Ultra Legs, A Strength Routine For Ultrarunners
This 10-minute strength routine combines elements of lifting and mobility to make the hamstrings, glutes, and quads ready for the hardest runs.
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Welcome to Ultra Legs! This strength routine has been developed over a few years for athletes we coach ranging from pros to beginners, combining elements of other programs into a quick set of exercises that can help the body excel at any distance, including ultramarathons. The main focus is on hamstring/glute strength and resilience! Your butt is going to be so ready for adventures.
Here’s our Favorite Strength Routine for Ultrarunners
A few disclaimers:
- Always work with a professional strength coach if possible. I am a running coach who tries to support athletes with strength work. Before you make comments, remember: I AM BUT A SIMPLE COUNTRY RUNNING COACH!
- The form is not the best at times, especially on the single-leg deadlifts!
- When you start the routine, expect to get sore for a week or two. Dial back your running training intensity in that time, since your blood may be a toxic waste dump of creatine kinase.
- Always listen to your body, your doctor, your pastor, your shaman, the voices inside your head, etc.
How to use Ultra Legs:
- Do this routine 2-3 x per week, making sure you have an easy day of training afterward.
- You can add the Mountain Legs routine on 2 other days.
- This routine differs from Speed Legs in that it has a heavier emphasis on hamstring and glute strength.
- As you get stronger, you can increase the weight using a heavy kettlebell or add another set of exercises. But remember, the goal is to be good at running, not to get better and better at strength work until you’re split squatting a Honda Civic.
- The goal is a routine that is as short as possible while being as effective as possible. If you’re going to add other exercises, consider squats and deadlifts, which may be especially beneficial for aging athletes and those with low bone density. Lift that Honda Civic to the moon!
- After you complete the routine, ideally finish it off with a scoop of protein and some foam rolling, particularly on your hamstrings and glutes.
RELATED: Simple Upper Body Strength For Runners That Don’t Lift
Here’s how we suggest athletes we coach use the routine:
- Monday: rest or easy cross train
- Tuesday: easy run and hill strides
- Wednesday: running workout plus ULTRA LEGS
- Thursday: easy run plus MOUNTAIN LEGS
- Friday: very easy run and strides
- Saturday: long run plus MOUNTAIN LEGS
- Sunday: easy run and hill strides plus ULTRA LEGS
Here are some notes on each exercise:
20 x forward, 20 x side-to-side
- Use bands daily to strengthen hips through the range of motion. Here is a more focused tutorial.
- Start with a low-resistance band and increase over time, but not so much that you can’t fully open your hips through the range of motion.
- You can do the band work daily, even if you don’t do this strength routine.
Single-Leg Step-Ups (optional weight)
- These are the ultimate quad-strengthening exercise, and you should notice improved climbing quickly after starting them.
- Try to avoid bouncing on these.
- You can add weight over time.
RELATED: Runner’s Knee? Tight Hip Flexors? Learn how to prevent common upper leg injuries.
Split Squats (optional weight)
- Split squats target your glutes, with rapid strength gains, but also a substantial amount of soreness the next day as you get started.
- Replace split squats with weighted rear lunges if they are too difficult on your knees.
- Doing these with a heavy kettlebell is one of the hardest exercises a human can do, just behind opening a really tricky pickle jar (upper body is impossible).
Nordic Hamstring Curls
10 repetitions supporting bodyweight
- These are wonderful for hamstring strength, building an often-neglected muscle group.
- Be extra careful to avoid ripping that hamstring clean in half.
- Here is a link to purchase the device I use in the video.
Glute Bridges (optional weight)
10 x both legs, 10 x single leg
- We’re back to the glutes, a simple and repeatable exercise you can do daily.
10 x both legs
- Improve your hip rotator strength with another daily exercise.
Single-Leg Deadlifts (optional weight)
10 repetitions with wall for balance
- Lengthen and strengthen those hamstrings, which is especially key in ultras.
- I like athletes to have a wall for support on these to make the exercise safer and more repeatable.
- Use a very light weight at first, going down with a slightly bent knee, and lifting up through your glutes rather than your back.
- The form in this video is quite weak, like my hamstrings (and my ego after watching it played back). But I’m trying to be real with you about how I have gotten stronger using these exercises! I am SO REAL that it’s SO PAINFUL to watch!
RELATED: 5 Strength Training Myths for Trail Runners (and the Truth Behind Them)
Single-Leg Calf Raises
- I like athletes to do these rapidly, like jumping rope without leaving the ground, but many others suggest doing them more slowly or not at all.
- This exercise is purely optional. Find what works for you!
We love you all! HUZZAH!
David Roche partners with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. With Megan Roche, M.D., he hosts the Some Work, All Play podcast on running (and other things), and they answer training questions in a bonus podcast and newsletter on their Patreon page starting at $5 a month.