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Top 8 Leg-Strengthening Exercises for Runners

As a runner, strength training in the gym is no longer an option—it’s a necessity. I cannot emphasize it enough. And that’s why I’m writing (and have written) extensively on the subject.

If your goal is to prevent injury and become the best runner you can be, then you should strength train.

If you really want to improve your race times and become the best runner you can be, and I dare say it agia, you need to strength train

In other words, if you consider yourself a runner, then you should run to the strength room as well.

No buts, and no coconuts about it.

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Image Credit – Marc Stokes via Flickr

So today, I am sharing with a powerful leg strength routine you can do in the gym to help keep your muscles working in harmony and prevent running injuries. Your lower body muscles, including the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, are key for powerful and injury-free running.

The right lower body workout routine should make them strong and bulletproof your lower body from common overuse injuries, like runner’s knee and stress fractures and other ailments.

Top 8 Leg-Strengthening Exercises for Runners

So perform these 8 exercises and the workout routine I’m sharing with you below to build strong, powerful legs so you can run your best, and look the best in those running shorts.

1. Lunges

Targeted Muscles: Glutes, quads, calves.

Begin by standing with your feet shoulder’s width apart while resting a bar on the back of your shoulders, or holding dumbbells at the side. That’s your starting position.

Next, take a giant step forward with your right foot, keeping your left foot planted on the ground. Bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle, while simultaneously lowering your left leg toward the floor.

To complete one rep, push back up to the starting position and switch sides.

Do 10 to 12 reps on each side to complete one set. Aim for five sets.

2. Calf Raises

Targeted Muscles: The calves.

Begin by standing with your heels hanging off the edge of a step or a sturdy box, holding two dumbbells by the side. Make sure to stand as tall as you can with the back straight the entire time.

Next, drive the balls of your feet into the step, then raise your heels as high as you can, pause for a count of three, then slowly lower the heels down to the starting position.

Aim for five sets of 12 to 16 reps to complete one set. Feel free to up the ante by increasing weight and number of reps if the exercise is not challenging enough

3. Squats

Targeted Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves and core.

Assume an athletic position with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward, and back straight.

Next, place a barbell across the back of your shoulders and traps, then squat down, bending the knees, until your thighs are parallel to the ground, pause for a moment, then push back up with your heels to return to starting position. That’s one rep.

Make sure to keep your knees tracking over your toes through the squat motion.

Do 10 to 12 reps to complete one set. Aim for five sets.

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Image Credit –Ben Garcia via Flickr

4. Sumo Squats

Targeted Muscles: Inner thighs, and quads.

Assume a wider stand with the feet pointing further out than they would with the classic squat. Make sure to load a barbell of a challenging weight and place it across the back of your shoulders and traps. That’s the starting position.

Perform the sumo squat by sitting back until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then slowly come up to starting position. Make sure to keep your back straight and knees tracking over the toes the entire movement.

You should feel your inner thighs on fire during this exercise; otherwise, you are not doing it right or are not using enough weight.

Do five sets in the 10 to 12 rep range.

5. Leg Presses

Targeted Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings.

Climb into a leg press machine, and place your feet hip-width apart on the platform. Make sure that your heels are flat with the toes facing a bit outward.

To perform the move, slowly lower the platform until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, then press the platform back up until your legs are nearly straight. Please don’t allow for a full locking in the knees.

Do five sets of 12 reps each.

6. Single-leg Deadlifts

Targeted Muscles: Hamstrings, glutes.

Stands tall with feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of light dumbbells in each hand. That’s the starting position.

Next, bend at the hips and raise your right leg behind while engaging your core muscles, then hinge forward and gradually lower your torso down as far as possible, pause for second, then return to starting position.

Shoot for 8 reps on each side to complete one set. Aim for 5 sets.

7. Lunges With Rotations

Targeted Muscles: Quads, glutes, calves and core.

Stand with feet wide and parallel, grab two light dumbbells with arms straight out sideways, then step forward into a lunge.

Next, lower your body into the lunge and rotate your torso 90 degrees to the right, then another 90 degrees to the left. Next, take another step forward and repeat the motion.

Aim for 10-12 reps on each side to complete one set. Do 5 sets.

8. The Cable Knee Drive

Targeted Muscles: Hip flexors and glutes.

Begin this exercise by securing a strap around your right ankle then attaching it to the low cable pulley.

Next, while standing 1 to 2 feet away from the stack on one leg, drive your right knee explosively up in front your chest.

Do 10 to 12 reps on each side to complete one set. Aim for five sets.

Conclusion

Here you have it!

This is a really powerful leg strengthening routine. But you need to put it into action ASAP. Speed of implementation is what matters most.

In the meantime thank you for reading my blog.

David D.

Featured Image Credit – OK Photographer via Flickr

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David Dack

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