One of the things I notice as a runner is that when I’m doing strength training, I tend to focus more on upper-body exercises because I know that (comparatively, at least) my lower body is pretty strong from running. And while it’s true that I’m an upper-body wimp, it’s pretty silly to think that I don’t need to do any lower body work. Specifically, single-leg strength work. If you think about it, running is just balancing on one foot, over and over again, really fast. So doing single leg balancing work is perfect practice for running.
Here is the strength workout I did this morning, presented by my favorite guest model, IronHubs!!
1. Cook Hip Lift – named for the Physical Therapist who created it, the Cook Hip Lift really targets the glutes and hamstrings, without letting you cheat by using your back muscles.
Lie on your back and bring one knee to your chest. Pull in your abdominal muscles, activate your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. If you’ve done back bridges before, you might be surprised at how little you can get your butt off the ground! It’s okay, your glutes will thank you for doing this one properly. Hold for 5 seconds, do two sets of ten on each leg.
2. 100s – this one is a barefoot running exercise, but even shod runners can benefit from it.
This is a deceptively simple exercise: stand with the balls of your feet on a line (maybe where the carpet meets the tile, or the tile grout line, or the seam where your hardwood planks meet), pick up one foot and put it down in the exact same spot, then pick up the other foot and put it down in the exact same spot. This works best barefoot because you can feel your foot landing on the line (or not, as the case may be). Go as quickly as you can and land on each foot 100 times. It’s harder than you think.
3. Single Leg Hop and Stick – the “stick” in the title does not refer to my sticky floors, thankyouverymuch, but rather to the fact that you “stick” the landing and stabilize yourself between hops.
4. Bent-Knee Hip Abduction (aka “The Clamshell”)
5. Straight-Leg Abduction – once you’re on the ground, you might as well stay there and do some more glute work, ya know?
6. Ball Push-Up Bridge – okay, time for some stabilizer/core work before our legs turn into jelly! But don’t worry, there’s more leg work coming up.
7. Shoulder Ball Bridge
8. Back Ball Bridge
9. One-Leg Straight Leg Deadlift – you probably saw the two-leg version of this in last month’s Runner’s World. The straight-leg deadlift (SLDL) is big for CrossFitters, but the single-leg version is a little more accessible for us regular folk.
With a heavy dumbbell in your right hand (this isn’t an arm exercise, so it’s okay to go heavy on this one – the weight acts as a ballast for your back leg and actually helps balance you), stand on your left foot. Keeping your back and your back leg as straight as possible, bend slowly forward until your hand almost reaches the floor. Use your glutes to bring yourself back upright. Do 2 sets of 10 on each leg.
10. Split Squat – are your legs feeling like noodles yet? Good, this is the last one!
Start in a lunge position, with your hands up on your head. Bend the back leg until both knees are at a 90 degree angle. Focus on moving straight up and down, rather than forward and back. Do 2 sets of 10 squats on each leg.
Finish up the workout with a good stretch, making sure to get your hammies and inner thighs!
Have you ever done single-leg strength work before?
How often do you work on your balance?