The Best Leg Day Workout for Runners

For speed, power, and injury prevention, grab those weights.

For speed, power, and injury prevention, grab those weights.

As a runner, it’s tempting to gloss over the lower body during a strength-training session. Between hill repeats, tempo workouts, and long runs, your legs and glutes are regularly pushed to their limits. Do you really need a dedicated leg day workout? Covering all that ground should be sufficient, right?

“Wrong,” Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., founder of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California, tells Runner’s World. Focusing solely on running is a “less-than-optimal” training strategy that can eventually lead to injuries, he says.

“The vast majority of us have developed a foot strike and cadence that may feel natural to us but is far from optimal. Imbalances bilaterally, tight joints, weak connective tissues, and even sore muscles from previous training sessions will all lead to compensatory movements when we run,” Miklaus says. “These compensations can negatively affect running economy at best, and directly contribute to both acute and chronic injuries at worst.” But, a well-designed strength-training program that includes the legs and glutes can help identify and correct injury-causing compensations.

Even if you do manage to avoid getting hurt, consistently skipping leg day could be robbing you of speed and power. “Fast-twitch muscle fiber types are primarily responsible for our fastest, most explosive, and strongest movements. In your legs, these fibers help you go from a jog pace to a true sprint pace,” Miklaus says. “Running alone will not optimally challenge these muscle fibers. Instead, they need direct targeting from heavy resistance training, and very fast, explosive exercises.”

To help you stay healthy and get the most out of your runs, Miklaus developed the following leg day workout. Incorporate it into your current strength-training plan or pair it with an easy run.

How to use this list: Perform 6 to 8 reps of each exercise (per side for the dumbbell swing, step-up, and Bulgarian split squat), resting up to 3 minutes between sets. Repeat the full circuit 4 times. Each move is demonstrated by Miklaus in the video above so you can master the proper form.