Legs Workout For Runners

Here are some of the facts that you need to know

  1. To become a faster, stronger and more efficient runner you need to build your posterior chain as it is neglected by most runners.
  1. Include at least 2-3 lower body exercises 1-2 times a week that emphasize working your hamstring and glutes.
  1. Use a four week program containing stiff legged dead lifts, hamstring curls and deadlift variations and more to build your posterior chain.

Why should posterior chain exercises be included in a running leg workout?

The posterior chain are the muscles located at the back of your body. The posterior chain consists of:

Located in the back of your legs, they are the muscles used to push off from the floor.

Located at the back of your thighs these muscles bend your knee and extend your hip during running.

These are the biggest muscles in the body and probably the most underused by most runners!

An important part of the posterior chain. However, this muscle is often overused by many runners.

Why are posterior chain leg exercises so important?

The posterior chain muscles are responsible for running! During running after your foot hits the floor it propels you forward.

Think of a skate boarder pushing backwards to move forward on there skate board.

This is the same thing that happens when you run. Your foot hits the floor and pushes backwards to push you forward.

During this phase of running the muscles of the posterior chain (calf, hamstrings and glutes) get activated to propel the body forward.

To run faster you need your calfs, glutes and hamstrings (posterior chain muscles) to be extremely powerful to repeatedly propel your body forward.

Also, if your back (and core) is strong it allows you to maintain good posture for ideal running mechanics.

  • Your lower back extends your spine and keeps it straight.
  • Your hips are extended by your glutes muscles.
  • Your hamstring muscle bends the knee and extends the hip.
  • Your calf muscles extend your foot for the toe off phase of running.

In todays society it is easy to become quad dominant due to the fact that you are sitting on your bums all day.

Being quad dominant means that the your hip flexors and qudriceps muscles do most of the work. Remember that the muscles at the front of your legs are not suppose to be doing this type of work.

However, if you are like most runners and your posterior chain is not as strong as it should be this is precisely what will happen.

You will find that this will lead to various types of muscle imbalances that may lead to injuries, niggles or pain in your body.

You will also find that your running performance will be impeded by a lack of posterior strength as well!

Your posterior chain is probably weak. If you are like most people that sit down all day at work on a computer then you can almost guarantee that your posterior chain needs some work.

Other signs and symptoms could be that you experience knee pain and this could be a sign that your quadriceps/hamstring ratio needs to be improves.

Also, if you experience a lot of lower back pain when you run this may be due to having an imbalance in your posterior chain.

It is possible that you have good strength in your:

  • Calf
  • Hamstring
  • Lower back

However, your glutes may not be firing. In a situation when there is a team member not pulling their weight other members of the team pick up the slack.

When the glutes that are not firing properly your lower back often does extra work and this leads to overuse of your back muscles. This in turn often leads to lower back pain.

When this happens it can often mean that the following muscles are too strong:

  • Quadriceps
  • Lower back
  • Hip flexors

While the following muscles are too weak

  • Glutes
  • Rectus abdominus (abdominals)
  • Internal obliques (muscles at the side of your abdominals)
  • hamstrings

There are two options to improve the strength of your posterior chain:

  1. Strength training
  2. Correct your running mechanics

Legs training exercises for distance runners

This is probably the easiest way to improve your posterior chain. The key thing is to know what exercise to do that isolate the muscles of the posterior chain,

Some good leg exercises for running are:

  • Glute bridges
  • Hip thrusts
  • Hamstring curls
  • Hamstring extension
  • Forward lunges
  • Walking lunges
  • Single leg squats
  • Single leg hip thrusts
  • Stiff legged dead lifts

Don’t worry if you are not sure how to do these exercises as most of these exercises are included in this article.

It must be noted that once you have strengthened these muscles you must have the right running mechanics to use these muscles optimaly.

Running mechanics

It is worth seeing a running coach who specialsises In running mechanics to improve your running form. Most runners do not raise their trailing leg high enough, which means that the leg will be heavier and slow down the running cycle.

  • You will see in the first video recording that the trailing leg is too straight and long, which takes longer to complete the running cycle.
  • The second example of running form shows that the trailing leg has greater bend is shorter and increases running cadence.
  • It also engages the posterior chain to maximize running power

5 Best Weight Training Exercises For Runners Legs.

This is what you need to know about these 5 exercises.

strength-training-for-runnersrunning-strength-trainingThis is one of the best exercises for the posterior chain. The posterior chain consists of the hamstrings (back of the legs), gluteus maximus (bum) and your lower back. These are the key muscles involved in running. Strengthening these key muscles will increase your running force and efficiency (see videos at the bottom of the page for a more detailed explanation).

Sometimes when you run some muscles in the posterior chain get stronger then others. In most cases this is the gluteus maximus. When this happens you need to isolate the gluteus maximus and strength train it seperately to the lower back and hamstrings. If you do not do this then the strength deficieit between the muscles remain the same. The bridge is one of the best exercises to isolate the gluteus maximus (see videos at the bottom of the page for a more detailed explanation).strength-training-program-for-runners runner-strength-training-program

This is a great exercise. It focuses on strengthening the quadrceps (front of the legs), hamstrings (back of the legs) and gluteus maximus (bum). If you are someone who is quadriceps dominant this is not the best exercise, but for most runners this is good. Quadriceps dominance means that you have tight hip flexors and you may be prone to lower back pain (see videos at the bottom of the page for a more detailed explanation).Training-strength-for-runnersTraining-strength-for-running

This exercise is one of the best exercises for the glutes. When your body is so low to the floor the muscle that stops you from falling forward is the gluteus maximus. This is why this exercise is so good for the gluteus maximus (see videos at the bottom of the page for a more detailed explanation).runners-program-for-strength-training strength-training

Obviously this is not a free weights exercise. However, I have included it because it is one of the best exercises for the hamstring. This exercise will isolate the hamstring and is my favorite exercise of all time for the hamstring. Try this exercise. You will love it! See videos at the bottom of the page for a more detailed explanation.runners-strengthrunning-strength

Plyometric leg training workout for runners

Plyometric training for runners

What is plyometric training: Plyometric training involves jumping movements and was originated by Eastern bloc countries.

Duration: 20-30 minutes .

Benefits: More forceful leg action during running, with less effort, improved running efficiency, increased time to exhaustion.

Difficulty ranking: 2 out of 5

Plyometric training trains the nervous system as well as the muscles

Most of us think that when we train it’s just the muscle we train, but the nervous system is as important as your muscles.

This is because your nervous system decides how many muscle fibres you recruit when you run, or how quickly you produce force.

For example, during the running stride you may currently be using 60% of your muscle mass in your legs.

If you improve the nervous systems ability to recruit a greater amount of muscle fibres to around 70% of your muscle mass, you will produce 10% extra force even if you don’t improve your bodies aerobic (working with oxygen) capacity.

The way the nervous system improves during plyometric training is that it will increase how quickly your muscles will produce force.

You can think of your nervous system in the same way you think of a computers processor and random-access memory.

The processor is what decides how quickly your computer will run the different programmes on the computer.

This means that if your processor is slow than your programmes like word and excel will also run slow.

Well the nervous system can also decide how quickly your body will use your muscles to produce force.

A great example of this is in Olympic lifting when athletes get under the bar at blistering speeds.

Another example, is throwing a punch as hard as you can.

Obviously, we can’t upgrade our nervous system like we can with a processor but with training we can improve the speed of our nervous system to produce force.

Plyometric exercises were first used by athletes involved in jumping, sprinting and throwing sports, by countries from the Eastern bloc.

All these sports are anaerobic (short duration) but its popularity has increased to other sports like football, volleyball, weight lifting and many more.

Plyometric training is used for power development. Power can be described as strength and speed combined.

Plyometric training can be used to improve running performance because force development and the average force is which determines how quickly you move your body.

There are other factors like power to weight ratio, and lung capacity that need be factored as well, but the importance of plyometric training cannot be ignored.

It has also been found that using this type of training also helps the body overcome the physiological hang over caused in Triathlon when you transition from cycling to running so there are many benefits to plyometric training.

Now it is well known that running is a sport that requires great lung capacity and conditioning.

You won’t need to worry about building large muscles from this type of training because it is trains the nervous system.

It must be remembered that even though we want to improve our heart and lungs ability to get oxygen to the working muscles, you still need to produce large forces to move your body.

As previously mentioned, plyometric training develops the speed of the nervous system, which in turn utilises the strength of the muscle and the tendons and ligaments.

Plyometric training trains the muscles and connective tissues to produce force faster by increasing the rate of force development (speed the muscles produce force).

Overall, plyometric training is a great way to improve performance. Check out this exercise program.

Legs training for runners Plyometric workout program


This is a nonstop jumping exercise so try and keep the ground contact time as short as possible. Make sure you use your arms to maximize your distance on your sideway jump.

Muscles worked:

  • Front of the legs (quadriceps),
  • Hamstrings
  • glutes
  • Abductors

Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest.

Benefits: Increased glute (bum) strength and using muscles that are not used in running. Good for injury prevention.

Like on the previous exercise this is a nonstop jumping exercise and your feet must spend minimum time on the floor. Make sure that your feet are in a lunge position and that you use your arms to jump as high as you can.

Muscles worked:

  • Front of the legs (quadriceps),
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus maximus

Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest.

Benefits: Increased glute (bum) strength and power in the front of the leg.


Push as high as you can so that you perform a jumping action with your arms. Perform the clapping action quickly and dynamicly. If you find this difficult then do normal press ups.

Muscles worked:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core
  • Triceps

Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest.

Benefits: You need to build power in both your upper body and lower body, so this exercise helps to balance the strength.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and then lower yourself to the floor at approximately 90 degrees. From the bottom position jump as high as you can. As soon as your feet touch the floor jump again. This is a nonstop jumping exercise so try and keep the ground contact time as short as possible.

Muscles worked:

  • Front of the legs (quadriceps),
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings

Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest.

Benefits: Increased glute (bum) strength and power in the front of the leg.


Stand with your feet hip width apart and your body upright. Bend your knees and lean your body slightly forward and swing your arms back, and then quickly jump as high as you can while lifting your knees as high as possible. When you land keep your ground contact time as short as possible by immediately jumping again.

Sets and Reps: 1 sets of 5, with a 45 second rest.

Muscles worked

  • Hip flexors
  • Calf
  • Core

Benefits: Increased hip flexor strength and power for when you raise your knee during your running gait.

Home gym equipment for running to assist your leg workout


Price £3.99 – £7.39

Exercise bands can be used for training the upper body muscles that are key to improving performance.

Some of the key exercises are triceps kick backs, seated rows which will train your arms and the muscles between your shoulder blades, and internal and external rotation for shoulder stability.

Priority star rating 4 out of 5 stars

Alternatives: There isn’t anything that you may have around the home that might provide an alternative for you to use which is why this is such a good piece of equipment to have in your arsenal.

Available from: www.amazon.co.uk


Price: £8.95-£13.99

Resistance tubes are great for upper body exercise and are very similar to exercise bands. They are more comfortable to exercise with due to the grips and are probably slightly easier to use.

Priority: I will give this piece of equipment 3 out of 5 stars in terms of value.

Alternatives: None

This item is available from www.amazon.co.uk


Price: £15.99

Aerobic steps are great for adding variety to your work out and can be used for upper body exercise as well as the lower body. Exercises that can be performed with a step are incline press ups with your feet on the bench, decline press ups with your hands on the bench, step up exercises with weights, triceps dips and many more.

Priority: 1 out of 5 stars

You could use things in your house to do these exercises, but it is useful to have.

Alternatives: Use a chair, low table, swiss ball

This item is available from www.amazon.co.uk


Price range: £9.95 – £15.95

This is the most versatile piece of equipment you can have. It can be used by itself or in conjunction with other pieces of equipment for core stability, rehabilitation and building up strength. Exercises range from beginner to advance and arguably this may be the only piece of equipment you use. You can perform press ups on the swiss balls, ball roll outs, one legged squats, hamstring curls, rotations for the side of your abdominals and many more.

Priority star rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Alternatives: if you want to create an unstable surface you could use a football to perform the plank on, or any round object that could take your body weight. However, nothing else is as good as the swiss ball.

Available from: www.amazon.co.uk


Price £8.95 – £24.95 (depending on weight)

Medicine balls our great for exercise and functional activity. Using weight machines in gyms which are fixed can restrict the movements you do and restrict your stabiliser muscles.

Functional movements with a medicine ball allow your body to work in all 3 dimensions, which is what happens when you run. Medicine ball can be used to perform Russian twists, wood chops, partner exercise, sit ups and many more.

Priority star rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Alternatives: Large plant pots, small Hoover, fill a large five litre bottle of water with water (half full, ¾ full).

Available from: www.amazon.co.uk

Legs training workout for runners at home

This programme should only take between 20-30 minutes; it will work the whole body and the muscles specific to running.

It is best to do this programme 3 times a week but you decide how much time you can allocate to this programme because two times a week is better than none.

Benefits: This exercise requires a good amount of flexibility in the shoulders and will boost your upper body strength. This exercise will work the front of the shoulders, your biceps and upper back muscles.

To perform this exercise, place the tube under both your feet. Pull until your elbows are as high as they can go, and make sure that your wrists remain below the elbows at all times.

Sets, Repetitions and rest: 2 sets of 15 reps, with 45 seconds rest

Benefits: Although this isn’t a running specific exercise it is important to understand that you need to adopt a whole-body approach to your programme. This exercise is great for the core, legs and arms and is great for overall conditioning.

Stand with feet hip width apart, knees bent, and medicine ball in front of you on the floor. Pick up the medicine ball and extend your legs until you’re on the balls of your feet and the ball is above your head.

Sets, Repetitions and rest: 2 sets of 15 reps, with 45 seconds rest

Benefits: This exercise works your core, but also has the benefit of working your hamstring muscles, which are the second most important muscle after the glutes.

Place your feet on the ball. Ensure that you are lieing down flat on your back. Raise your bum from the floor as high as you can and once your bum is raised bend your knees untill your feet move towards your bum.

Sets, Repetitions and rest: Perform one repetition for 30 seconds at a time, for 2 sets with a 30 second rest.

Benefits: This exercise is great for conditioning the oblique muscles, which are the muscles that twist your body.

Lie with your upper back on the swiss ball. Part of your head should also be in contact with the ball as well. Place your hands together with your arms above the chest. Start to roll your body until the side of your shoulder and your arms are on the swiss ball. Your hands should now be facing towards the wall.

Sets, Repetitions and rest: 2 sets of 15 reps, with 45 seconds rest

Benefits: Works the back of the arms, which are important muscles to the swimming stroke because they create the final push just before your arms exit the water.

Attach the exercise band under your feet and start with your elbows bent and your arms above the head. Straighten your arms until the elbows are fully extended, and make sure that you maintain your elbow position as you return your arms to the start.

Sets, Repetitions and rest: 1 sets of 15 reps, with 45 seconds rest

Weight training for distance runners

What is the difference between free weight exercises and machines?

There is a big difference between doing free weights and machine weights for running strength training.

Machine weights are very easy to use and greatly reduce the chances of you getting injured.

You will get some benefit from doing machine weights. One of the major problems is that many machine weight exercises are not compound movements.

Many machines are isolated, and as I explained earlier muscles work together and not in isolation when you are running.

Free weight exercises require more skill and greater knowledge compared to machine weight exercises.

You will increase the chance of getting an injury if you use a weight greater then you can manage with poor form.

However, the benefits of doing free weight exercises are so much greater. For instance, you are required to stabilise the weights yourself.

This cause you to recruit more muscles, which will help you improve your stabilisation and strength at the joint.

It can also lead to greater core strength.

One of the best running strength exercise to perform to increase your core strength and strength of your running muscles is the squat.

This is because it works the muscles around your hip, knees and ankles in a fairly similar way to running.

Also, because you have weight going through the spine you will need to learn how to engage your core to prevent lower back pain.

Once you learn this it will increase your core strength big time!

This exercise will also lengthen and strengthen the hamstring muscles, which is the muscle in the back of your upper thigh.

It will also strengthen your gluteus maximus (buttocks), which is the key muscle for running power.

It will also strengthen your quadriceps (front of your legs).

Another great running strength training exercise is the lunge. It is very similar to the squat.

However, when you do a lunge your body is in a split stance, and this split stance is similar to the ever-changing split stance you go through with each stride you take when you run.

Here are my top 6 running strength training exercises which includes one isolated exercise for injury prevention and 5 compound exercise to improve your running.

Legs workout for runners at the gym

This exercise is like the split stance that you adopt when you are running. Make sure you keep your body upright, squeeze your core muscles and make sure your back knee almost touches the floor. This exercise is great for improving your core strength.runners program for strength training running program for strength training

For your running strength training program it is important that you train the whole body. This means that you need to train the upper body as well if you want to improve your running performance. The bench press works your chest, shoulders and the back of the arms. Your grip should be wider then your shoulder width, as you lower the bar to the centre of your chest, just above your nipple line. Your elbows should always be under the bar.crazy ultimate strength training for runners program ultimate strength training for runners program

As I mentioned before this is one of the best exercises for improving your running muscles as well boosting your core strength. Ideally when you lower yourself to the ground your bum will almost touch the floor, however, if you don’t have good flexibility you will have to squat as low as your body allows.greatest strength training for runners plan greatest strength training for runners program

This is a pulling exercise, which means it will work the back and the front of the arms. Take a grip slightly wider then shoulder width apart and bring the bar as high as your nipple line. Make sure the bar never goes above your wrist. This will ensure that you will always engage the muscles of your upper back.runners strength training schedule strength training runners program

This is an isolation exercise for the gluteus maximus (buttocks muscle). Keep your abdominal muscles squeezed as you raise your bum off the ground.Best Training strength for runners program Best Training strength for running program

To perform this exercise correctly you will need to develop good strength in your core to make sure that you do not strain your lower back. This is a great exercise for strengthening your core, back muscles and the front of your arms. Make sure you pull the bar to just under your chest. Keep your elbows nice and wide and make sure you maintain your body position throughout this exercise.leg-fitness-program-for-running ultimate running program for strength training

By Gerald Smith


There are many different exercises to strengthen the posterior chain that can be intergrated into your strength training program. THey must be combined with upper body exercises and where necesary you should also implement isolated exercises to work on core strength.