5 Leg Exercises Every Runner Should Be Doing in The Gym
Running is one of the best ways to get fit and stay in shape. Running builds endurance, speeds up your metabolism, and burn tons of calories.
Most runners train by running outdoor, but the problem is, while running develops endurance, it lacks the ability to maximise muscular strength in your legs.
This is where strength training comes in
Post Talking Points
5 minute read
- Walking Lunges
- GHD Raise
- Calf Raise
Having stronger leg muscles will provide better stability for the joints and have lesser wear and tear on the ligaments. And for sprinters, leg exercises that develop strength will give rise to a more explosive start and faster times.
The fact is, combining running with strength training exercises in the gym will help to make you stronger and faster as a runner, while preventing the risk of injuries. Research has shown, that the addition of strength training can improve muscle power and performance in endurance athletes.
Another study has shown that weight training led to improvements in muscular strength, running economy, and direct performance in endurance athletes that ran between 1,500 to 10,000m.
So, if you love running, you should run to the gym and train as well!
In this article, we will discuss the top 5 effective leg exercises you should undertake in the gym to enhance your running performance.
Targeted Muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core.
The squat is the first on our list as the best leg exercise every runner should do as it allows you to activate multiple muscle groups and establish movements beneficial for running. Always use the barbell to perform the squat and avoid the Smith machine.
Squating is effective in developing leg strength to help you run faster on the flats, go through uneven terrains, power up hills, and build the capacity lengthen your stride.
By activating the quadriceps, the squat can help stabilise your knee and absorb the impact of each landing to allow you to run smoothly without knee pain and fatigue. For sprinters, regular squat would give you an edge by achieving a more explosive start, which is crucial for running momentum.
Here is how you can perform the squat with proper form:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Point your toes slightly outward and keep your back straight.
- Place the bar on the back of your shoulders.
- Inhale and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground and keep your back straight throughout (perform deep squat for advanced lifters, the deeper the better for enhanced mobility).
- Push through your heels and return to the starting position.
Go heavy with the squats and aim for 5-7 reps per set.
Targeted Muscles: Hamstring, glutes, core, lower back, forearms.
The deadlift is probably one of the top exercises that few runners are doing due to the fear of injuries. However, the truth is, you will be injury free if you perform the deadlift with proper form and gradually add weights to the bar. On the other hand, if your form is poor, you will face injuries from any exercises, not just the deadlift.
As the deadlifts strengthen the hamstring, glutes, and back, runners can benefit by having improved posture, stability, and overall strength. Maintaining an upright posture is vital for the long-distance running, preventing injuries, and improve performance on hills.
If you have not performed the deadlifts before, it’s time to incorporate the deadlifts into your training routine. Here’s how:
- Place your feet beneath the bar, with your feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width.
- Similar to the squat, point your toe outward.
- Keep the bar close to your body at all times to maintain stability.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip and lift the bar by pushing through your heels, while keeping your lower back slightly arched. At the top of the range of motion, activate your glutes by squeezing it and stand upright.
- Lower the bar in a controlled manner by pushing your hips back and followed by bending the knees to return to the starting position.
Like the squat, aim to go heavy with the deadlifts once you are familiar with the movement.
#3 – Walking Lunges
Targeted Muscles: Quadriceps, Glutes, Hamstring, Calves.
Walking lunges mimics the pattern of running and it trains your body to accelerate forward at a quicker pace while developing coordination and alignment. The dumbbell will be your best companion for walking lunges.
Here’s how to perform the walking lunges:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Begin the movement by stepping forward with your left leg (or right leg) and lower your quadriceps at a 90 degrees angle while lowering the other leg toward the floor.
- Push your quadriceps back up and repeat the same movement for the opposite leg.
With the walking lunges, you can go with a higher volume of 10 reps per leg.
4: GHD Raise
Targeted Muscles: Glutes, Hamstring
The Glutes Hamstring Developer (“GHD”) is an efficient workout to develop your hamstring and glutes.
This machine is often not noticed by people as most of us would focus on the free weights area. However, the GHD builds powerful hamstring to enhance sprinting speed and prevent the risk of hamstring strain that is common among athletes. The GHD also isolates the hamstring without putting too much pressure on the back.
5: Calf Raise
Targeted Muscles: Calves
Calf raises should be part of every runner's workout regimen as it helps to prevent fatigue and ensure you can run through hills smoothly.
To get started:
- Stand on your toes on the edge of a step.
- Lift your heels as high as you can and hold for a few seconds to feel the stretch in your calves.
- Slowly lower the heels down to the starting position.
As the calf raise is an isolation movement with a small muscle group, aim for higher reps range of 15 to 20 reps per set.
Runners who incorporate leg exercises in the gym into your fitness routine will see better results in the long run as strength training has been proven to enhance athletic performance.
Here’s a recap of the top 5 leg exercises for runners:
3. Walking Lunges
4. GHD Raise
5. Calf Raise
So go ahead and perform these exercises today!
Over to You
Let us know in the comments below your thoughts on the 5 leg exercises runners should perform in the gym?