Your legs do a lot of work while you’re pounding the pavement, so building strong leg muscles is a must for runs of any distance or intensity.
Yusuf Jeffers, NASM-certified personal trainer and USATF-certified running coach, created an at-home leg workout circuit to target “all important aspects of strength for runners,” with little to no equipment.
This at-home leg workout will challenge your stability and leg strength. The curtsy lunge to lateral lunge will improve your mobility, he says, because it enriches the stimulus by changing planes of motion. The single-leg balance exercises he includes will help you increase stabilization. And lastly, incorporating plyometrics to the routine will help increase power, he says.
Bottom line: Dedicating time to incorporate lower body exercises into your routine is a must to help increase your overall performance out on the roads, track, and trails.
How to do it: You will need a hand towel and an exercise mat for this circuit. Complete each exercise for 30 to 60 seconds. Rest for two to three minutes in between each round. Repeat circuit for two to four times.
Bent-Knee Single-Leg Toe Touch
Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart. Drive your right knee up until it’s parallel to the floor, while simultaneously driving your left arm up. Keeping your right knee bent, hinge at the hips to touch your left toe with your right hand. Drive your right knee back up to stand up straight. You have the option of switching legs after the 30 to 60 seconds are up or alternating legs each rep.
One-and-a-Half Tempo Squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back and chest open. Slowly sending the hips back as if you’re sitting back into an invisible chair, squat down as far as possible in a controlled movement for a count of four seconds. Remember to keep your chest lifted and lower back neutral. Lift up halfway then drop back down immediately. Stand up. Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.
Curtsy Lunge to Lateral Lunge
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped at chest in front of you. Take a big step diagonally backward with left foot. Keeping your back straight, bend knees and lower hips toward floor until left knee is bent to about 90 degrees. Push back up to starting position. Take a wide step to the left. Bend your left knee as you send hips back and shift your weight over your right foot to drop into a side lunge. Keep chest lifted. Return to standing. You have the option of switching legs after the 30 to 60 seconds are up or alternating legs each rep.
Lie faceup on an exercise mat with your glutes near the edge of the mat and your heels on top of a hand towel. Lift your hips off the mat and glide the towel using your heels toward your glutes. Reverse the movement to glide the towel back out and lower hips. Repeat.
Jump Lunge to Skater Hop
Start in a staggered stance with right leg forward and left leg behind. Bend both knees to lower left knee to the floor and drop into a lunge position. Quickly press through right heel to jump straight up explosively and scissor legs in the air, landing with the left leg forward. Bend both knees to drop back down into a lunge. Now, jump as far as you can to the right, landing lightly on the ball of your right foot as left leg swings back behind you. Then jump as far as you can to the left, engaging glutes to push off, and land lightly on left foot as right leg swings behind you. Repeat.
Stand with your back facing the wall and your knees shoulder-width apart. Send your hips back until your glutes, lower back, and shoulders touch the wall. Glide down the wall until you’re in a seated position. Your back entire back should be braced on the wall. Engage your core to remain in this seat position for 30 to 60 seconds. Stand straight up and step away from the wall.
Monique LeBrun joined the editorial staff in October 2021 as the associate health and fitness editor. She has a master’s degree in journalism and has previously worked for ABC news and Scholastic. She is an avid runner who loves spending time outside.