Power & Single Leg Exercises for Better Running & Muscle Balance!
Runners love to run. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Just because you love to run, it’s not an excuse to slack on the other things that can make you a better runner.
If you don’t strength train, I’m talking to you!
Although there are many different types of things a runner can do to increase body strength, we are going to focus on body workouts for the legs.
Why Are Single-Leg Exercises Key for Every Runner?
Basic lower-body leg exercises such as squats, walking lunges, and push-ups are great to strengthen several big muscle groups at once, but they should not be the only moves performed. These examples are considered double-leg or double-sided exercises.
This means as the muscles are getting strengthened with the moves, the differences in strength between muscles remain the same.
If the right quadricep is significantly weaker than the left, the body will most likely lean more towards the left side during the squat, therefore leaving the right side weaker than the left.
This compensation happens during running as well, except that running is considered a single-leg activity, so instead of the left leg compensating for right quad weakness, the other muscles on the right leg must compensate for the lack of sufficient quad strength.
This overcompensation will lead to the overworking of that weak quad and the muscles trying to do their job. Once you have been running for a long time, it gets hard to tell where your weakness is.
Unfortunately, in many cases, one may not realize they have an imbalance of strength until an injury occurs.
This is why it is imperative to begin a strengthening leg day program as soon as possible to get those muscles in balance!
5 Exercises That Instantly Improve Power in Both Legs
One great way to improve power in your legs is to do plyometrics.
What are plyometrics?
These are leg workouts that use speed and explosive power. When doing plyometric exercises, you find yourself breathless as you jump and move your way through the workout.
The lunge jump is an excellent plyometric exercise you can do to increase power. Just go into a lunge and pause at the bottom. Jump up, switching the position of your legs while in the air. Lunge again. Repeat.
Squat jump is another great exercise to try. In this one, you squat down low, then power up by exploding down through your heels. When you land, squat down again and repeat the movement.
The frog jump has you squat down low with your legs spread apart until you put your hands flat on the ground. Then you power up, reaching your hands high in the air.
Donkey kicks are one of those exercises that athletes love to hate. It is like trying to do a handstand without the balance at the top. You put both hands to the ground and kick back and up with one leg. Make sure you keep your core and glutes engaged and use controlled movements.
The plank squat has you start at a straight arm plank, then gently bend your knees to hop forward into a squat. It is harder than it sounds.
4 Single-Leg Exercises for Speed and Power
One important thing you can do for yourself is to do reps of exercises that improve both strength and balance at the same time. You do that with single-leg exercises.
Single leg muscle exercises should be incorporated into all strengthening sessions as it is the best way to mimic the single leg work required in running. It will also help get the correct strength ratio between muscle groups that must cooperate.
Many easy floor exercises work for this purpose, such as leg raises, clamshells, and single-leg bridges.
However, the bulk of single-leg strengthening should be performed in the standing position to benefit running improvements.
Below are examples of the best leg exercises that isolate specific muscle groups.
Single leg squats, deadlifts, and calf raises are a more effective way to isolate one quadricep, hamstring, and calf muscle at a time.
1. Single-Leg Deadlift: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You lean forward with one leg planted firmly on the floor and the other extending straight behind you. You continue lifting the extended leg while your body moves forward, creating a “T” like shape.
2. Single-Leg Squat: This is a squat done on only one leg. Sound challenging? It is. Be sure to master two-leg squats before you try the single-leg one.
3. Marching Bridge: If you know how to do a bridge, this is one with modification. Lie on your back straight, feet flat onto the ground.
Then, lift your hips up to create a straight line between your shoulders and knees. Extend one leg straight out, engage your core and try to hold yourself steady.
After a few seconds, put your foot back down to the ground and try again.
4. Hip Thrust: In this exercise, you lie on your back, placing your feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips until there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
You lift one leg so that your weight is on one leg and your lower back, and then you lower your butt until it almost touches the ground.
Will Stronger Legs Make You Faster?
In theory, stronger legs will make you faster. Think back to watching runners compete in track and field. Both sprinter and distance runners show off defined muscles. Sure, sprinters often have a more muscular physique, but talented distance runners often do also.
However, nothing brings about big improvements in a vacuum. If you spend time strengthening your legs, doing core work, running sufficient miles intentionally, and taking care of your body, you will get faster.
Can I Train Legs Every Day?
You should not work the same muscle groups every day.
Your body needs time to recover after a challenging workout. Having said that, there are some things you can do more often.
For example, you have probably heard of squat or plank challenges. Some of these bodyweight exercises can be done daily if you want to turn the exercise into a habit.
If you want to do strength training with weights, you need to have downtime between workouts.
Whether you are new to strength training or someone who has done it for a long time, these suggested power exercises for legs are likely to net you some positive results.
Get some single-leg strength training into your regiment today!
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