It’s one thing to be strong on two legs, but another to be strong on one. Read on for some single leg strength training for marathon runners, guaranteed to change the game for your running form!
Single Leg Strength: Why Do You Need It?
Broken down, running is simply putting one foot in front of the other. But as you put that foot down, what’s the other one doing? And how are you compensating for that weight shift?
In this post we take a closer look at the responsibility of the hips in keeping you stable and injury free, for miles on end.
Developing control and strength on one leg leads to increased body awareness, improved running form, and ultimately increased endurance for that marathon distance!
Single Leg Strength Training For Marathon Runners: Exercise #1
The single leg squat.
We can’t lie to you…this isn’t going to be an easy one. But it’s going to WORK. FAST.
Start by standing tall on two feet. And then on one.
From here you’re simply going to sit your hips back (like you do in a regular squat) and bend your standing leg, pushing the knee out.
Your “end” position will be the leg that’s off the ground landing in a lunge behind you with both knee and toe on the ground.
Make sure you continue sitting your hips back to create a hinge and space for the upper body to lean forward, over your standing thigh.
From the bottom of the lunge, you’ll press out of your standing glute and heel to return to standing on two legs.
But here’s where it gets a little complicated.
That first lunge took you what, 1 second?
From here, we’re going to slow down the process of getting to the lunge to almost 4 seconds.
You can slow the speed gradually, as you gain control over your standing leg.
Leaning forward with the upper body as you sit the hips further back will help counterbalance your weight, allowing you to move slow.
Make sure your knee and toe come to the ground at the same time, but DO NOT allow your kneecap to slam into the ground, for any reason.
Here’s the sequence:
3 sets of 5 repetitions per leg, each taking between 3-4 seconds.
Rest 1 minute between sets.
From here, you can build up to 5 sets of 5 repetitions per leg.
This type of strength training for marathon runners helps fight the “hip sink” that occurs as you get tired.
Single Leg Strength Training For Marathon Runners: Exercise #2
We’ve all “deadlifted” something at least once in our lives…a barbell, a kettlebell, a sock we dropped on the floor.
But today we’re going to look at what it means to deadlift using just one leg.
Let’s start by practicing a few regular deadlifts, using a kettlebell (18-35 lbs is just fine) or something of similar weight (milk jug will do the trick).
Standing on two feet, sit the hips back, letting the knees find a sustained bend, with the upper body again pitching forward from the hips. Do NOT let the back curve or “round” over!
From here you’ll squeeze your glutes and pick up your kettlebell.
Now repeat exactly that while holding your kettlebell. Keep arms straight, shoulders square and kettlebell right between your shins as you straighten and bend your legs.
Now, let’s try it on one leg.
Again, what we’re trying to do here is practice stabilizing the hips and ankles for each leg of our run stride.
Let’s start without the kettlebell.
Stand on one leg, taking a few seconds to find your balance.
From here, you’ll sit the hips back just like before, taking a slight bend in the knee and pitching the body forward, keeping the back straight.
The leg in the air will be bent at a 90 degree angle behind you – make sure you’re flexing your heel to the sky.
For now, only deadlift until your hands are resting on your knee or just below it. No need to bend further.
Return to standing.
Now grab the kettlebell, holding it with two hands.
Make sure to find your balance on one leg with the weight, before starting the deadlift.
Perform the deadlift in the exact same way you did before, only this time making certain that the kettlebell is traveling right against your standing leg, and only reaching to right below the knee before standing back up.
Keep your shoulders square to the ground!
Here are a few variations you can try to make this more challenging:
- Hold kettlebell with just ONE hand (the one opposite of the leg you are standing on)
- Increase the bend on your standing leg so that kettlebell taps the ground on each rep
Once you’ve found a version that works for you, here’s your rep scheme:
3 sets of 5 repetitions, per leg.
Increase to 5+ sets of 5 repetitions.
You can take a 1 minute rest between sets.
What kind of improvement are you going to see from single leg strength training for marathon runners?
Sinking into your hips creates unnecessary pressure on the ankles, knees & hips. After enough repetition with poor form, those injuries are no doubt going to creep up on you.
These exercises will teach your hips and ankles to stay stable and square through all of the weight transfer that occurs when you run.
So practice these movements 1-2 times per week for best results!
For sticking with us to the end, enjoy 2 full weeks of strength workouts just like this one. Each workout includes video coaching, a written description as well as access to our coaches for any modifications or questions that come up along the way! Get your FREE program here.