How Leg Workouts for Runners Work

Leg Workouts for Runners at Home

Your home workout to strengthen your legs should begin with basic calisthenics. Here are five easy exercises that work the legs:

  • Calf raise. Great for the muscles of the lower leg. Stand on your toes on the edge of a step or a block that will not overturn. Start with your heels hanging off so that they're lower than your toes. Lift yourself as high as you can onto your toes. Hold for a few seconds and lower slowly. You can make the exercise harder by using one leg at a time.
  • One-legged squat. With your right leg forward, rest the toes of your left foot on the floor a stride behind you. Bend your right leg until your knee makes a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position and repeat. This is good for the quads, hamstrings and glutes.
  • Hamstring push-up. Lie on your back with your feet on a chair that's braced against a wall (you can also use an exercise ball). Lift your butt. Then lift one leg off the chair. Lower yourself slowly back down to the floor, using the strength of the hamstrings of the leg remaining on the chair. Do sets with each leg.
  • Bench step-up. This is a simple, valuable exercise for runners. Start with your right foot on a bench knee-high or lower. Step up until your knee is almost straight, but not locked (fully extending the knee takes the stress off the muscle and puts it onto the joint). Lower to the starting position in a controlled manner. Repeat as you alternate legs.
  • The bridge. This is a great way to build your glutes. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip distance apart. Lift your hips, squeezing your butt muscles. Bring your knees, hips and lower torso into a line, leaving your shoulder blades on the floor. Hold for thirty seconds and lower yourself back down.

Plyometrics is another convenient and effective form of leg workout. These exercises, which involve jumping and bounding, work the often-ignored deeper muscles and help develop explosive power. Start by simply hopping back and forth over a line. Next, try hopping forward onto a step or low box. Alternate legs. Skipping exercises -- in which you both jump off from and land on the same foot before doing the same with the other foot -- is another great plyometric workout.


A final convenient home workout is hill running. "Hill running is resistance training for runners," Dallas-based running coach Chris Phelan told Runner's World in 2004 [source: Cooper: Upward Mobility]. Choose a 5 to 10 percent grade -- not too steep. Then, run up and jog down while lifting your knees and pumping your arms. Aim for five to eight charges up the slope.

While these exercises can conveniently be done most anywhere, training at the gym can let you focus on more precise exercises that target your leg muscles. Read on to learn how.