Best Exercises for Quad Strength for Runners

by Onward Physical Therapy | September 29, 2020 |
 Knee Pain
Best Exercises for Quad Strength for Runners

Too many runners leave major performance gains on the table and suffer from far too many injuries by not strength training at a level that supports their sport. For those performing strength exercises, we often see the movements performed at intensities too low to help improve their fitness. For example, you’d never follow a training program that maxes out at a 2-mile run if you were trying to complete a marathon. The stimulus is too low to help you reach your goals. But what about strength exercises that aren’t significantly challenging? They also won’t help your performance or your goals. Today we’re going to cover the top 5 exercises we utilize to for quad strength in runners. These will both build lower body resiliency and are challenging enough to support their running demands!

Top 5 Exercises for Quad Strength

Step Up and Over

The step-up and over is an excellent drill to build quad strength in a pattern specific to running. While performing, focus on keeping your weight on the leg that’s on the box or step and barely tap with your other leg in front of and behind the box. Pay attention to your knee position as you transition between the two positions. Actively work to prevent the knee on the box from collapsing inward.

Special thanks to Lisa of runCLTrun for demonstrating this drill!

Runners Step Ups

As runners, we spend a significant amount of time on one leg. Naturally, we want to also focus on strengthening in positions on one leg as well. The runner’s step-up does just that! Grab a step or a box and stand on the side of the step with one leg on the box. Similar to the step up and over, we want to try to keep our weight on the leg that’s on the box and prevent our knee from collapsing inward. Incorporate your arm swing in the same pattern as your running.

Goblet 1.5

For the Goblet 1.5, grab a kettlebell, dumbbell, or any weighted object and hold it tight to your chest in the goblet position shown in the video. During this movement, you will descend to the bottom of your squat, rise about half of your full stand, and then back down to the bottom position before rising fully. On the half a rise, be sure to keep tension in your quads the entire time. Rising too high will unload the movement.

Forward Lunge to Elevated Box

Grab a box or step and while keeping your chest tall, step forward onto the box. As you step, you’re going to focus lunging forward while keeping your heel flat to load the quads a little more. You can progress this movement by adding additional weight as well.

Curty Squat

Drop down into a mini-squat. You should feel a little tension in your quads and the muscles on the sides of your hips in this position already. Shift all your weight to one leg as you reach the other toe as far as you can past your stance leg. As you reach your furthest point, try not to let your weight shift towards the foot that’s reaching and keep the focus on the leg that is staying still.

Want to boost your quad strength even more?

These five exercises are a great start to building your quad strength and overall lower body resilience. Curious what’s holding back your own running performance or tired of dealing with the same injury every running season? Check out our in-depth running evaluation and start planning for your next PR!