Strength Training for Runners: Part 4.

ICYMI: Strength Training For Runners

Part 1: Biceps and Triceps

Part 2: Glutes and Calves

Part 3: Chest and Back

I know that while these posts are kind of a dull daily read, they may be great resources for you to refer back to when you are looking for strength training information and workouts! I have created a “Strength Training” page that you can find at the top of the blog in the menu so that all of these posts are easy to find and bookmark for later! Today, one of my favourite killer strength days, I’ll give you an idea of what I do for quad and hamstring days at the gym.

strength training for runners

Part 4: Quads and Hamstrings

In an effort to strength train some of the most important running muscles, I try to incorporate a glute and calf day, as well as a full leg day into my weekly strength training. While this workout emphasizes quads and hamstrings as the two major muscle groups, it truly is a full leg workout and will leave you sore for a day or two!

1. Leg Press. In order to get the best workout on the leg press machine, you can use both legs to press the weight, or alternate legs and do 10 reps on each leg in a single-leg leg press. The single leg presses were recommended to me by my physiotherapist to target the hamstrings and glutes more significantly. The leg press at my gym is 118lbs without weight, so add carefully! I aim for 4 sets of 10 reps, dropping the weight as low as you can without lifting your back or butt off the seat.


2. Jumping Squats. The large range of motion in this move plus the jumping aspect will get your heart rate fired up. This is a fabulous move for runners, making sure the knees don’t go over the toes and the legs are fully extended when you jump. Try for 30 seconds to jumping squats to start. Increase to 60 seconds as they get easier, and then begin to add weight to increase intensity.


3. Hamstring Curl. This is either a seated machine, or a face-down lying machine at the gym. I prefer the lying one but my gym only has the seated, and essentially it is the same motion. Really squeeze the hamstrings at the top of the move in order to most effectively work the muscle. If anything feels awkward about the curl, the seat is most likely not set up correctly! I try for 4 sets of 12 reps.


4. Leg Extension. After my brother showed me what a drop set is on this machine, I have a ridiculous hatred of this bad boy, BUT it targets the quads like you wouldn’t believe and I don’t do a leg day without it. I do 3 sets of 10 reps, then I finish with a drop set. Use the weight you used for the 3 sets and do 10 reps, drop the weight by 10lbs and do 10 reps (without pause), drop the weight by another 10lbs and do 10 reps (again, without pause) for a total of 30 consecutive reps.


5. Lunges off of the bench. If I am doing a moderate to light day of legs, for instance if I plan on running the next day, I won’t use any weight for this move, but if I am targeting legs or training heavy that day, I grab 10-20lb dumbbells and use weight. This move is just as it sounds, lunges with the back foot on a bench (or elevated surface like a chair or step). 4 sets of 10 reps on each leg. Ensure the knee doesn’t go over the toes!


6. Squats. Yup, not just a move for the glutes, this one is a killer leg move, which I’m guessing you knew. Either done with dumbbells at your side, or in the squat rack with a barbell, squats will give your legs a killer workout. Correct form is key, so work on form with light weight before lifting heavy and injuring yourself! Sets and reps can really be played around with here. You can do my typical 4 sets of 10 reps, or you can try heavier weight for 5 sets of 5, or you can rep out and see how many you can do with a lighter weight!


7. Lateral Bench Step Up. Standing with the bench to you left, step up with the left foot, so that your foot runs parallel with the bench. Push off of the ground with your right foot and raise your knee as you come up to standing on the bench. Return your foot to the ground for one rep. I aim for 4 sets of 10 reps on each side. Add weight for intensity, or add speed for calorie burn!


8. Kettle Bell Swings. To be honest, I only incorporated these into my workout at GoodLife when I was in Winnipeg on the weekend, but I could tell just from those few minutes why everyone loves these. First of all, they are super hard, second they get the HR right up there, and third, they work my favourite muscles – glutes and legs! Start with light weight and don’t underestimate how hard it is to keep the kettle bell swing motion continuous.


9. Sumo Squat. Just because you did a whole bunch of squats in this workout already doesn’t mean you should skip sumo squats. If I haven’t done leg day in a while, THIS is the move that leaves me sore the next day. My inner thighs are screaming after this one because it targets a whole new side of the upper leg. I usually use a dumbbell, as shown in the image, but a barbell is equally as great as long as you can maintain proper form. 4 sets of 12 reps with heavy enough weight to make the last 2 reps TOUGH.


10. Wall Sit. A while ago I did a wall sit challenge to see how long I could work up to holding it for in a month. I made it over 10 minutes! I love this exercise and in order to make it challenging, I usually place a 45lb plate cross my legs and hold it for 60 seconds instead of increasing the time of the sit.


11. Side Lunge. Including a lateral raise with this side lunge will make it double the exercise because you would also be working your shoulders! The key with this one is to stick your butt out! I aim for 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.


12. Pistol Squats. Aka. life goals. I cannot do one of these unassisted and I can barely do one assisted (with a TRX). This is a really great move for runners and definitely something to work towards if you can’t already do a few reps of unassisted pistol squats. This move requires major leg muscle groups and a lot of balance!


There are a ton of leg workouts out there and they all really come down to a few basic moves such as squats and lunges. I didn’t include deadlifts in this workout, even though they are a great explosive move for the legs and back muscles, but I don’t know if they are a great “for runners” movement. I think a variety of squats are a much better option but that is just my personal opinion! Leg day is the best day! 😀

Disclaimer: While I am certified in exercise theory and group fitness, I am not a personal trainer, I just spend many hours in the gym and have learned a lot from other trainers about form and proper movement. Please consult a physician before beginning a new workout regime and discuss technique and form with a local trainer BEFORE you start lifting… oh, and have FUN with it!