3 Lower-Body Exercises for Runners

Running can improve your swimming and cycling endurance. So what do you do to improve your running? The answer doesn't lie in higher mileage.

"There are a number of exercises that can simulate the movements you make while running without actually running, " says Laurie Jackson, an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer based in Tucson, Arizona. "All of these should help with a runner's stride length and strike rate." Not to mention stave off fatigue during those long training runs or races.

Competitors, who already have a regular running routine and are looking for an extra edge, should add specific exercises to their weekly regimen, Jackson says, who also is a certified running coach through the Road Runners Club of America.

Runners should complete two sets of each exercise up to three times a week.

More: 3 Reasons Strength Training Will Benefit Your Run

High-Bench Step Ups

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy bench that has a seat about two feet off the ground. The benches found in most gyms are an ideal height.
  2. Raise your leg and place your foot on the bench. Keeping the entire foot planted, push down and stand up. Allow the opposite foot (which was on the floor) to touch the top of the bench before slowly stepping down and returning to the start position.
  3. Complete 15 to 20 high-bench step ups on one leg before alternating to the other side.

"There's nothing wrong with alternating legs with each high-bench step up," Jackson says. "I tend to prefer to burn out one leg at a time."

This exercise primarily works the hamstrings, although the quadriceps and glute muscles are also being used.

More: Guide to Strength Training for Your Run

One-Legged Squats

  1. Stand on one leg, with the other leg extended out, the knee ever so slightly bent. Descend into a squat position. That means, as the knee bends it should remain behind the toe and the hips should push back.
  2. Keep your arms out for balance. As you stand up, push down through the heel and power up.
  3. Complete 15 to 20 one-legged squats before alternating to the other side. Be prepared to feel wobbly, this is not an easy feat.

This exercise primarily works the quadriceps and the glute muscles. The hamstrings are the secondary muscles worked during the one-legged squat.

More: 4 Essential Moves for Runne

One-Legged Hops

The exercise is just like it sounds with a slight twist. Place your resting foot on a 6-inch-high object slightly in front of you. In the gym, Jackson uses the metal piece on a standard dumbbell hand weight. Meanwhile, the other foot, say the left foot, is placed solidly on the ground. This is the foot that will be "hopping." Keep the resting foot in place while the other foot engages in the hopping," Jackson says.

Hop between 25 and 30 times on one leg in a 10-second time frame. Individuals should complete two sets per leg.
This exercise builds strength and coordination in the entire lower extremity, Jackson says. That means the foot, ankle, chin, calf, thigh and hip are used in the one-legged hop.

More: 10-Minute Plyometric Workout for Runners

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