Building lower-body strength is an important part of injury prevention for runners.
“The main reason why injuries happen is because the physical stress from running is too much for your body to handle at that time,” says Jason Karp, creator of the Run-Fit Specialist certification and author of five books, including 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners and Running a Marathon For Dummies.
In addition to following other smart training strategies like increasing your weekly mileage at appropriate amounts, maintaining or decreasing weekly mileage when adding intense interval workouts to your routine, alternating between hard and easy days, and allowing for adequate recovery time between workouts, strengthening the muscles in your lower body will help to prevent injury by helping your legs become better equipped to handle the stress of running.
Here are five lower-body exercises you can do to make sure all of the muscles in your legs are strong and sturdy. For a full workout, perform three sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise, incorporating the routine into your training plan on one or two non-consecutive days per week.
1. Sumo Squat and Upright Kettlebell Row
This exercise will mainly target your inner thighs and quads. Adding the row creates an extra challenge that will target your shoulders. Be sure to sit back into your heels as you squat and keep your core tight and your spine straight.
2. Single-Leg Split Squat
This exercise mainly targets the glutes, and focusing on one leg at a time can help to address any muscle imbalances you may have between your right and left legs.
3. Kettlebell Deadlift
The deadlift helps to strengthen your hamstrings. Be sure to keep a neutral spine as you bend down. Keep your core engaged as you hinge up from your hips into the upright position, squeezing your glutes and retracting your shoulder blades down and back as you finish the movement.
4. Curtsey Lunge
Perform this exercise to target your adductor (inner thigh) and abductor (outer thigh) muscles. Start in a side lunge position and then cross your right leg behind you as you squat down. Be sure to keep your core engaged and your torso in an upright position.
5. Single-Leg "Stand Up"
This exercise targets the glutes and quads and will help to build stability and balance as well as core strength.