Reply Lauren

    Your leggings are adorable and I LOVE these moves…I have been neglecting hip drops so thank you for the reminder—my hips need them:)

    August 24, 2016 at 7:13 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And we know that hips don’t lie!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:38 am
  • Reply Emily @ My Healthyish Life

    Custom leggings?! LOVE that idea! I should be doing more donkey kicks because they don’t require pressure on feet…

    August 24, 2016 at 7:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is true. Get after it lady!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:37 am
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Great post, Susie! I love these exercises and did many last night when strength training. The pallof press is a new favorite of mine – it really works those deep stability muscles!

    August 24, 2016 at 7:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Pall of is sooooo good as I know you know!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:37 am
  • Reply Heather @Lunging Through Life

    Love donkey kicks and spider planks. I have never done the glute drop exercise. I think I’ll have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    August 24, 2016 at 7:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Definitely add that in

      August 27, 2016 at 8:36 am
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Way to raise the bar on those planks! I’m not a fan of just holding them. I get bored just sitting there. I like to incorporate moves. You look so graceful in the curtsy lunge! Were you a ballerina in a previous life?

    August 24, 2016 at 7:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I did it earlier on in my live, yes!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:36 am
  • Reply Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat

    So many good exercises here and a reminder of the ones that I am not doing. I’m definitely guilty of the planks and dead lifts and usual as part of my routine.

    August 24, 2016 at 7:35 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They are all good, but there is so much more to do to fix those imbalances!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:36 am
  • Reply Chaitali

    This is great to know! I’ve just been doing the standard squats, planks, dead lifts, etc. but haven’t been doing any of this one sided stuff. I’ll have to try to add these in.

    August 24, 2016 at 8:07 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They will be so good for you!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:35 am
  • Reply Sara

    These are great! Thanks for sharing, Susie!

    August 24, 2016 at 8:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hopefully they help some of our trainees!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:35 am
  • Reply kat

    I loveeeee the spiderman plank, but I typically add a push-up πŸ˜‰ And those glute drops are interesting – I’ve never even heard of those before!

    August 24, 2016 at 8:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That’s because you’re a badass

      August 27, 2016 at 8:34 am
  • Reply Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    Great exercises! And custom leggings….say what!

    August 24, 2016 at 8:27 am
  • Reply Ellie

    Love your leggings! I am always amazed at how sore I am after doing donkey kicks. They really work!

    August 24, 2016 at 8:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You’re telling me!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:34 am
  • Reply Sarah

    omg… design your own leggings? I feel like this could get dangerously addictive…

    August 24, 2016 at 8:49 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You should get St Patrick’s on your bum πŸ˜€

      August 27, 2016 at 8:33 am
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    Girl I love these exercises!! And those leggings – gahhh so cute!

    August 24, 2016 at 9:16 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And you can design your own!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:32 am
  • Reply Sarah @pickyrunner

    Those exercises are what I worked on in PT for 4 months this spring. My glutes are very weak but I do think running the stairs at Harvard every week has helped strengthen them a bit. I’m FOR SURE a quad-dominant runner aka injury heaven. If only I was better about keeping up with exercises…

    And LOVE the leggings.

    August 24, 2016 at 10:04 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ooo yeah. I used to be really hamstring dominant, and these have helped. Glute dominance forever!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:28 am
  • Reply Jo @ Living Mint Green

    I want your leggings. So cute!

    I really need to do a better job of doing moves like this & getting into all of those little nooks and crannies in my butt muscles. I usually just do barbell squats & lunges and consider it a minor victory, hahaha.

    August 24, 2016 at 10:38 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha honestly that is way more than many do! And nooks and crannies lolllll

      August 27, 2016 at 8:27 am
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    These are great. I incorporate a lot of them already. Now (since I’m at work) off to try the Pallof Press!

    August 24, 2016 at 10:41 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha into action!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:26 am
  • Reply Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    One of my favouritest things about barre is that it includes basically all of these. LOOOOOOVE.

    August 24, 2016 at 10:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I wish that I could afford barre

      August 27, 2016 at 8:27 am
  • Reply Suzy

    I love your cute little quarter-smiles in all your photos. XO

    August 24, 2016 at 11:08 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I wasn’t really sure what else to do with my face…

      August 27, 2016 at 8:32 am
  • Reply Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

    I needed this today – I just started running more again and my body is like WTF?! Ha.

    August 24, 2016 at 11:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Lol well it might be even more so like wtf after you do these!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:26 am
  • Reply Ilka

    All these exercises are so good for you, especially for runners. Love those leggings!

    August 24, 2016 at 11:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You need to get you a pair!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:28 am
  • Reply Tricia Vaughn

    I actually enjoy doing the curtsy lunge vs a regular lunge. I can really feel it working and my hips are not as strong. I also see a pattern with many of these exercises as they are also great for people like me with IT Band problems. Thanks Suz!

    August 24, 2016 at 11:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Freaking itb. It is the death of runners

      August 27, 2016 at 8:29 am
  • Reply Nicole @ Fitful Focus

    Love me some donkey kicks!! Also love your pins to kill leggings! Mine are some of my faves.

    August 24, 2016 at 11:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They are so comfortable!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:25 am
  • Reply Hannah

    Hip hikes feel so weird to me. Possibly a sign I should be doing them more often…

    August 24, 2016 at 11:53 am
  • Reply Anna @ Piper's Run

    I’m all about the core and glutes these days – or at least that’s what my PT keeps telling me πŸ˜‰ Love the leggings, how fun!

    August 24, 2016 at 12:03 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You better be, lady!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:31 am
  • Reply Toni

    These are great exercises, I am definitely going to incorporate them into my routine.

    August 24, 2016 at 12:41 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They will make such a difference for you!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:24 am
  • Reply Alaina @ The Simple Peach

    These are great! I find single leg exercises to be more fun because they are more challenging and you are more easily identify weaknesses. I did some Bulgarian split squats and flamingo squats this week. Perhaps I will do some of these tonight post run πŸ™‚

    August 24, 2016 at 2:07 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Img going to have to look up flamingo squats!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:24 am
  • Reply Coach Henness

    Sweet list of exercises. I try to fold in single leg exercises for all my clients and, if they can, split squats or weighted lunges.

    August 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They really have to work up to them, don’t they?

      August 27, 2016 at 8:22 am
  • Reply Rachel

    I do all of those except the pallof press. I had never even heard of that before but I feel like I need to make it happen!

    August 24, 2016 at 7:03 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It is excellent. I learned it in Pt

      August 27, 2016 at 8:23 am
  • Reply Kerri Mcgrail

    I love fun printed leggings! Really I love anything bright and funky for working out in! These are some great exercises- I love curtsy lunges and and spider planks!

    August 24, 2016 at 8:59 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And they are even better if done in colorful leggings, right?

      August 27, 2016 at 8:23 am
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    Curtsy lunges all day. ALLLLLL DAAAAY.

    August 24, 2016 at 9:04 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And you say you ain’t from the south πŸ˜€

      August 27, 2016 at 8:22 am
  • Reply Markita @ Sweshfit

    Great exercises. I would also add resistance band exercises like hydrants and lateral squats with the band…my physical therapist gave me a ton of good exercises like this

    August 24, 2016 at 11:09 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Fire hydrants are amazing and SO exhausting

      August 27, 2016 at 8:21 am
  • Reply Michelle Rogers

    Great tips! For the past several years, I have used the Brazil Butt Lift workout videos. Since strengthening my glutes, not only do I look a lot better, I have a lot less back and leg pain now and I just feel stronger all around. The only down side is I went up one pants size…but I guess you could say, in a good way. Definitely a great area worth targeting!

    August 25, 2016 at 8:58 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Definitely a good thing!

      August 27, 2016 at 8:20 am
  • Reply Alyssa

    oooh we do spider planks in yoga!! So good for the glutes

    August 25, 2016 at 9:15 pm
  • Reply Angela

    Great Strengthening Workout!! I pinned this and I am going to try it tomorrow…I’m working hard on getting a stronger Core…Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Fitness & Food Link-Up πŸ™‚

    August 28, 2016 at 2:22 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Let me know how it went! Thank you!

      August 30, 2016 at 2:37 pm
  • Reply Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    These are great! I need to get back to doing hip drops and lunges have been my project this summer…I can really tell the difference since doing them more consistently!

    August 29, 2016 at 7:04 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      They will help so much!

      August 30, 2016 at 2:30 pm
  • Reply Jess run pink

    Super great post! Sharing and pining! Ps-have you tried the donkey kick in plank position?! Total killer.

    September 3, 2016 at 7:23 am
  • Reply California International Marathon Training Week 6

    […] We set a timer for 20 minutes once we got to the gym and did just a few exercises each. Inspired by Susie’s post on unilateral exercises for runners, I did goblet squats, weighted curtsey lunges, single leg Romanian deadlifts, and Pallof presses […]

    September 11, 2016 at 10:22 pm
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