The Top 5 Quadriceps Exercises For Runners

To improve your running performance and prevent training injury, you need to do plenty of quad exercises as a part of well-rounded and regular resistance training routine.

In fact, one of the best off road things you can do to help you reach your full running pottential is to strength train on a regular basis.

For that reason, in today’s article I’m going to share with you a killer quadriceps workout routine to help you run faster, further and with fewer pains and aches.

So are you excited? Then here we goo…

The Many Roles of the Quadriceps Muscles

Also known as the quadriceps femoris muscles, or simply the quads, are a large muscle group located on the front of the upper leg above the knee. See picture.

The quads are one of the largest and strongest group of muscles in the body located on the frontal thigh on both sides of the body.

The quadriceps are made up of four muscles:

  • The fastus medialis,
  • Vastus intermedius,
  • Vastus lateralis, and
  • The rectus femoris.

Almost every action you perform with your legs, invloves two or more of these vital quadriceps muscles.

As a runner, you use your quadriceps as the primary muscles to move your legs forward.

These muscles extend the knee and propel your through every athletic movement there is. Not only that but they are also in charge of straightening the knees and bending the hips.

Plus, the quadriceps absorb a lot of shock of the impact with every running stride and also help stabilize the knee—especially if you do any downhill running.

In fact, according to researchers at the University of Delaware, strong quadriceps act as shock absorbers, which protects your knees and the whole region against common overuse injury.

As a result, all sorts of problems can ensue if the quads are weak or poorly conditioned.


Image Credit – Robb Hammer via Flickr

Benefits of Quad Exercises For Runners

Here are a few benefits you are going to reap by working on increasing strength and power in the quadriceps:

Improve speed. Strong quads will help you improve your overall speed, boost your ability to power up steep hills with ease and increase your push-off power, leading to increased speed—both on the running field and off.

Bulletproof your body against injury. According to research, weak and tight quads are linked to a host of running injuries.

In fact, the common condition known as runners knee is often the result of weak quadriceps the aren’t capable of supporting and stabilizing the knee during the running motion, causing it to track out of alignment.

The good news is that strong quads will bring in the much-needed support to this vital area.

Improve endurance. If you are one of those runner suffering from the dreadful “dread-leg” condition, then the problem might be weak quads since they play such a big role in keeping your legs going strong. Therefore, strengthening these vital muscles will definitely help you alleviate heavy legs.

So regardless of your fitness goals, whether it’s to a run a faster 5K, become a stronger marathoner, or build impressive and sculpted lower body muscles, working on the quadriceps is of paramount importance if you are serious about reaching that goal.

In other words, if you don’t have active, strong quads, you can’t do jack.

Note: Don’t forget your hamstrings

Please keep in mind that you also you need to strengthen your hamstrings in conjunction with the quads. Otherwise, you will only exacerbate muscles imbalances if you exclusively work on strengthening your one group muscle instead of the other.

Top Quad Strengthening Exercises – A 30-minute Quadrips Strength Routine

Here are some of my favorite quad exercises. You can perform this quad routine as a workout in itself, or you can choose to add a few of these exercises into your already established routine—it’s your choice.

These exercises are the best because they hit the quads from so many different angles, targeting the front, sides and upper of these crucial running muscles.

1. Squats


Depending on your current fitness level and training goals, you can perform the squat using nothing but your body weight or you can also use dumbbells or a barbell for more challenge. But only choose to up the ante once you nail proper form.

Squats, and its other variations, put a lot of emphasis on the quads as well as improving lower body strength, endurance and mobility. In fact, squats are some of the best runners ortiented exercises that there is.

Proper Form

Stands with your feet width apart, back flat, and core engaged.

Next, while keeping your head up and knees tracking over your toes, slowly squat down by bending the knees and sitting your butt back as if you were sitting in an imaginary chair.

Keep squatting down until your knees are bent at a 90 degrees angle and/or when your thighs are parallel to the ground.

Once you reach the bottom half of the squat, pause for a moment, then press up through the heels and engage your quads on the way up. That’s one rep.

2. Single Leg Squats


Also known as Pistols, this quad exercise targets also the glutes. This is a more advanced version of a squat and it requires an enormous amount of strength, mobility and flexibility so you’d better be careful with this one.

Pistols are super challenging exercise so please feel free to opt for the assisted pistol variation by grabbing a TRX straps or holding on to a chair, a pole, or a wall, for balance.


Image Credit – Matt Hank via Flickr

Proper Form

Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart, then shift your weight to your right leg. Then, balance on your right leg and fully extend the left leg out in front of you. Make sure to squat down as deep as you can on the planted leg.

Next, while keeping your back flat and core engaged, bend your right hip and knee at the same time to perform the exercise.

Aim for at least a 50 degrees bend in the right knee, while keeping your hips even and knee tracking over the toes. Last up, return to standing position by extending your right leg to complete one rep.

Aim for 10 to 12 reps on each leg to complete one set. Perform five sets.

3. Leg Extensions Quad Exercise


You could also perform the easier version without the need for a machine by sitting down on a higher table or chair and clasping a weight between your feet for more resistance. It’s your choice.

Proper Form

Begin by sitting on the padded seat of the machine (just like shown in the video tutorial) with the pads over the top of the ankles.

Next, hook your feet under the padded bar and while bracing your core and keeping your back head straight, and while holding the handles for stability, straighten your legs by extending them up, squeeze at the top and hold for a second, then slowly bring the weight back down, but do not allow your knees go past a 90-degree angle.

4. Weighted Walking Lunge


In addition to the squat, walking lunges are some of the best runners oriented quad strength exercises.

Plus they are dynamic and target most of the lower body muscles.

Proper Form

Begin by standing up straight with dumbbells grasped to each side or with a loaded barbell rested on the upper back.

Next, while keeping the torso upright and core activated, take a large step forward with your right leg, landing on the heel than the forefoot. Then, drop into a lunge and lower your body down until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle with the left knee almost touching the floor.

Move forward by driving through the heel of your right foot while bringing your left leg forward until you are back to starting position, then step with your left leg into a lunge, repeating the pattern to complete one rep.

Do 8 to 10 reps to complete one set. Perform five sets.

5. Leg Press


This is another classical quad exercise and you will also need access to the appropriate machine. This exercise mainly tragets the quadcrips provided that you’re keeping good form the entire time.

Proper Form

Begin by sitting on the leg press machine with your head and back against the padded support. To assume the right position, make sure to place your feet on the foot plate roughly hip-width distance apart while keeping the heels flat the entire time.

Next, grab the seat handles, carefully unlatch the sled from the safeties, then extend your knees to press the weight up until your legs are nearly straight, stopping just short of locking out. Pause for a moment, then lower the platform by bending your knees.

Make sure to push through your heels, keeping your knees in line with the toes the entire time, allowing for no bowing inward nor outward.

Just be careful here with the leg press as it is notoriously known for causing trouble.


There you have it!

The above quad exercises are the best when it comes to increasing strength in your lower body. So, please perform the shared quad workout on a regular basis if you’re serious about making real progress. Also, keep in mind to stay within your fitness level the entire time.

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David Dack