It’s “marathon season,” with hundreds of thousands of my fellow fitness fanatics running marathon races in Chicago, Boston, New York, and many other places around the globe. I love questions regarding a leg workout for runners, because it implies that the asker already understands the truth about strength training and running — it helps, not hurts!

There is a long-standing myth that runners shouldn’t do resistance training with their lower bodies, and it’s just not true. Building strength and power in muscle groups like the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves will not only improve performance but will also help prevent injuries.

As a soccer player I relate to this well; it wasn’t until recently that soccer players and physios have realized that strength training can help them play better for longer.

That said, I do have a “go-to” functional leg workout for runners that I call Three-way Athletic Lunges. It’s important for all athletes to think about training all three planes of motion so that their muscles prepare for the unpredictability of sports. Here’s the workout — and fair warning, it’s not going to sound like a killer. But, try this once and let me know how sore you are over the next few days.

The leg workout for runners: Three-way Athletic Lunges

Marathon runner performing a leg workout for runners
Westend61

ROUND 1:

1. Front lunge:

a. 6 reps (each leg)

b. These are “normal” lunges, working in the sagittal plane (left and right sides of the body)

2. Side lunge:

a. 6 reps (each leg)

b. Working in the frontal plane (front and back sides of the body)

3. Rear 45-degree rear lunge:

a. 6 reps (each leg)

b. Working in the transverse plane (upper and lower body)

ROUND 2:

1. Front lunge with floor taps then throwing hands to the sky (adds gradual resistance to the explosiveness of pushing off your front foot)

a. 6 reps (each leg), working the sagittal plane

b. Both hands tap the floor in front of the forward foot, then throw both hands to the sky as you bring that foot back to the starting position.

2. Side lunge with floor taps then throwing hands to the sky

a. 6 reps (each leg), working the frontal plane

b. Both hands tap the floor in front of the forward foot, then throw both hands to the sky as you bring that foot back to the starting position.

3. 45-degree rear lunge with floor taps then throwing hands to the sky

a. 6 reps (each leg), transverse plane

b. Both hands tap the floor in front of the forward foot, then throw both hands to the sky as you bring that foot back to the starting position.

ROUND 3:

1. Front lunges with floor taps then “throwing” a light weight to the sky (a light dumbbell, kettlebell, plate adds resistance to the explosiveness of pushing off that front foot)

a. 6 reps (each leg), working the sagittal plane

b. Both weights tap the floor in front of the forward foot, then throw both hands to the sky as you bring that foot back to the starting position.

2. Side lunges with floor taps then “throwing” a light weight to the sky

a. 6 reps (each leg), frontal plane

b. Both weights tap the floor in front of the forward foot, then throw both hands to the sky as you bring that foot back to the starting position.

3. 45-degree rear lunges with floor taps then “throwing” a light weight to the sky

a. 6 reps (each leg), working the transverse plane

b. Both weights tap the floor in front of the forward foot, then throw both hands to the sky as you bring that foot back to the starting position.

To help understand what I’m talking about, here’s a retro video I made back in the early days of YouTube, showing these multi-planar lunges with weights.

Work this leg workout for runners into your training regimen. At first, you’ll be sore, I promise. But soon, all athletes will adapt and become stronger, faster, and more resilient thanks to this unique lower-body workout.

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