Strong leg muscles are required for long-distance runners to be successful as they tackle mile after mile. Focusing on a comprehensive leg strength training routine will help keep muscles working in harmony and prevent injuries caused by muscle imbalances. In addition, this will help you become a more efficient runner, which often translates to faster speeds.
Help Your Hips
Distance runners should add hip abductors, clamshell exercises and supine hip bridges to their leg strength-training routine. Using weights and resistance bands can increase the difficulty level of these exercises to make them more challenging for those with stronger running muscles. Inadequate hip stabilization and strength has been identified as one of the top causes of common running injuries like patellofemoral pain syndrome and iliotibial band syndrome, according to a review of research published in the May/June 2009 issue of "Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach."
Build Your Quads
Squats, leg extensions and the standing quadriceps stretch are among those that help you build strength up in these muscles and should be added to your strength-training routine. As you build strength in these muscles, you will need to add weights or increase the number of reps that you complete. Composed of four muscles, your quadriceps muscles are on the front-side of your thighs. They are essential to supporting many daily motions in life, and in running, they are crucial during the support phase of the running motion. Having strong quadriceps muscles are especially important to ensure you are able to propel your foot forward as you take a step.
Strengthen Your Hamstrings
Exercises like hamstring curls, the supine hamstring stretch and straight-leg exercises in the prone position are all helpful additions to your training. Building strong hamstrings can make the difference between being able to tackle tough terrains or being sidelined for associated pain. Patellofemoral pain syndrome, more commonly known as runner's knee in the running community, can be caused by weak hamstrings. In addition, hamstring strains can sideline runners for weeks, even months. Strong hamstrings also help distance runners improve their running economy and efficiency, making them better runners as a whole and helping them maintain good form, no matter the distance.
Focus on Your Calf Muscles
Calf raises are easy exercises that can be added to your training routine without needing any equipment, which make them a favorite for many. Cardio exercises like jump roping and walking can also build your calf muscle strength and help you become a better runner. Having strong calf muscles can help reduce the amount of force that your ankles and feet feel each time you strike the ground when you run. Without strong calf muscles, you can face injuries and pain in these areas.