No packing list of traveling runners is complete without resistance bands. Not only is it one of the most affordable and accessible exercise equipment, but it’s also versatile and takes up almost no space in your tote bag or hotel room. You can easily do a quick stretch, mobility session, or resistance band leg workout like the one below.
Designed by Samantha RothbergCSCS, a certified strength trainer and triathlete,
This circuit mobilizes the hips, knees and ankles while strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, quads, core and calves.
The Benefits of This Resistance Band Leg Workout for Runners
In addition to strengthening all of the major lower body muscles, moves like clamshells and side walks also change the plane of motion, which is important for runners who spend most of their time in the sagittal plane (forward and backward).
“We tend to be weak in the frontal plane (side to side), but training in that plane of motion is necessary to strengthen the muscles used to stabilize the pelvis, to keep the hips, knees and ankles aligned, and to reduce the potential for injury. says Rothberg. “One of those muscles is the gluteus medius, the external rotator. It’s a small group of muscles, so you’ll definitely find it challenging to use a band to strengthen it.”
For this circuit, you’ll need a resistance band or small loops that you can slip between your legs. Choose your resistance based on your current strength level, and consider increasing your resistance based on the exercise. For example, a light band might provide adequate resistance for clamshells, but you may want to level up to a medium-weight band for squat tempos.
How to use this list: Do each exercise for the number of reps listed below. Complete 3 full rounds, resting for 60 seconds between rounds.
Each move is demonstrated by Rothberg in the video above so you can learn proper form. You will need a small resistance band/loop and a mat.
Why it works: The clamshell isolates the gluteus medius, an important but difficult muscle to target for runners. “Make sure your hips stay stacked and you don’t roll too far forward or back,” says Rothberg.
How to do it: Loop the resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Lie on your right side, resting on your right arm. Bend your knees 90 degrees, with your thighs forming a 45 degree angle from the body. Keeping your hips and feet together, slowly lift your left knee to open your leg as far as it will go. Hold, then slowly lower your knees to the starting position. Repeat for 15 reps, then switch sides.
2. Side Street
Why it works: In lateral travel, “we demand more of the gluteus medius because we’re adding activators,” says Rothberg. Be sure to move slowly and deliberately. “The brain will tell the body to take the path of least resistance, especially if you are in a hurry. By engaging in slow tempos, you give yourself the opportunity to develop neuromuscular patterns to strengthen the feet in this plane of motion,” says Rothberg.
How to do it: Loop the resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, core engaged. Take a small step to the left with your left foot, immediately followed by your right. Keep resistance in the band. Proceed to the side steps to the left for a total of 10 steps, then change direction and take 10 steps to the right.
3. Bird Dog
Why it works: “This exercise targets the glutes, as well as the core. Even though you are in a quadrupedal stance, the movement pattern is similar to running where you move the opposite arm and leg,” says Rothberg. “The key here is to focus on extending the leg back, not kicking, and keeping the back flat. You will probably find that one side is more challenging than the other. This is an excellent opportunity to work on the asymmetry.” Also, to get tactical feedback, you can place a yoga block or pillow against your lower back with the aim of keeping it stable throughout the entire movement, adds Rothberg.
How to do it: Start on your hands and knees with a small resistance band wrapped around the arches of both feet. Engage your core and make sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips. Keeping your back flat and neck neutral, simultaneously extend your right leg behind you and raise your left arm out in front of you. Hold, then lower your arms and legs to all fours. Repeat with left leg and right arm. Continue alternating and doing 10 reps on each side.
4. Glute Bridge
Why it worked:”This exercise is one of my favorite ways to strengthen the glutes, and also push your hips into extension,” says Rothberg. “Keep pushing into the resistance band keeping your knees following the middle of your toes.”
How to do it: Loop the resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Lie on your stomach, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Drive through the heels, contracting the glutes to lift the hips toward the ceiling. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Lower your hips back slowly, then repeat. Do 12 reps.
5. Squat Tempo
Why it works: “Squats are one of the best exercises you can do because they target a lot of muscles and load a lot of joints so they are very effective and efficient,” says Rothberg. You’ll be adding a two-second pause at the bottom of this one to help you control the move, he adds, rather than letting gravity pull you down and create stability at the bottom of the move.
How to do it: Loop the resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Send your hips down and back, bend your knees, and lower into a squat. Push your feet into the band to maintain tension. Pause for two seconds at the bottom of a squat, then cross the leg to return to standing. Repeat for 10 reps.
6. Knee Drive
Why it works: “This exercise will strengthen your hip flexors, improve coordination, and even give you the added benefit of working on your arm movements,” Rothberg. There is also a balance challenge at play. Rothberg recommends choosing a focus point about six feet in front of you so you don’t wobble or wobble.
How to do it: Wrap a resistance band around the arches of both feet and stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Without leaning to the side or bending at the waist, simultaneously move your left knee up at hip level and swing your right elbow forward. Lower arms and legs, then quickly repeat. Do 6 reps. Then switch sides and complete 6 reps.
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