Leg Strength

by Ian
(Newcastle, NSW)

I've been running for the past 8 months and plateaued quite early. One problem is the strength of my legs. It is difficult to raise my legs.

How can I (a) strengthen my knees and (b) strengthen the upper thighs, front and back. I'm running up to 20 km at a slow speed barely more than a shuffle.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi there,
Thanks for your running training question about leg strength.

I would have liked to learn a little bit more about what you consider your stagnation to be. Is it that you don't see yourself getting faster, or do you feel you are getting slower?

Another question would be what your typical running week looks like currently, is it 20km most of the time, do you do some shorter runs as well, what is your total mileage in a week, etc.

I would not despair just yet. It is quite normal that you find yourself going in leaps and bounds. For many people it takes quite a bit out of them to build up their mileage. They find that as they are building their mileage they are actually not really improving their speed that much. All the energy goes towards increasing the distance, not to increasing the speed so to say.

They find that when they lower their overall mileage and start focusing more on so-called quality workouts, i.e. tempo runs and interval runs, that they start improving their speed.

It is also these types of workouts that I would encourage you to do to make your upper legs stronger. Other worthwhile exercises to consider are plyometric exercises (just google "plyometric exercises" and you should be able to find something) and intervals on the exercise bike.

I have been having a little bit of trouble with my medial ligament recently due to a crazy move when playing squash and have spent quite some time on the bike due to this. Especially when you push up the resistance and then do slow rotations while you are up from the saddle you really start feeling those upper legs after a few minutes.

A typical interval session I do on the bike that I recently stole from a men's magazine is the following:
* first 2 minutes of easy riding
* then 4 x 20 seconds all-out, w 40 sec recovery
* then 1 min all-out w 2 min recovery
* then 2 x 4 min high resistance, out-of-the-saddle w 2 min recovery.
It's thirty minutes but leaves you bathing in sweat and with burning legs.

So, in summary, I hope you will find that you will get stronger and faster when you start doing some faster workouts and reduce your overall mileage a bit. If you find that does not work sufficiently I would encourage the cross-training activities described above for extra stimulation of your legs.

Hope this helps.
Kind regards,

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Running Training Helpline.

Like this page:

Share this page:

Like this site:

[?] Subscribe To This Site

follow us in feedly
Add to My Yahoo!


  • Beginner Running Tips

    Are you a beginning runner? Then this is your best starting point. Many tips and running programs on offer, dedicated to you.

  • Running for Weight Loss

    Aiming to lose a few pounds? Get into the Running for Weight Loss section for tips and advice.

  • Running Training

    The Running Training section of the site has got the most articles. It is constantly getting updated with new tips and information. A must-visit if you are serious about improving your running performance.

  • 5k Running Tips

    The 5k is a great distance to run and train for. The great thing is that you can do it quite often and see big improvements.

  • 10k Running Tips

    The 10k is a real challenge. You need to run fast for an uncomfortably long time! Check out this section if you are strong of mind and legs!

  • Marathon Running Tips

    The marathon is a massive challenge. Proper training is so important! Make sure to check out this section if you have got your mind set on the marathon!

What's New?

  1. Half Marathon - Need 11 Minutes Improvement

    I ran my first half marathon yesterday. I'm a 48 y/o female and my time was 2:11 (gun time). I trained with one long run a week and two short runs -

    Read more

  2. 5 Minute Mile at 45 Years Old

    Mid-life crisis question. I'm 45 years old and haven't run seriously since college. In high school, I ran 4:40 for a mile; 10:20 for two miles. I could

    Read more

  3. Sneezing after Running

    Every time I finish a run, I start sneezing (like a minute straight). For the rest of the day, I will have a runny and stuffy nose and will continue

    Read more

  4. Special Running Workouts :: Billat's Four by Five and the Thirty-Thirty

    Veronique Billat trains elite runners. She has found a few great workouts to improve your running and increase your running speed. Learn all about them on this page.

    Read more

  5. Want to Run a Half Marathon in Less Than Two Hours

    Love your website! Today I ran 5 km in my local race. My time was 25 minutes, 38 seconds. I am a 44 year old woman, average height and build (5'5 and

    Read more