Ways to Strengthen Your Legs for Running
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Running can be much easier when your legs are well conditioned, because preparing you legs reduces pain, tightness and fatigue in your muscles. Running is an exhausting task, especially during the first 10 to 15 minutes, when you need more oxygen than your body can supply. Improve your running performance by strengthening your legs so you can focus on running longer and running faster, skyrocketing your cardiovascular fitness.
Resistance training exercises, including squats, lunges, dead lifts, leg extensions and calf raises, strengthen your leg muscles by increasing their capacity to push weight. The more weight you can lift, the easier it will be to push off from your legs as you run.
Completing a leg resistance training workout to improve your running is much different from working out like a bodybuilder. Perform three to four sets of primarily 10 to 15 repetitions of four leg exercises. Use moderate weight, moving to the next weight level once you can complete at least two sets of 12 to 15 reps. Include a few sets of six to nine repetitions, especially when you move to the next weight level.
The elliptical machine is an excellent tool to strengthen your quadriceps for running. This exercise should feel more like a leg workout than a cardiovascular workout, because you should be forcibly pushing on the pedals. At high settings, the elliptical provides heavy resistance against every step, similar to running against resistance throughout an entire run.
Begin with a 10-minute session, and gradually increasing the duration to just beyond the length of your primary running distance. For instance, if most of your runs last 30 minutes, work up to a 40-minute elliptical session. Additionally, slightly increase the resistance of the elliptical as you become more fit.
Hill runs focus on strengthening your glutes and your hamstrings, but also work your quads. These runs may be done on a treadmill, though you may prefer a neighborhood hill. Do a run and walk warm-up for 10 minutes, followed by a quick stretch prior to beginning your hill workout. The hill should be long enough so it takes you about 45 seconds to run it. Your speed should be slower than a sprint, but faster than your comfortable running pace. Complete 10 to 15 hill runs, walking down the hill after each one.
Leg strengthening activities should be scheduled around your runs, optimizing your running program. Do weight training toward the end of your running week, ensuring you get one to two days of rest before your first run of the new week. Your leg muscles may be slightly sore, so make that run a short and intense one, such as sprint intervals.
Do an elliptical workout after your sprint workout, anytime during the same day. Ensure you have one to two days of rest between an elliptical or hill workout and your long run of the week; alternate hill runs with an elliptical workout every other week.
- Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance; William McArdle, et al.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle, et al.
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.