No traveling runner’s packing list is complete without a resistance band. Not only is it one of the most affordable and accessible pieces of exercise equipment, but it’s also versatile and barely takes up any space in your carry-on or hotel room. You can easily whip it out for a quick stretch, mobility session, or resistance band leg workout like the one below.
Designed by Samantha Rothberg, C.S.C.S., certified strength coach and triathlete,
this circuit mobilizes the hips, knees, and ankles while strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, and calves.
Benefits of This Resistance Band Leg Workout for Runners
In addition to strengthening all the major muscles of the lower body, moves like the clamshell and lateral walk also switch up the planes of motion, which is important for runners who spend most of their time in the sagittal (forward and backward) plane.
“We tend to be weak in the frontal (side to side) plane, 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 in line, and to mitigate the potential for injury,” Rothberg says. “One of those muscles is the gluteus medius, an external rotator. It’s a small set of muscles, so you’ll definitely feel challenged by using bands to strengthen them.”
For this circuit, you’ll need a small resistance band or loop that can be slipped over both legs. Choose your resistance based on your current strength levels, and consider switching up your resistance based on the exercise. For example, a lightweight band may offer adequate resistance for the clamshell, but you may want to level up to a medium-weight band for the tempo squat.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise for the number of reps listed below. Complete the full circuit 3 times, 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: Clamshells isolate the gluteus medius, an important but tough-to-target muscle for runners. “Make sure that your hips stay stacked and that you’re not rolled too far forward or backward,” Rothberg says.
How to do it: Loop resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Lie on right side, resting on right forearm. Bend knees 90 degrees, with thighs at a 45-degree angle from body. Keeping pelvis still and feet together, slowly raise left knee to open legs as far as possible. Hold, then slowly lower knee to starting position. Repeat for 15 reps, then switch sides.
2. Lateral Walk
Why it works: In a lateral walk, “we demand more of the gluteus medius because we add locomotion,” Rothberg says. Just be sure to move slowly and deliberately. “The brain will tell the body to take the path of least resistance, especially if you’re rushing. By going at a slow tempo, you give yourself the chance to develop the neuromuscular patterning to strengthen the legs in this plane of motion,” Rothberg says.
How to do it: Loop resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, core engaged. Take a small step to the left with left foot, immediately followed by the right foot. Maintain resistance on the band. Continue to side-step to the left for a total of 10 steps, then switch directions and take 10 steps to the right.
3. Bird Dog
Why it works: “This exercise targets the glutes, as well as the core. Though you’re in a quadruped position, the movement pattern mimics that of running in that you are moving your opposite arm and leg,” Rothberg says. “A key here is to focus on extending your leg back, not kicking up, and keeping your back flat. You’ll likely find that one side is more challenging than the other. This is an excellent opportunity to work on hammering out asymmetries.” Also, to get some tactical feedback, you can place a yoga block or pillow on the low back with the goal to keep it steady through the entire move, Rothberg adds.
How to do it: Start on hands and knees with a small resistance band looped around arches of both feet. Engage core and make sure wrists are directly under shoulders and knees are directly under hips. Maintaining a flat back and neutral neck, simultaneously extend right leg behind you and lift left arm in front of you. Hold, then lower arm and leg to all-fours position. Repeat with left leg and right arm. Continue alternating and do 10 reps on each side.
4. Glute Bridge
Why it works: “This exercise is one of my favorite ways to strengthen the glutes, and it also drives your hips into extension,” Rothberg says. “Keep pushing into the resistance band so that the knees stay tracking over the middle of the toes.”
How to do it: Loop resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Lie face up, knees bent, and feet planted on the floor. Drive through heels, contracting the glutes to lift hips up toward the ceiling. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Lower hips back down slowly, then repeat. Do 12 reps.
5. Tempo Squat
Why it works: “Squats are one of the best exercises that you can do because they target numerous muscles and stack multiple joints so they are incredibly effective and efficient,” Rothberg says. You’ll add a two-second pause at the bottom of this one to help you control the movement, she adds, rather than allowing gravity to pull you down and to create stability at the bottom of the move.
How to do it: Loop resistance band around both legs just above the knees. Stand with feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Send hips down and back, bend knees, and lower into a squat. Push legs against band to maintain tension. Pause for two seconds at bottom of squat, then drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat for 10 reps.
6. Knee Drive
Why it works: “This exercise will strengthen the hip flexors, improve coordination, and even give you the added benefit of working on your arm drive,” Rothberg. There’s also a balance challenge at play. Rothberg recommends picking a focal point about six feet in front of you to keep you from swaying or wobbling.
How to do it: Loop resistance band around arches of both feet and stand with feet hip-width apart and arms at sides. Without leaning to the side or bending at waist, simultaneously drive left knee up to hip level and swing right elbow forward. Lower arm and leg, then immediately repeat. Do 6 reps. Then switch sides and complete 6 reps.