Leg work for endurance athletes
By Philip Ndugga
Photography by Jay Russell
Building muscular endurance, the ability to contract a muscle for a prolonged period of time before it fatigues, is an integral aspect of fitness allowing you to perform repeated movements before tiring. Muscular endurance also provides energy, power, improves cardiovascular efficiency for workouts and activities such as running, cycling and hiking.
Using compound exercises that improve muscular endurance while strengthening connective tissues and increasing bone density, particularly for the legs, is my chosen route to muscular endurance. Using compound exercises, multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at the same time, is key. These exercises let you use heavier loads and build strength while keeping your heart rate up, thus providing additional cardiovascular benefits to this workout.
Find detailed descriptions and photographs below of each exercise. Or watch our exclusive video with Philip Ndugga himself explaining and showing each step for you!
• 7 to 15 minutes of jogging, jumping, or biking easy to elevate your heart rate.
• Do 3 sets each of the following supersets;
Set 1 – 15 reps rest 60 seconds,
Set 2 - 12 reps rest 30 seconds,
Set 3 - 10 reps move to next superset.
A) Back lunge with bicep curls and press:
• Holding dumbbells, step the right leg back while bending the left knee to 90 degrees, left thigh parallel to the floor. As you lunge, flow from a bicep curl to an overhead press.
• Lower weights while standing up and raising your right knee up while standing on left leg.
• Repeat stepping back with your left leg.
B) Deadlifts and upright row
• Holding dumbbells, bend slowly at the waist while lowering weights to the floor. Keep back straight and legs slightly bent at the knees.
• Stand and raise dumbbells towards chin into upright rows.
A) Sumo squats with calf raises
• Stand with feet slightly shoulder-width apart, toes pointing outwards about 45 degrees.
• Hold dumbbells as shown; slowly squat until thighs are parallel to the floor.
• Immediately push to standing high on toes.
A) Squats with diagonal lateral raise
• Hold dumbbell in right hand; squat while lowering dumbbell towards left foot.
• Stand diagonally, raising weight to right side. At the same time, lift left leg off the floor and extend backwards.
• Repeat with dumbbell in left hand, lifting right leg.
B) Single leg reverse bridge
• On your back, put your right leg on to platform and lift your glutes.
• Repeat with left leg.
Trainer’s note: It’s important you train each leg separately to correct any muscular imbalances, a common issue with endurance athletes. Even runners with strong legs tend to slightly favour one leg, and this can lead to a disparity that can weaken performance and lead to injury.
Philip Ndugga is multi-certified and highly recognized personal trainer, martial arts consultant and former member of the Ugandan National Kickboxing/Tae Kwon Do team. He trains out of Heavens Fitness and The Glencoe Club in Calgary, Alta.