Skip to Content

5 Ways to Build Leg Strength for Running + 17 Leg Exercises for Runners

There’s no question that we need leg strength for running. However, the type and amount of leg strength a runner has depends greatly on the type of training, difficult of running, and quality of strength training.

Will running make your legs stronger?

Many beginner runners assume that their legs will automatically get stronger just by creating a running habit. And while you do gain some strength simply by running, it’s imperative that most runners add supplemental leg strengthening exercises to their routine.

Relying solely on running to build leg strength often results in the development of muscle imbalances, as it’s easy for some muscles to remain inactive while others compensate. Muscle imbalances can not only result in insufficient strength, but they can quickly lead to injury as well.

5 Strategies to Build Leg Strength for Running

Learning how to appropriately build leg strength for running is crucial for all runners – even those who are simply running recreationally as a way to stay in shape. Incorporating regular leg exercises for runners will help avoid imbalances, prevent injury, and assist in both increasing mileage and speed.

Here are a few simple strategies to use to improve leg strength in order to enhance your running performance and stay healthy over time.

Include leg exercises specifically for runners

The best way to improve and maintain leg strength for running is to incorporate regular strength training. During a strength training workout, runners can benefit greatly from various leg strengthening exercises.

Be sure to strength train at least once a week – whether you dedicate the entire day to a strength workout, or simply add a short 20 – 30 minute workout after finishing a run. Consistency is key when it comes to building leg strength, so be sure to prioritize these workouts and avoid skipping them.

Focus on both large and small muscle groups

It’s tempting to simply add a few squats and lunges and call it good – a mistake that many new runners make. However, when doing so, many crucial running muscles are neglected.

While the larger muscles are certainly important for runners (quads, hamstrings, glutes, etc.), there are also many smaller muscles that play a key role in maintaining leg strength for running. It’s important to strengthen other muscles as well, such as the those in the ankles, shins, calves, and even feet.

Isolate one leg at a time

Another key to building leg strength – which is also commonly forgotten – is to isolate each individual side. Try single leg extensions, single leg bridges, single leg squats and more to really ensure that each side is gaining equal strength.

Regularly test for leg muscle imbalances

Regardless of how diligent you may be with your strength training and running, it is common to develop muscle imbalances in the legs. Testing for these imbalances regularly can help you prevent them from becoming a bigger problem.

As soon as you detect the development of a muscle imbalance, be sure to address it. Focus on strengthening the weaker side and building full body balance.

Complete full body balance exercises

While it’s certainly important for runners to complete leg strengthening exercises, another way to encourage strength is to complete full body balance exercises. While these exercises might not target a single, specific muscle group, they encourage balance and strengthen the legs to stay steady on different terrains during a run.

These 5 strategies will help quickly build leg strength for running. Try adding these 17 leg exercises to improve your running in no time!

17 Leg Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Building leg strength for running is not possible without consistent, dedicated exercises. These leg exercises for runners specifically isolate and strengthen those muscles that are used each day during a run.

Incorporating these leg strengthening exercises in your regular training routine will help improve your running, increase leg strength, and prevent injuries over time.

Here are some of the most effective leg exercises for runners.

  • Squat
  • Sumo squat
  • Single leg squat
  • Lunge
  • Side lunge
  • Reverse lung
  • Bridge
  • Single leg bridge
  • Donkey kick
  • Fire hydrant
  • Clamshells
  • Wall squat
  • Standing leg lifts
  • Side steps
  • Step ups
  • Heel walks
  • Calf raises

If you’re new to running or starting a more involved training plan, the thought of adding these leg strengthening exercises to your already busy schedule might feel overwhelming. However, many runners discover that the more they complete these leg exercises, the less time and energy they require.

As the body adapts, you will be able to work your way through each of these exercises in less time. Before long, they’ll be so familiar that they can easily be added on to another workout.

Whether you complete all 17 leg exercises after a run, or add them to your strength training workout – your running is sure to benefit.

More running leg strength resources: