Lower-body exercises are very important to build endurance and strength in runners. (Photo by Julia Larson via pexels)

6 Best Lower-Body Exercises for Runners

Lower-body exercises have several benefits when it comes to strengthening the legs, glutes and other lower-body muscles in runners. From improving speed and endurance to preventing pain and injuries, lower-body exercises play an important role in every runner’s strength-training session.

Practicing some strength-training and lifting exercises at least 3 to 4 times a week, particularly targeting your lower body, can make a big difference in your overall athletic performance. This is because having strong muscles provides better stability and flexibility for your joints and also has a lesser impact on your ligaments.


Combining running with a few effective strength-training workouts for your lower body will help make you faster and stronger as a runner.

Lower-body exercises for runners


Here are some productive lower-body exercises to incorporate into your daily workout routine:

1) Barbell squat


The squat is one of the best leg exercises that every runner should practice. It activates multiple muscle groups and builds lower-body strength beneficial for running.

Here’s how to perform a squat:

  • Start by standing straight with your feet at a shoulder-width distance.
  • Point your toes outwards. Keep your back stable and straight.
  • Place the barbell carefully on the back of your shoulders.
  • Squat down slowly until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep your spine absolutely straight throughout the squat.
  • Now, push your body through your heels and stand up.
  • Repeat.

2) Walking lunges with dumbbells


Walking lunges is a pattern of running that helps train your body to move forward at a quicker pace. It also develops alignment and coordination.

Here’s how to perform a walking lunge with dumbbells:

  • Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Step forward with your right leg and lower your quads at a 90-degree angle. As you do this, lower your left leg towards the floor simultaneously.
  • In a controlled manner, push your quads back up and then repeat the movement by switching legs.
  • Perform 10 to 15 reps.

3) Deadlift


Deadlifts are one such exercise that people, especially runners, avoid due to fear of injuries. However, if done in the correct form, deadlift is one of the most effective lower-body exercises that works all through your abs to your legs.

Here’s how to perform a deadlift:

  • Stand straight with your feet placed just beneath the barbell. Make sure to keep your feet a bit narrower than your shoulder width and your toes pointed outward.
  • Keep the barbell close to your body all through the exercise to maintain stability.
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand grip and lift the bar, pushing your body through the heels. Keep your lower back slightly bent, and at the top of the motion, engage your glutes by contracting them.
  • In a slow and controlled manner, lower the barbell by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
  • Return to the start.

4) Donkey kicks


The donkey kick is a great lower-body exercise that helps to build strong butt and glute muscles.

Here’s how to perform a donkey kick:

  • Start by taking a position on all your fours. Contract your abdominal muscles towards your spine.
  • Lift your right leg behind you, keep your left leg bent and then raise your leg until it gets in line with your body. Your flexed foot should be parallel to the wall up.
  • Bring your right leg back, and repeat the exercise.

5) Dumbbell squat to overhead press


The dumbbell squat to overhead press is slightly more advanced than the regular squat. This exercise not only targets your lower body, but also works your upper body muscles too.

Here’s how to perform a dumbbell squat to the overhead press:

  • Hold dumbbells in each hand at your shoulder height. Keep your elbows bent and your feet at a hip-width distance.
  • Bend your knees, keep your chest upright and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly straighten your arms so that the dumbbells get in front of you.
  • Now as you do with a regular squat, put your body weight on your heels and do not allow your knees to go beyond your toes. Make sure your heels remain on the ground throughout the exercise.
  • As you push your body up, bend your elbows slightly and press the dumbbells up until your arms are straight over your head.
  • Stand up straight again, and repeat the exercise.

6) Calf raise


Calf raises are an important exercise that should be included in every runner’s fitness routine. This exercise helps to keep fatigue problems at bay and also ensures you can run on all types of terrain.

Here’s how to perform a calf raise:

  • Begin by standing straight on the edge of a step. Make sure to stand on your toes.
  • Now raise your heels as high as you can. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and feel the stretch in your calf muscles.
  • Lower your heels to the starting position.
  • Repeat.


Runners who incorporate lower-body exercises like the ones discussed above into their fitness schedule will definitely see tremendous improvement in their running performance. However, before starting any workout regimen, consult a certified fitness trainer to be sure about the form and techniques of the exercises.


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Edited by
Sabine Algur
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