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Squats are the best friend for runners. This is probably one strength move that every runner should do irrespective of their level.

This is a foundational form, that will help any beginner runner to improve quickly and will make you run faster and longer.

Also, if you regularly perform this exercise, you will be able to improve in other aspects of running, like improving the strength of your legs, improve your knee stability, improve your body awareness, avoid injuries and also fix muscle imbalances if any…

Benefits Of Squats For Runners

If you are still not convinced that you should perform squats, here are some benefits that will change your mind.

Increased Strength

Strength training and running go hand in hand. If you are a runner and want to avoid injury, you should include strength training in your routine.

Being a complex form of exercise, the squat is one of the best ways to strengthen a lot of muscles together.

Together, squat works on your Achilles, Calves, Quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, glutes, and core. Not only the strength of muscles, but squats also increases your endurance.

Strong Core

A squat is a form of exercise, that targets your lower body. However, to hold the form correctly and avoid injuries, you will have to engage your core.

So, along with the muscles of your lower body, squat also gives you a stronger core.

Although the basic squat is a very good form of exercise, if you include other variations of the squat into your routine, you will have an even stronger and more activated core.

Improved Knee Stability

The stability of your knees is dependent on 4 major ligaments.

  • An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • A posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

However, the stability of your knees is also dependent on the muscles around your knees. So, if you improve the strength of these muscles, they will directly stabilize your knees. This is exactly what squats do. They strengthen the muscles around your knees and directly stabilizes your knees.

Prevents Injury

Many runners have to deal with IT band syndrome. However, if you can improve the strength of your hip abductors and your quads, this can be reduced significantly.

Also, doing regular squats may also help you to prevent osteoarthritis during your prolonged running career.

Improved Co-ordination

When you are doing squats, many parts of your body are essentially moving together. You cannot achieve a good form if all the parts are not working together.

This essentially improves your coordination and body awareness.

Improved Mobility

When you perform squats you are making your body go through a whole range of motions. The more you perform squats, the better your range of motion becomes.

In this way, squats improve your mobility a lot.

Strengthens legs

Squats focus on the lower part of your body and make the muscles like calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes to work support the form.

This effectively improves the strength of your legs and makes you a better runner.

What is the correct form of a Squat?

When you sink into a squat, this is essentially how you will look:

  • Arms should be straight in front. You can raise them above your head also.
  • Thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Knees behind the toes.
  • Straight back.
  • Neutral head position.

 

Squat exercises for runners

1. Basic Squat

This is the primary form of squat that you should master before you move onto any other form of squat.

Here is how you should perform it:

Steps

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart, toes facing front, hand by your side.
  • Raise your arms to your shoulder height with fingers pointing at the front.
  • Now start bending your knees as you go down gradually. Imagine you are trying to sit on a chair.
  • Keep your back completely straight.
  • Stop once your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Pause for a couple of breaths.
  • Press on your feet and engaging your core gradually come back to your starting position.
  • Repeat this 5-10 times and for 3 sets.

 

2. Weighted Squats

Once you have mastered the basic squat technique start adding some weights to your squats.

The essential movement of this type of squat is the same as a basic squat, however, here you will be holding a barbell, dumbells, or a resistance band at your shoulder height.

If you are working out at home, probably dumbells or resistance bands will be a better choice due to their portability.

If you don’t want to spend again and again on dumbells as you keep getting used to the weight, you can purchase adjustable dumbells that are on sale. Otherwise, sending one time on a set of quality resistance bands can also be very budget-friendly.

Here is how you should do weighted squats…

Steps

  • Stand with legs hip-width apart and back straight with the hand holding the dumbells hanging comfortably on the side.
  • Fold your elbows so that the dumbells are at your shoulder height.
  • Now start bending your knees and begin to sit down. Keep your back straight.
  • Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for a couple of breaths.
  • Now gradually come up by pressing on your heels and engaging your core.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and 3 sets.

3. Mini band squat

This is another form of squat that you can do with a mini band or a mini resistance band.

It is similar to the previous form of the squat but, here rather than raising the resistance band till your shoulder, you will be wearing it above your knees. This way, as you will have to hold the resistance band in place, you will have to engage your core more.

Also, for this one, you will have to use mini bands. However, this piece of equipment is probably one of the most inexpensive workout equipment and a set of 4 is available for less than $10 bucks.

Steps

  • Stand with legs hip-width apart and back straight with the hand hanging comfortably on the side.
  • Wear the mini bands above your knees such that, the bands don’t fall off.
  • Now start bending your knees and begin to sit down. Keep your back straight.
  • Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for a couple of breaths.
  • Now gradually come up by pressing on your heels and engaging your core.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and 3 sets.

4. Wall Squats

This one of the most challenging forms of squats that you will come across. Here, your core will be engaged more.

If you perform this exercise after a set of conditioning workouts, it will be more effective as the rest of your body will be tired and will have to engage the required muscles for a perfect form. Also, in the conditioning classes for kickboxing, this is what our instructors used to do.

Steps

  • Stand with your back against the wall and your legs hip-width apart.
  • Now straighten your arms in front of you with your palm facing the floor.
  • Gradually slide down, till your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for a couple of breaths.
  • Now gradually slide up by pressing on your heels and engaging your core.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and 3 sets.

5. Sumo Squats

This will build flexibility and strength in your inner thighs and also works on your gluteal adductor muscles.

The upper body stance is very similar to that of normal squats. However, for the lower body, the stance is much wider and the toes point outwards.

The result is a much intense squat and you will develop immense strength in your inner thigh muscles.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs much wider than your hips with toes pointing to the sides if possible. If not make this angle as much bigger as possible.
  • Now lean a bit forward, maybe around 30 degrees, and start going down.
  • Keep your back straight and go down as much as possible.
  • Once you have reached your limit, hold the pose for a couple of breaths and come up to the starting position.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and 3 sets.
  • You can make it more challenging by not leaving forward.

6. Tempo Sumo Squats

This is a bit more advanced than the sumo squat and involves using some form of weight. The weight can be a dumbbell or a resistance band.

Also, in this type of squat, there is are some counting involved and the movement should happen using counting.

For example, when you are going down, you can count till three or four, then hold the pose for 1 count and come back up using 1 count. In other words, you are using a tempo of 4-1-1.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs much wider than your hips with toes pointing to the sides if possible. If not make this angle as much bigger as possible.
  • Your hands should be dangling at the front holding the dumbbell or the resistance band.
  • Now lean a bit forward, maybe around 30 degrees, and start going down for a count of 4.
  • Keep your back straight and go down as much as possible.
  • Once you have reached your limit, hold the pose for 3 counts.
  • Come back with one count.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

7. Pulse Squats

This type of squat is a bit different than the other squats. However, the benefits are stronger core, stronger glutes, and improved coordination.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip width apart.
  • Start bending your knees and lowering your upper body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Now pulse 2 times means, very short up and down movement, just raising a bit and then again sitting down.
  • Keep your back straight and don’t lean forward or your knees shouldn’t roll towards each outher.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

8. Squat Jumps

This type of squat is a bit different than the other squats. However, the benefits are stronger core, stronger glutes, and improved coordination.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Start bending your knees and lowering your upper body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Now jump upwards and land straight on the feet. This is one rep. Make sure to land with your whole feet.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

9. Side-kick Squats

If you perform lateral kick with squats, your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings will get stronger. Also, it can work as an effective cardio warm-up. Here is how you should do it.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Start bending your knees and lowering your upper body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Now come back up and as you stand straight, lift your right leg to the side while keeping it straight.
  • Put your leg down and go down in a squat again and come back up and lift your left leg.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

10. Curtsy Squats

This variation of squats is great for strengthening your entire set of glute muscles. Also, it strengthens your calves, quadriceps and improves your coordination, balance, and body awareness.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Start by having your left foot in front and place your right foot diagonally back of your left foot.
  • The right knees will be almost at the back of your left knee.
  • Now start bending your knees until your left thigh is parallel to the floor.
  • Stand back up and repeat with your right leg in front of you.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

10. Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian Split Squats are more focused on your glutes and hamstrings. Also, since you have to balance yourself on one leg, your obliques are also activated.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart with a bench behind you.
  • Place the top of your foot on the bench in such a way that your ankle rests on it.
  • Your back should be straight.
  • Now start bending your knees until your left thigh is parallel to the floor.
  • Stand back up and repeat with your right leg in front of you.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

Once you are accustomed to the basic movement, consider adding some weights using a dumbbell.

11. Squat Box Jumps

The squat box jump is similar to the squat jump but your landing will be on a box, bench, a stepper. After a couple of these moves, your whole glute and core will feel it.

Prerequisite

You should be able to do squat jumps before you try this as this is a more advanced type of squat.

Precautions

  • Make sure your entire foot lands on the box and your heels or your toes are not dangling outside the box edge.
  • Start with a lower height like 6 inches and gradually progress to a higher height as you get comfortable.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width with your back straight.
  • Lower yourself into a squat.
  • Now do a controlled jump and lamp onto the box in front of you.
  • You can either jump back down or step back down.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

12. Frog Jumps

Frog jumps are a good way to take your squatting exercise to the next level as a runner. It not only works on similar groups of muscles as squats, but it also works on the entire calf, ankle joints, and every part of your feet.

Also, it develops a great amount of strength to your core and is great from cardio. Plus, it gets your body used to the high-impact movement that is regular to your running.

Prerequisite

You should be able to do sumo squats as the standing posture and the movement are more like a sumo squat rather than a basic squat.

Precautions

  • Make sure your entire foot lands on the floor and not your toes or heels. This will ensure that you can perform this exercise without getting injured.
  • You don’t have any injury in your knees.

Steps

  • Stand as you would for a sumo squat.
  • Lean a bit forward and go down until your fingers touch the floor.
  • Jump straight up as high as you can.
  • Land on the floor with your entire feet and go down in a squat. This is 1 rep.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

13. Figure Four Squats

Ah! another challenging form of squat. Do it right and you will have all the benefits of squats plus improved balance.

Precautions

  • Do it near a wall initially so that you can support yourself if you lose balance.
  • Also, placing a hand on the wall will help you to support yourself.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Place your left leg on your right leg in such a way that your left ankle should be on your right knee.
  • Now go down in a squat and pause when your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Pause for a couple of breaths and stand up.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

14. Pistol Squats

Pistol squats or the single-legged squat as they call it not only works on your lower body but also improves your stability, ankle mobility, and more.

However, this is a very challenging squat and you can start with a single-legged chair squat.

Steps

  • Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
  • Raise your left leg off the ground to about 30 degrees.
  • Keep the leg straight and keep it locked.
  • Now with the help of the right leg, gradually sit down in a squat.
  • Keep the left leg straight and in the air throughout the duration of the movement.
  • Now engage your core and press on the right feet and stand back up.
  • Do this for 5-10 rounds and for 3 sets.

References

Gains, Brains To, and Training Plans. “Are Squats Bad For Your Knees?.”

Nakagawa, Theresa H., et al. “Trunk, pelvis, hip, and knee kinematics, hip strength, and gluteal muscle activation during a single-leg squat in males and females with and without patellofemoral pain syndrome.” Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy 42.6 (2012): 491-501.

Caterisano, A., et. al. (2002). The effect of back squat depth on the EMG activity of 4 superficial hip and thigh muscles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(3), 428-432.

Escamilla, R.F. (2001). Knee biomechanics of the dynamic squat exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 33, 127–141.

McBride, J.M., Blow, D., Kirby, T.J., Haines, T.L., Dayne, A.M., & Triplett, N.T. (2009). Relationship between maximal squat strength and five, ten, and forty yard sprint times. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(6), 1633-1636.

Molano, A. C. P., Jaramillo-Isaza, S., & Orjuela-Cañon, Á. D. (2019, October). Self-Organized Maps for the Analysis of the Biomechanical Response of the Knee Joint During Squat-Like Movements in Subjects Without Physical Conditioning. In Workshop on Engineering Applications (pp. 335-344). Springer, Cham.

Better Squatting for Better Running, by Nate Helming, Jan 22nd 2013. Competitor.

Squat Workout Challenges For Runners-min
Madhusree Basu

Madhusree Basu

Author, Admin

Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.

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