strength

Unilateral Leg Training for Runners

Welcome to another edition of workout Wednesday! Today we are talking about unilateral leg training for runners. What is unilateral training? It is training one side of the body independently from the other. Think about it for a moment. When you run you repeatedly transfer your body weight from one leg to the other for the duration of the run. Since you run on one leg at a time, it only makes sense to strength train one leg at a time. 

While traditional bilateral (two leg) exercises like the squat are great for runners, you can take it to the next step in strength and balance by training each leg independently to increase runner-specific strength and help ward off injuries. I recommend incorporating both bilateral and unilateral training into your program.

WHY UNILATERAL TRAINING?

When you train both legs at the same time you may be reinforcing strength imbalances. If one side of your body is stronger than the other, that side is going to compensate for the weaker side. Training each limb independently will build up the strength on your weaker side and eventually even out the strength of both sides. If you don't train unilaterally, the dominant side of your body will stay strong, while the weaker side will stay weak. These imbalances can lead to injuries. 

I also love unilateral training because it requires more stability and forces you to balance and build core strength. Balance and core strength are essential for runners. 

Try these unilateral exercises in your next leg workout. Perform these moves without weights at first until you master technique and form. As your balance and stability improves, add weight to the exercises for an additional challenge.

 

Lunge 

Lunge

Lunge

With your feet hip width apart and your toes pointed straight ahead, engage your core and keep your back straight. Take one large step with your right leg to lunge forward until your front knee is lined up over your ankle and your back knee is nearly touching the floor. Do not allow your knee to move forward over your toes. Resist the urge to lean forward or rest your arms on your thighs. Once you are in the lunge position push back up to starting position. Repeat for 20 seconds.

Single Leg Deadlift

single leg deadlift

single leg deadlift

Standing on one leg, keep your knee slightly bent and perform a deadlift by bending at your hip while keeping your back straight and neck neutral. Extend your free leg behind you in line with your body. Lower until your back is parallel to the floor. With your back straight return to the upright position. Repeat for 20 seconds.

Single Leg Squat

While the single leg squat is an advanced move, there are a couple of variations that almost anyone can perform. I like using a bench for the low position. Balance on one leg and lower yourself until you are sitting on the bench. Your knee may want to cave inward, which is sign of a muscle imbalance. Work to keep your standing knee inline with your outside toe as you lower to the bench. Keeping the 2nd leg off the ground stand back up to the starting position.

single leg squat

single leg squat

Another variation is the single leg wall squat. Lower yourself into a wall squat position, with your back flat against the wall and your thighs parallel to the ground. Lift one leg off the floor and straighten it in front you. Repeat for 20 seconds.

Bridge with leg extension

Lie on your back with your knees bent and lift your hips off the floor while engaging your glutes and abs. Straighten one leg. Keep your leg in a straight line with your body and your knees together. Hold for 20 seconds.

bridge with leg extension

bridge with leg extension

Perform each of the exercises in a Tabata-style format: 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest for four minutes. Rest one minute then repeat the circuit two more times. This is a quick and effective unilateral workout that you can tack on to the end of your run.

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Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, as well as online training. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

 

 

'Round the World Lunges: 4 Minute Lunge Workout

It's workout Wednesday and today we are talking lunge variations. With this 'round the world lunge workout you can hit your lunges from all angles. This workout is a great finisher after a run.

I love the lunge because it works several major muscle groups at once. It targets big muscle groups including the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Your abdominal, back and calf muscles act as stabilizers during this exercise. A lunge is great for challenging balance and stability. Exercises like the lunge that work unilaterally (one leg at a time) are ideal for runners, since while we run we transfer our body weight on one leg at a time. 

This workout is structured Tabata-style, that means that you do 20 seconds of reps followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds, which equals four minutes. It is a great workout for people (I'm looking at you runners) who do not have a lot of time to get in their strength training. You could go for a run and finish it with this great four minute lunge circuit (or repeat 3 times with a one minute rest between rounds for a total of 15 minutes). Change up the exercises after each run and sneak in a full body workout each week at only four minutes at a time. 

Round the World Lunges

FORWARD LUNGE

With your feet hip width apart and your toes pointed straight ahead, engage your core and keep your back straight. Take one large step with your right leg to lunge forward until your front knee is lined up over your ankle and your back knee is nearly touching the floor. Do not allow your knee to move forward over your toes. Resist the urge to lean forward or rest your arms on your thighs. Once you are in the lunge position push back up to starting position. Repeat for 20 seconds on the right leg, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat on the left leg for 20 seconds. 

SIDE LUNGE

With both toes pointing forward, push your hips back and take a large step to your right and bend your right knee into a side lunge position and straighten your left leg. Do not allow your knees to move forward past your toes. Lower your hips as low as your flexibility will allow. Push back to starting position and repeat on the right side for 20 seconds before resting for 10 seconds, then moving onto the left side. 

BACK LUNGE

With your feet hip width apart and your toes pointing straight ahead, take a large step backward with your right leg, so your right knee almost touches the floor and your left leg lunges at a 90 degree angle. Do not allow your left knee to move forward past your toe. Push back up to starting position. Once in starting position, kick your right leg straight out behind you. Repeat for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then change sides.

kick your leg straight out behind you once you return to the starting position.

kick your leg straight out behind you once you return to the starting position.

 

CURTSY LUNGE

Stand with your feet hip apart. Cross your right leg behind the body and to the left. Bend left knee 90 degrees, or as low your flexibility will allow, toes pointing forward, then return to starting position. Repeat for 20 seconds on one side. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the other side.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for more workouts that you add to the end of your run. 

It is important to remember that while I am a personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer that knows your medical background and exercise abilities. Please consult a medical professional before beginning any new exercise program. 

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WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: FOUR MINUTE SQUAT CHALLENGE

I love quick and effective workouts. Not every workout that you do has to be an intense hour-long session. It took me a long time to break out of the all-or-nothing mindset. I used to think if I didn't have the time for a full-blown workout, I wouldn't bother with one at all. The truth is that a 15 minute workout that you actually do is always 100% better than the hour workout you didn't do. 

Today's squat challenge explores eight different squat variations. It is a fun way to get in a lower body workout and possibly try some new moves. If you are a runner, this is great workout to do after you finish your run to squeeze in some quick strength training. 

Can you find four minutes in your day for this fun squat challenge? You will perform this squat circuit Tabata-style, which means you will do work for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds for four minutes. If you want to make it more challenging, rest for one minute after each four minute circuit and repeat until your Glutes are on fire!

This circuit incorporates eight squat variations. 

1. Traditional Chair Squat

Push your hips back and lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor (like you are sitting back in a chair) or as low as your flexibility allows. In the low position, engage your core, squeeze your glutes and push up to standing in an explosive movement. Return to center, pushing hips back and repeat for 20 seconds. Take a deep breath in as your lower to the squat and breathe out as you return to standing. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

2. Wall Squat

Stand against a wall and lower your body to a squat position so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight, your core engaged and your arms pressed into the wall. Do not rest your hands on your knees or lean forward. Hold in an isometric low position for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

3. Curtsey Squat (Right Side)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. Cross right leg behind the body and to the left. Bend left knee 90 degrees, or as low your flexibility will allow, toes pointing forward, then return to starting position. Repeat for 20 seconds on one side. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

4. Curtsey Squat (Left Side)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. Cross left leg behind the body and to the right. Bend right knee 90 degrees, or as low your flexibility will allow, toes pointing forward, then return to starting position. Repeat for 20 seconds on one side. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

5. Lateral Squat (Right Side)

While facing forward, with toes pointing straight ahead, take a wide step out to your right side. With your hips back, bend your right knee, while straightening your left leg. With your back straight, hing at your hips to touch the floor with both hands on either side of your foot. Do not allow your knee to move forward beyond your toe. Be sure to keep your torso and both feet facing forward. Repeat for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

6. Lateral Squat (Left Side)

While facing forward, with toes pointing straight ahead, take a wide step out to your left side. With your hips back, bend your left knee, while straightening your right leg. With your back straight, hing at your hips to touch the floor with both hands on either side of your foot. Do not allow your knee to move forward beyond your toes. Be sure to keep your torso and both feet facing forward. Repeat for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

7. Sumo Squat

With your legs in a wide stance and toes pointing out, push your hips back and lower yourself into a sumo squat. Do not allow your toes to move beyond your toes. Repeat for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

8. Sumo Squat (Pulse)

With your legs in a wide stance and toes pointing out, push your hips back and lower yourself into a sumo squat. Do not allow your toes to move beyond your toes. Stay in the low position and pulse the reps without returning to standing for 20 seconds. Rest for one minute before repeating the circuit.

Give it a shot and let me know how you feel!

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