If you’re a regular runner, you might think running would be sufficient for working out your legs. But according to the Human Kinetics website, strength exercises targeted toward the major muscle groups in your legs will help increase your running performance and muscular strength while decreasing your risk of injuries. You will also prevent the natural loss of muscle that occurs with age. Supplement your running routine with a leg workout twice a week. Start with 10 to 20 repetitions of each exercise, working until your muscles are fatigued.
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Keep your calves strong by performing leg raises. Stand on your toes and lower both heels as low as possible without touching the floor. Raise them back up as high as you can. Do two sets of this exercise -- one with your legs straight and one with your legs slightly bent at the knees. Try holding dumbbells or cans of food once you have worked up to 30 to 50 repetitions.
While your hamstrings don’t get used as much as other muscles during running, it’s still important to keep them strong and flexible. Kickbacks are simple exercises that work the hamstrings, which are situated on the backs of your thighs. Position yourself on your hands and knees. Kick one leg upward behind you, keeping your leg bent with your toes pointed toward the sky. Lower the leg back down, then repeat. Once your first leg is fatigued, repeat this exercise with the other leg.
Lunges train both your hamstrings and buttocks. Stand with your feet together and lunge forward with your left foot, bending your leg so it is at a 90-degree angle with your knee positioned directly above your ankle. To avoid knee injury, don’t extend your knee any farther than this. Keep your right leg straight. Push back off the heel of your left foot until you are in a standing position. Once your left leg is fatigued, repeat with your right leg.
Perform exercises that strengthen your shins to decrease your risk of developing shin splints. Lie face down on your bed with just your feet hanging off the edge. Pull the balls of your feet toward your shins and into the mattress, then slowly release. The mattress should provide the necessary resistance needed to train your shins.
Squats strengthen the much-used quadriceps on the tops of your upper legs. Stand with your feet spaced shoulder width apart and pointing straight ahead. Squat down, bending your knees until they’re at a 90-degree angle. Keep your knees directly over your toes to avoid knee injury. Push back up with your legs, driving your heels down. Keep your head up and facing forward to maintain your posture.