Have you seen those “runners” who run on the side of the road, who seem to run solely to lose weight? The pained expression on their face as they struggle with every step because they believe that running is the best way to lose weight. This article is not for them, but if you’re serious about learning about leg workouts for runners and how it can improve your running performance, keep reading.

Often, serious runners don’t think they need to train their legs because they think running is enough, but the tide is turning. They add a little strength training to their routine, and voila, instant performance improvement. Adding strength training to running, or any sport, is excellent for improving your chosen sport, but another great reason is often overlooked, injury prevention.

In repetitive sports that have a high impact on your joints, there is a high chance your ankles, knees, or hips will say not today. Strength training will not stop you from pain and injury, but it will reduce your chances of it and keep you going longer. Here, we’ll dive into the muscles used when running and four reasons to include strength training in your running routine with Joshua Martin, Exercise Physiologist, who specializes in getting The US Air Force ready for action.

Marathon runner al
sportpoint / Shutterstock

Lower-Body Running Muscles

Running is more than the legs, lungs, and heart. The core and upper body play a vital running efficiency. Here are the primary muscles used while running and their functions.

Lower Body Muscles And Functions

Quadriceps: Flexes and extends the knee joint and helps absorb the shock with each foot strike like shock absorbers on your car.

Hip Flexor: Stabilizes the hips to keep the pelvis level with each foot strike.

Glutes: Helps keep the upper body in good posture and maintains good knee alignment.

Hamstrings: Assists extending the knee by moving the upper leg backward and is usually the primary hip extensor while running.

Calves: Propels you forward and helps absorb contact with each foot strike.

Core/Upper Body Muscles and Functions

Core: Stabilizes the entire torso and allows for smooth power transfer from the lower and upper body. Core strength and endurance are essential for good running posture.

Biceps: Assist with swinging the arms back and forth with more power for better running motion and efficiency.

Shoulders: Assist in flexing the elbows and rotating the forearms, which helps swing the arms back and forth to increase balance and forward momentum.

Upper Back: Along with the shoulders, the upper back supports good running posture and allows for the smoother back-and-forth motion of the arms.

Fit female wearing pink sneakers running up the stairs and performing leg workouts for runners

3 Reasons To Perform Leg Workouts for Runners

“Becoming an exceptional runner isn’t solely about pounding the pavement; it requires a comprehensive approach that includes strength training to fortify your muscles and gain a competitive advantage,” explains Martin. Here are three more reasons to include a lower body workout in your running program.

Injury Reduction

Lower-body strength training helps prevent injuries by strengthening the muscles and the joint connective tissue. It does this by stimulating collagen production, a tough protein that contributes to the strength of tendons and ligaments. “Enhancing your muscular strength reduces the risk of injuries and empowers you to conquer greater distances,” says Martin.

Reduces Muscle Imbalances

Have you ever noticed a runner with well-developed hamstrings but limited glute development? The primary reason for this, particularly with recreational and semi-competitive runners, is that hip extension comes from the hamstrings, not the glutes. Putting some juice in the caboose pays instant dividends for runners because it gives them a bigger engine.

A typical strength imbalance with runners is that they’re stronger and tighter through the quadriceps than the hamstrings, which may lead to hamstring strains. Strengthening the hammies along with the glutes will help prevent this.

Better Coordination & Efficiency

Running economy is improved by combining endurance training with heavy or explosive strength training, improving your neuromuscular coordination and power. Lower body strength training helps improve your VO2 max as a side benefit.

Woman Running
Peathegee Inc / Getty

Quick Leg Workouts For Runners

Perform this lower body strength workout once or twice a week, preferably 24 hours or more after your running workout:

Warm Up

1A.Deadbug: 6 reps on each side

1B. Passive Leg Lowering: 10 reps on each side.

1C. Hip Extension with 3-second pause: 10 reps.

1D. Spiderman With Rotation: 6 reps on each side.

1E. Inchworm: 6 reps

Lower Body

1A. Goblet Squats 2-3 sets 8-12 reps

1B. Single Leg Hip Thrust 2-3 sets of 8 reps per side.

1C. Half Kneeling Pallof Press 2 sets 12 reps per side.

2A. Sprinter Step Ups 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps on each side

2B. Stability Ball Hip Extension Hamstring Curl 2-3 sets 10-16 reps

2C. Stability Ball Front Plank 2 sets 5 deep belly breaths