Lower-Body Strengthening


with Dr. Leif Sigurdson, BSc, DC

A recent study in the journal Sports Medicine confirmed what we already know: running is good for your health. It demonstrated that running improves body fat, resting heart rate, cardiovascular efficiency and cholesterol levels. In short, the time spent on running (and the activities that support it) is worth it. I have witnessed these benefits as a former Running Room employee and group leader, and now as a sports injury chiropractor and presenter to in-store training programs.

Running challenges our musculoskeletal systems because of the forces and loads it places on our bodies. If these loads exceed tissue capacity and tolerance, a runner can end up injured. The good news is that strength training can help improve our tolerance to load and enhance our biomechanics.

The power of strengthening exercises is that they challenge your body with a new stimulus. Your body responds with positive adaptations in your bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This leads to greater endurance and resilience of your musculoskeletal system. It also improves your physical capacities, allowing you to perform physical tasks with ease and control.

Strengthening exercises do have a risk of being too challenging and need to be approached with common sense. The exercises I have outlined below are intended for someone who is new to lower-body strengthening. If you have any pain beyond mild discomfort when you do the exercises, and the discomfort does not improve in subsequent workouts, stop the program and see a qualified health professional for specific advice.

The moves shown here should be performed on both sides. Begin by doing a set of 8 to 10 repetitions per leg, completing two full sets per workout. Add repetitions as your strength increases. Try adding this workout to your routine twice a week.

Before you begin:

  • Position yourself with your back flat against the wall throughout.
    Bottom knee should be bent.
  • Movements should be controlled and returned to the start position.
  • These 4 exercises can be done with or without the use of ankle weights weighing 2 to 5 pounds

Side-Lying Exercises

Side Leg Raise 1
Starting with your top leg straight, slowly raise it 18 to 24 inches. Hold for 2 seconds. Lower and return the leg to the start position.

Side Leg Raise 2
Starting with your top leg straight, rotate it so your kneecap turns upwards. Slowly raise your top leg 18 to 24 inches. Hold for 2 seconds. Lower and return the leg to the start position.

Starting with your top leg bent, move your knee towards your chest. Now straighten your knee then return your straight leg to the start. This will mimic a cycling motion.

With knees bent and feet on the wall, open and close the legs by rotating at the hip. Use a resistance band around your knees if this exercise is too easy.

Standing Exercises:

Lunge Pump
Start with feet in tandem 24 to 36 inches apart. Slowly drop your pelvis, pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Keep your front knee behind your toes. Pump your body up and down 8 inches. Reverse foot position and repeat. This can be done with or without the use of free weights weighing 5 to 20 pounds.

Start with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart. Lower your body so your thighs are parallel to the floor by pushing your hips backward, bending your knees and keeping your back straight. This can be done with or without the use of free weights weighing 5 to 20 pounds.


Twist Squat
Repeat the same movement as the squat except as you go down, rotate your upper body to one side while keeping your hips and pelvis facing forward. This can be done with or without the use of a free weight weighing 5 to 20 pounds.


Heel Raise
Face the wall and place your hands on it. Your knees and feet should be 10 inches from the wall. Now raise your left leg off the ground slightly so you are standing on your right leg. Keeping your toes down, raise your right heel and push yourknee up and towards the wall.

Dr. Leif Sigurdson is a sports injury chiropractor in Langley, B.C. specializing in runners and their injuries. For more information on his practice, visit www.proactive-chiro.com.

This article is for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice from your health professional. Always consult your health professional if you are concerned about your health in any way.

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