Skip to content (Press Enter)

Leg Workouts for Runners

Strength Training Guide | Fleet Feet

All Strength Training for Runners

Focused strength training will make you a better runner by increasing your endurance, power and efficiency. Since your legs propel you forward as you run, it’s critical that you develop leg strength, balance and proper movement patterns.

While running seems simple, it puts lots of force and load onto your muscles and joints, so it requires practiced and precise movement. Building up your leg strength will reduce your risk for injury by making muscles and joints stronger and reinforcing proper form.

One of the best parts about doing these leg workouts (aside from faster, easier running) is you don’t need an expensive gym membership. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises that you can do at home to improve your strength for running.

With any training, it’s crucial to start with the basics and take the time to dial in your form. Bad form can cause pain and injury. Practicing proper movement in your strength exercises will improve neuromuscular coordination to improve your running form and power.

Here are some of the best leg exercises for runners to build strength and endurance:

  1. Squats
  2. Squat to Hydrant
  3. Sumo Squat
  4. Bulgarian Split Squat
  5. Pistols (Single Leg Squats)
  6. Calf Raises with Eccentric Drop
  7. Single Leg Calf Raises with Eccentric Drop
  8. Reverse Lunges
  9. Jumping Lunges
  10. Box Jumps
  11. Single Leg Deadlift
  12. Good Mornings
  13. Wall Sits
  14. Skater Jumps

[Looking for more strength training for runners? Check out our guide to core workouts.]

1. Squats

A runner demonstrates a squat leg workout

Strengthen quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Staying centered over your feet, send your hips back and down in a squat as if sitting in a chair.
  • Keep your spine neutral and drive back up into a standing position.
  • Make sure your knees track directly over your toes throughout the entire movement. Pay close attention to your alignment on the way up.

2. Squats to Hydrant

A runner demonstrates a squat to hydrant for a leg workout

Strengthen quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Staying centered over your feet, send your hips back and down in a squat as if sitting in a chair.
  • Shift your weight to the left leg as you lift the right leg from the hip, maintaining the bend in both knees.
  • Return to a centered squat and repeat the same motion on the other side.
  • Keep your spine neutral and use your arms to establish balance as needed.


    3. Sumo Squats

    A runner demonstrates a sumo squat for leg workouts

    Strengthen adductors, quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves

    • Take a wider stance and turn feet outward.
    • Staying centered over your feet, send your hips back and down in a squat as if sitting in a chair.
    • Keep your spine neutral and drive back up into a standing position.

    4. Bulgarian Split Squats

    A runner demonstrates the Bulgarian split squats leg workouts

    Strengthen Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves. Improve balance and coordination

    You’ll need: A sturdy chair, bench or couch

    • This one can take a bit of set-up. Take some time to find a comfortable position for your back and front foot as you work on your balance.
    • Stand about two feet in front of your chair with feet hip-distance apart, core engaged.
    • Put your right foot on the chair behind you, keeping it hip-distance from the front foot. The back foot is for balance.
      • You can rest the top of your foot on the chair or plant your toes on the chair as you would when doing a split squat on the floor.
    • The work will be done by the front leg.
    • With your chest high, bend your front knee. Keep the load balanced on your front foot and knee tracking over that foot as you lower your hips.
    • Push back to standing.

    5. Pistols or Single Leg Squat

    A runner demonstrates the pistol squat leg workout

    Strengthen hips, quads, glutes, hamstrings. Improve balance and coordination

    • Stand on your right leg with your standing knee slightly bent.
    • Lift the left leg, and extended it in front of you with the knee slightly bent.
    • Send your hips back to lower the right leg into a squat position.
    • Keep your back straight and right knee centered over the foot (not beyond or to either side).
    • Move slowly and begin with a shallow squat position until you are comfortable with the movement and can maintain balance.
    • Repeat on the other leg.

    Modification: Use your couch or a chair, to come down into a seated position with one leg lifted, and then push off to stand.

    6. Calf Raises with Eccentric drop

    A runner demonstrates eccentric calf raises leg workouts

    Strengthen calves, feet, achilles, improve lower leg stability

    This exercise can be done on the floor, without the eccentric drop.

    • With a hand on a rail, stand with your toes on a stop, feet hip-distance apart and weight evenly distributed.
    • Your heels should be off the step in the air behind you, but you should feel secure. This is not about balance.
    • With both feet, slowly lift your heels up high and hold for a beat.
    • Lower your heels down beyond your neutral starting point for an eccentric drop.
    • Return to the starting position.

    7. Single Leg Calf Raises with Eccentric Drop

    A runner does a single-leg calf raise leg workout

    Increase the intensity of the previous exercise. Strengthen calves, feet, achilles, improve lower leg stability

    • With a hand on a rail, stand with your toes on a stop, feet hip-distance apart and weight evenly distributed. Shift your weight to stand on one leg.
    • As before, your heel should be off the step in the air behind you, but the forefoot is secure on the step, not precariously balanced.
    • Slowly lift your heel up high and hold for a beat.
    • Lower your heel down beyond your neutral starting point for an eccentric drop.
    • Return to the starting position.

    Modification: If you feel any discomfort in your achilles, use both feet to lift your heels from the eccentric drop, rather than just the planted foot. If this exercise causes pain in your achilles, don’t do it.

    8. Reverse Lunges

    A runner demonstrates a reverse lunge leg workout

    Activate glutes, hamstrings and core with less stress on joints than a forward lunge

    • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and hands at your hips or overhead.
    • Take a large step back so your front knee is directly over your ankle.
    • Lower your hips to bring your front quad parallel to the floor.
    • Push forward with your back leg to return to the starting position.
    • Switch legs.

    9. Jumping Lunges

    A runner demonstrates a jumping lunge leg workout

    Activate and strengthen quads, hips, glutes. Improve stability and coordination

    This movement is like walking lunges but with a jumping transition to increase intensity. If you’re new to lunges, master the walking lunge before you attempt the jumping lunge.

    • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and arms bent.
    • Take a large step forward with your right leg and lower into the lunge position, bringing your right knee over your right ankle (not beyond) and left arm forward.
    • Lower your hips to bring your right quad parallel to the ground.
    • Prepare to jump. Propel yourself upward, bringing the left foot forward and the right leg back for the landing. Switch arms as your switch legs.
    • Alternate sides for the remainder of the set.

    10. Box Jumps

    A runner demonstrates a box jump leg workout

    Build explosive power in glutes, raise heart rate strengthen quads

    Box or high step needed.

    • Start with feet shoulder-width apart. Initiate the movement in a partial squat position, with bent knees, hips back, and arms back.
    • Swing your arms forward as you push with your legs to jump onto the box.
    • Jumps with proper form should be quiet. To land softly, it’s important to absorb the impact with your glutes and hamstrings in a partial squat.
    • Keep your back flat, chest up and knees tracking over your toes.
    • Stand tall, and step back down one foot at a time. Don’t jump back down, as it puts excessive strain on your lower back, hips and achilles.

    11. Single Leg Dead Lifts

    A runner demonstrates a single-leg deadlift workout

    Strengthen back, core, hamstrings

    • Stand tall with your hips facing forward.
    • Lift one foot off the ground and tip forward by hinging your whole body at the hip.
    • Lower your head and chest toward the floor as your foot comes up behind you keeping your head, shoulder, hip and ankle in a straight line.
    • Keep the knee on your standing soft and slightly bent.

    12. Good Mornings

    A runner demonstrates a good morning leg workout

    Activate glutes, hamstrings and lower back

    • Stand with feet hip-width apart and fingertips at your ears with your elbows facing out.
    • Pull your bellybutton in toward your spine, keep your back neutral and knees softly bent.
    • Hinge at the hips to pull your butt back and lower your torso until it is nearly parallel to the floor.
    • Return to standing, squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion.

    13. Wall Sits

    A runner demonstrates a wall sit leg workout

    Strengthen quads, glutes, calves.

    You’ll need: A wall

    • Begin with your back against a wall and lower yourself as though in sitting a chair until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
    • Form a 90-degree angle with your hips and knees against the wall.
    • Keep your feet shoulder width apart and firmly planted on the floor with your knees over your ankles (not beyond) and weight in your heels.
    • With your back flat against the wall, hold for up to 60 seconds

    14. Skater Jumps

    A runner demonstrates the skaters leg workout

    Improve leg power, stability and balance, strengthen glutes, hamstrings, quads

    • Begin on your right leg with weight evenly distributed throughout the foot, knee bent over your ankle in a squat position with hips back.
    • Using your arms for propulsion, jump laterally to the left to land on your left foot in the same position.
    • Keep your knee centered over your ankle so that your glutes and hamstrings can absorb the impact on the jumps.

    More Workouts