My Favorite Things: Leg Exercises

Last week I discussed the value of adding a good strengthening workout to your weekly training.  Strengthening your legs is so valuable for your running and a great way to mix up your winter workouts.  Our legs are large and powerful muscle groups which also means that when we work them out we get a great metabolic boost.  So not only do these workouts make you a stronger and healthier runner but you can add in a great calorie blast too!

Below are a sampling of a few of my favorite leg workouts.  These are relatively easy to do and work several large muscle groups at the same time.  Try doing these in the evening for 15-20 minutes once or twice a week and you will notice some great results.

Squats With Running Arms:

This is one of my recent favorites.  Squats are a super powerful tool to add to your workout regimen.  They certainly work the quads and you will definitely feel it.  But they also get into the glutes and hamstrings which are often the root of frustrating injuries such as IT Band Syndrome and piriformis pain, among others that nag distance runners.

Grab some light weights and add in the arms for a nice upper body workout at the same time.  The key is to keep your core centered and avoid twisting.  This adds in a nice additional core strengthening too!  As you squat down one arm pumps in a running motion and as you rise, your other arm will pump in the same way.  Start out with 20 reps.

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Safety tips:  Any time you do squats it is essential to keep your weight centered (not in your toes or heels) and there is no need to squat too far.  Feet should be shoulder width apart.  Keep your back erect and do not lean forward.  Start out nice and slow, take your time, and try using a mirror to ensure you are doing these and any exercise properly.

Squats With Kettlebell Swing:

I love the kettlebell for so many reasons.  By adding in this one piece of equipment you can take your workout to a whole new level.  Kettlebell workouts will make you sweat and give you some nice cardio addition too.

Do the same squat as above but hold the kettlebell with both hands.  As you squat down allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs.  On the upward motion the kettlebell swings forward to chest level.

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Safety tips:  You always want to protect the knees anytime you do squat exercises.  It is also important to protect your back and shoulders whenever you use a kettlebell.  Keep your back erect and do not allow your upper body to move as you swing the kettlebell.  This swinging motion should come from your arms while the rest of the movement comes from your legs and hips.  The swinging motion should be slow and smooth to protect your shoulders.  Always take your time, especially as you begin.

Lunges (Forward and Reverse):

I love lunges.  For some reason they always kick my behind!  You can do these with or without weights.  I prefer to hold light weights at my side for the added resistance.  These are great for working the quads, hamstrings and glutes.  Lunges also use a nice slow stretching motion so ladies you don’t have to worry about bulking up (Note: Ladies we don’t have enough testosterone to worry about any of these exercises bulking us up).

Try doing 20 forward lunges and then reverse it and step backwards for another set of 20.  This will definitely get into the hamstrings and glutes!

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Safety tips: It is always essential to protect your knees.  Never lunge too far down.  Your knee does not need to touch or even come close to the floor to get the benefits of this exercise.  Always start with feet hips width apart and your back erect.  I strongly recommend utilizing a mirror to watch your technique.

Happy running and strength training!

38 thoughts on “My Favorite Things: Leg Exercises

  1. Great post!! I’m always learning!! 🙂 I love squats with kettlebell swings!! Such a great power move!! Happy Monday!! Happy New Year!! Have a fabulous week!! XOXO

  2. Great post. This is something I stress with my clients who are avid runners, competitively and for fun. Strength training isn’t just for sprinters. Try your lunges with a bicep curl to mimic natural running motion. It naturally engages your core, arms and back for added strength training and boosts strength in the joints as well. Some other things I add in for my clients are flexibility training for runners and to consider incorporating 5 key body weight strength exercises for runners as beginners. For some of my advanced clients who are looking for a more In-depth look at strength training often find they can reduce injuries and really increase their performance come race time or even for that Saturday run.

  3. I’ve really been trying to work on strength work and stretching. It’s so important! I’ve been getting these little nagging injuries when I slack in this area. Great post, thanks!!!

    • I know it seems a tad time consuming when we just want to run but you are right that it pays off in the end. If a little strength training now keeps away the injuries it is worth it!

  4. I love leg workouts because I feel like I am strongest there. When it comes to abs and arms not as much, but I am working on it. Especially my deep abs.

    I have never been a huge fan of kettle bells – I never do them properly.

  5. Squats get a big yes in my book too 🙂
    I’m also a big fan of abductor and adductor exercises using a gym band around my calves for resistance – so good for assisting in prevention of IT band problems.

  6. I use all of these in my normal workouts plus wall sits, toe press, swiss ball bridges, and monster walks/sidestepping with tubing (to work the hips). There are so many options for good leg exercises that support and develop running form!

    • These are all awesome. You are right there are so many great ones to help runners. Unfortunately I think we often skip them thinking we already have strong legs. Many a runner would avoid injury with a few leg work outs a week.

  7. Thanks for putting all the pics in there of how you do the exercises! I’m looking for strengthening workouts to do so I’m going to give these a try and incorporate them into my workout tonight 🙂

  8. Love the exercises. I have a love/hate relationship with walking lunges (feel the burn the next day) and single leg squats (because my left leg/glute is weaker than my right).

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