Leg Building Running Exercises

If you find yourself struggling on hilly running routes or often getting out-sprinted at the end of races, you can benefit from building your leg strength. On flats or in the hills, running speed results from two things–stride rate and stride length. Cover more ground with each stride, take more strides per minute or do a little bit of both and you run faster. Leg strength affects your stride length. Running-specific exercises translate to improved running performance. Perform leg-building exercises only after completing a thorough warmup.

Head for the Hills

Build your leg strength while getting in some running at the same time by running hill sprints. In “Understanding Running Injuries,” an article in the North American Strength and Conditioning Journal, certified strength and condition coach and exercise physiologist Janet Hill says hill running is the most specific strength training runners can do. Hill sprints also don’t require gym access or weights. The IDEA Fitness Journal recommends beginning with 50m hill sprints. Run at a maximum effort–driving your legs powerfully off the ground and using a quick arm swing. Walk back down to recover. Perform up to 10 repetitions.

Don’t Worry, Get Hoppy

Plyometrics build strength through quick, explosive movements. Single-leg hops, a plyometric exercise, build leg strength, coordination and balance that improves performance, says exercise physiologist Juan Gonzalez in “Balancing Power and Speed in Sprinting.” On a soft level surface such as a grass field, line up six cones. Run toward the cones and then hop over the cones using only one leg. Do this exercise three to four times on each leg.

Step It Up

The running motion requires that one leg be driving upward while the other works to support the body. Box step-ups build leg strength in each leg in a running-specific movement. With a workout box or weight bench in front of you, step up with one foot. As you straighten the lead leg, quickly bring the opposite knee and same side arm up; mimicking the running motion. Lower yourself back down and complete six to eight repetitions on the same leg. Do a total of three to four sets for each leg.

About this Author

Aaron Jacobsen specializes in writing about health, fitness and mental performance topics for various websites. He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology and is a former faculty member at San Jose University.