Most everyone in today’s society wants to transform their body, which is why many have started exercising regularly. Running seems simple, and perhaps this is why it’s common to find that beginners prefer this aerobic activity. That said, do not let its simplicity fool you. This movement puts a lot of force and pressure onto your leg muscles. If you do not adequately train your leg muscles you may end up with an increased risk of injury. Experts suggest you train your legs to build strength, which will make this activity more manageable. But what is the leg workout for running? Let us find out!
In this article, we will dive into some of the best leg workouts that highly benefit runners. You do not have to be a sprinter or athlete to try this circuit. They will help any individual in any fitness level. Similarly, you will be pleased to know that most of these exercises do not require any gym membership or equipment and can quickly be done at home. However, before we go any further, we suggest you talk to your trainer and doctor about revamping your exercise regime using these workouts. Upon getting the green light, consider adding any of these best leg strengthening exercises for runners.
The Best Leg Workouts
We understand your excitement about learning the best leg workouts to help you get started with your running activity. That said, before we delve into the details we would like to point out some aspects that you need to remember when exercising your leg muscles. You might not realize their impact and then likely proceed to ignore them. The result of this could be that you end up with an increased risk of injury and pain. Below are the essential pointers you need to always keep in mind when exercising your leg muscles:
Warm-Up Is A Must!
You must always perform some warm-up exercises before you start performing the recommended leg workouts at home. A good warm-up helps stoke your blood flow and prepare your body for the upcoming circuit (11).
Aim for warm up exercises that last between 5 to 10 minutes and contain appropriate exercises. Again, experts advise you to start slow and then gradually increase your intensity (11). Going straight from zero to 100 only increases your injury risk.
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Many running injuries occur from inadequate stretching (1). So, WebMD advises runners to stretch before performing the leg workouts and after their run (1). Make sure you stretch various leg muscles, such as your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and groin. Target all of them to get rid of any stiffness or tightness that may result in injury.
Follow The Plan!
Of course, you will be following a workout plan that you have created with the help of your trainer. Please do not change the workouts or increase their intensity without consulting your instructor. Stick to the given routine, even if you feel like the exercises are not challenging enough. There is a reason why your trainer selected those specific exercises.
These three aspects are often overlooked, leading to common running injuries. Make sure you implement all of them and then ease your way to the leg circuit before running. Without further items to consider, below is the best bodyweight leg workout for runners. It is comprised of the following exercises:
Benefits: Bodyweight squats are also referred to as traditional or regular squats. These help increase your leg and core strength (8).
Target: The traditional squat targets various leg muscles, including your calves, shins, and thighs. It also gives your hips, butt, and abs a thorough workout.
How to: Here are the steps to perform bodyweight squats (8):
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hip-width distance. Make sure your toes are pointing outward and that your feet are firmly grounded on the floor.
- Keep your arms by your sides, shoulders back and relaxed, and palms facing in.
- Engage your abs and start pushing your hips backwards as if you are taking a seat. As you do this, remember to inhale and keep your back as flat as possible. You can clasp your hands together in front of your chest as you lower or choose to stretch them out in front of you.
- Lower your body until your thighs are at a position where they are parallel to the ground.
- Exhale and push through your feet to return to the standing position and clench your glutes upon standing.
Reps: 8 to 12
Sets: 2 or 3
Benefits: Any runner will tell you that a leg workout is not complete if they have not done any forward lunges. This exercise works various leg muscles, including your hamstrings and quads, helping build leg muscle strength and endurance (9).
Target: Doing forward lunges targets your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, thighs, and abdominal muscles (9).
- Stand upright with your feet together and arms on your hips.
- Take a long stride forward using your right foot. Bend your left knee and let your right knee rest on the ground firmly. Make sure your left knee rests a few inches above the ground. It should not come into contact with the floor or your mat. Again, make sure your right knee forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
- Use the muscles of the right leg to push you back to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Benefits: The bridge exercise is widely known for its benefits in toning the butt. In addition, the movement also strengthens your glutes, works your pelvic floor and leg muscles (2).
- To do this exercise, you will start by lying on the floor. Make sure your arms are by your sides and that your palms are facing down.
- Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground and about hip-width apart.
- Contract your glutes and pelvic floor muscles and start lifting your butt off the floor. It will mean lifting your hips towards the ceiling. Keep your feet on the floor and use them to help push your butt off the floor.
- Lift to the point of comfort and hold the top stance for three to eight seconds.
- Relax your butt and pelvic floor muscles, and then lower your hips and butt towards the floor.
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Benefits: Performing the plyometric squat helps increase your leg muscle strength, which allows you to run faster. Like any other plyometric exercise, this exercise also helps you burn more calories, tone your entire body, and boost your cardiovascular health (5).
How to: Here are the steps to help you perform a plyometric squat:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides.
- Jump up and gently land into a squatting position. Remember to keep your back straight and inhale when in the squatting position.
- Stand back up into the standing stance and clench your glutes.
Side Lunge Sweep
Benefits: Another excellent leg workout for running to do at home is the side lunge sweep. You can choose to use some dumbbells for this exercise if you need to increase the intensity of this exercise (10). However, beginners are advised to keep the weights away and do this exercise without the weights.
- Stand upright with your feet together and place your hands on your hips.
- Step out with your right leg to the side and slowly lower into a lunge. Do not arch your back but instead try to keep it as straight as possible.
- Return to the standing position.
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Bulgarian Split Squat
Benefits: Bulgarian split squats are other effective leg workouts to help increase leg strength for running (3). They also help strengthen the thighs, and luckily can be done at the comfort of your home. All you need is a sturdy object such as a stool or chair.
Caution: Some people may choose to use weights when performing the Bulgarian split squat. In this case, you could decide to hold a dumbbell in front of your chest or hold two dumbbells on your sides (3). It is an excellent move as it helps increase the intensity of the workout. However, fitness gurus advise that you do not start with weights, mainly if you have not understood the basics of this exercise.
- Start by identifying the sturdy object that you will be using in this exercise. As mentioned earlier, it can be a bench, stool, or chair.
- After you have identified it, stand about two feet in front of your sturdy object. Your back should be facing the chair or bench. Keep your feet hip-distance apart and arms on your hips.
- Extend your right foot behind you and let it rest on the chair or bench. It may take some time to find balance as beginners have a tendency to wobble. That said, do not worry. Take your time to adjust and find your balance.
- Once the right foot is firmly resting on the bench or stool, bend your left knee and start lowering towards the ground.
- Keep your chest high, and remember to engage your abdominal muscles actively. Similarly, remember to keep the weight balanced on your front foot and the knee tracking over this foot while lowering your hips.
- Push back to the standing position.
Calf Raises On A Step
Benefits: Calf raises on a step is another excellent leg workout that targets your calves. They help strengthen and stretch your calf muscles (7). Exercising these muscles is particularly important as they help push your feet off when your foot is propelling up and down.
- To perform a calf raise on a step, you will start by standing in front of a step.
- Step up on it and let the front half of both feet stand on the edge of the step. The heels of your feet should be hanging back over the edge. Keep your arms on your hips.
- Start to rise onto the balls of your feet slowly. You will feel your calves burning or stretching but try to fight through the pain.
- Lower back down such that your heels drop slightly beneath the level of the balls of your feet.
Benefits: Wall squats also help exercise various leg muscles such as the quadriceps and the glute muscles (4). Performing wall squats or wall sits, as some people refer to them, increases your leg strength, which is vital for any runner.
- Stand upright in front of a wall. Turn with your back to the wall. Additionally, keep your arms by your sides.
- Step a few inches from the wall while keeping your shoulders and back against it. At the same time, place your feet at least hip-width apart.
- Start to slowly slide down the wall as if you are assuming a sitting position. You should press your back and shoulders on the wall throughout the movement.
- Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground or until you assume the typical sitting stance. Do not swing your legs, no matter how you feel.
- Hold the sitting stance for at least five seconds and then slide back up.
- Rest for a second and repeat.
Caution: The squatting posture highly matters in the wall squat exercise. No matter how flexible you are, it would help if you did not squat too low or to the point where your knees go over your toes. Instead, the knees should be only above your toes, which is why the suggested stance is the normal sitting position. Again, avoid making sudden or quick movements. In such a case you will end up disregarding the form and increasing your injury risk. With this in mind, you are advised to perform a wall squat slowly and in a controlled manner.
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Benefits: These are perhaps the most hated yet highly effective leg workouts. They entail running in place, which does not sit well with most people, especially beginners. However, you must warm up to this exercise if you want to build leg strength for running. Besides this, experts acknowledge that the movement can help with fat loss more than any other strength training activity (6).
- Stand upright and start running in place for at least 30 seconds.
- Focus on quickly lifting your knees, bringing them as high as possible, preferably up to your chest.
- Keep your palms out and in front of you at your waist level during the movement.
- You can rest for ten seconds and repeat for another 30 seconds if you want to perform another set of high knees.
Caution: Pay attention to how you land, avoid putting so much pressure on either of your feet. Again, run in place gently to avoid straining your knees, which results in knee pain.
The Bottom Line
Running is a great leg exercise, but it cannot do the trick by itself. It would help if you also exercise your leg muscles using an excellent leg workout for running. Such a workout should include effective leg workouts for runners. These include bridges, wall squats, plyometric squats, bodyweight squats, calf raises, Bulgarian split squat, forward lunges, high knees, and the side lunge sweep. Only add these exercises to your routine after consulting with a professional.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 10 Common Running Injuries: Prevention and Treatment (2020, webmd.com)
- How to do pelvic floor exercises (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How to strengthen and tone the thighs (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How to strengthen your knee (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Plyometrics (2020, webmd.com)
- Slideshow: The 7-Minute Workout (2020, webmd.com)
- Tight calves: Causes, treatment, stretches, and more (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What are the benefits of performing squats? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What are the best exercises for overall health and fitness? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What Leg Workouts Can I Do at Home? (2021, medicinenet.com)
- Why Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs Are Key (2014, webmd.com)