Building a Strength Routine: Legs

I am happy to say that I have been sticking with the strength routines that I put together just a week ago. It helps that I have a lot of exercises to choose from so I can vary the routines for the various muscle groups which will hopefully keep me from getting bored. Though I think I like working my arms the best, I understand the importance of strengthening all the muscle groups to improve running performance. After reading a fantastic and detailed article about IT Band Syndrome (perhaps the best one I’ve read yet), it’s even more clear how critical having strong legs and glutes are to preventing injury.

Unfortunately, I don’t love leg exercises; in fact, I loath them. For a long time I thought that running was all the leg exercise I needed until I started learning more about training, strength, performance, injury prevention, and realized that successful running and overall fitness is best achieved by a combination of routines and exercises. The following leg exercises are from the 2007 SELF Challenge and Runner’s World and have the added bonus of working multiple muscle groups. You will notice that lunges are missing from my leg routine though they are part of some other muscle group exercises.

I do 3 sets with 10-12 reps of each of the following:


Works legs, shoulders, abs, hips, butt

Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees soft, a dumbbell in left hand (I use 8-lb. dumbbells), right hand on waist. With elbow bent and palm in, raise left arm to side at shoulder height as you lift right leg to side. Lower left arm while sweeping right leg across body. Return to start. (Photo credit, SELF Magazine)

robo_waitressRobo Waitress

Works legs, arms, abs, butt

Stand on right leg with left knee bent, left thigh parallel to ground. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent, palms up. For this, I usually use my 8-lb. weights but will sometimes switch to 5-lb. if my arms feel super tired. Straighten left leg as you extend arms forward to “serve” dumbbells. Return to knee-up position; repeat. Do 10 reps. Switch legs; repeat. (Photo credit, SELF Magazine)

wood_chop_squatWood-chop Squat

Works abs, shoulders, arms, butt, legs

Stand with feet hip-width apart, one dumbbell in both hands directly overhead; at home I hold both 8-lb. weights and at the gym I take advantage of their 15-lb. dumbbell. Lower dumbbell between legs as you sink into a squat, knees over toes (as shown). Go slowly with this so you can feel it work your arms and legs. Return to start for one rep. (Photo credit, SELF Magazine)

Prone March

Works abs, pelvis, legs

Lie on your back with both knees bent to a 45-degree angle (I raise mine to 90-degrees for a more intense work-out). Make sure your abs are in and lower back is on the floor. Extend one leg until calf is parallel to the floor, return to start, switch legs and repeat.

Side Lift

Works hipĀ  flexors, glutes, and works IT band

Lie on right side with head resting on arm, hips in line with shoulders and bend right knee 60 degrees. Flex left foot and raise leg rotating leg back toward ceiling (no more than 45 degrees but I find even the slightest rotation to be challenging). Do reps and switch sides.

There are any number of leg exercises out there and I’m sure I will vary this routine, but I find these to be a good starting point because they are working the muscles that I believe are my weakest but that I use the most.

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