7 Best Quadriceps Exercises For Runners

Do runners need to work out their quadriceps? Absolutely! 

It might seem counterintuitive, but the aim here isn’t to build big quadriceps. 

7 Best Quadriceps Exercises for Runners

Working out with weights and resistance can also be done to build power and endurance, which can benefit running pace, sprint starts, and running uphill (incline).

There are a ton of quadriceps exercises out there, but this guide lists the seven best quadriceps exercises for runners – exercises that are going to help you become faster and more powerful!


Need we say it? The squat is the king of all leg exercises. This compound movement works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and core, and can be performed without any equipment at all.

Dropping into a squat is easy enough, but you need to perform the movement with good form to reap the benefits.

This includes bending your knees, aligning your feet, knees, and shoulders, and making sure to arch your back.

Squats can be performed with or without weights (dumbbells and barbells), making them super versatile. There are even several variations that you can do to target different areas of your quadriceps by changing the position of your feet!

Jump Squats

When it comes to explosive lower-body power, nothing beats the jump squat.

Jump squats involve the same movement as regular squats, except that when you return back up (the concentric phase of the exercise) you jump as high as you can.

Doing jump squats is not only going to build stamina, but increase the explosive power in your legs. This is beneficial for improving running pace, running uphill, and sprint starts (or sprinting to the finish line)!

Jump squats are generally performed without weights, meaning you can do these anywhere, anytime.

Sissy Squats

Sissy squats are no easy feat – despite the name of the exercise. This bodyweight leg exercise involves bending the knees while leaning backwards, offering benefits that include increased strength, mobility, and balance.

Much of the movement for sissy squats is performed on tiptoes, so you’ll definitely find these to be a challenge if you have never done them before. You’ll need relatively strong legs and good core engagement to maintain your balance.

Despite that, it’s possible to perform them with assistance, such as holding on to a chair or handrail, if you’re a beginner. 


Following squats, lunges are the next best exercise for working your quadriceps. There are many variations of the lunge, which, like squats, can be done with or without additional weight.

The two main lunge exercises are the regular lunge (forward lunge) and backward lunge.

Both of these activate the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and glutes, the main difference between the two variations being a matter of preference and knee strength.

To perform a lunge with perfect form, make sure to bend your frontmost knee to a ninety-degree angle and keep your back straight. Engage your core for balance!

7 Best Quadriceps Exercises for Runners (1)

Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squats are similar to lunges, but involve elevating your rearmost leg. This can be done with a chair, stool , or bench.

Bulgarian split squats are harder than they look and require more balance and control than regular lunges.

You’ll find these difficult at first if you’re a beginner, but rest assured they’ll provide massive benefits to your quad and hamstring strength, as well as your balance and hip mobility!

Wall Sits

Wall sits are another quadricep exercise that is harder than it looks! Doing them is simple, however, only requiring a wall to perform.

To do a wall sit, position your back on a wall with your feet in front of you. Bend your knees to ninety degrees while keeping your back to the wall, then hold the squatting position for as long as possible.

Wall squats are far from easy, but will build serious stamina in your quads!

Pistol Squats

Last but not least, the pistol squat. Pistol squats make the list for their high difficulty, as well as the fact they can be performed anywhere.

The pistol squat is essentially a one-leg squat, so you’re loading all your bodyweight onto one leg while maintaining balance. 

Like the sissy squat, these are super hard at first, but can be performed with assistance. Hold on to a rail or chair before progressing to the very impressive unassisted pistol squat!

Final Word

If you run long distances (such as marathons), performing the above quad exercises for time and high reps/sets, rather than low reps, is going to benefit your stamina and endurance. 

If you run short distances (such as sprints), however, performing the above exercises explosively (plyometrics) is going to be more beneficial for increasing power and stamina.

Either way, your quadriceps are one of the primary muscles used when running, so make sure not to neglect them. And before and after any exercise, including running, don’t forget to stretch!

Richard Harris