Coach and ultrarunner David Rock is well-known for his three-minute mountain leg workout, a routine that is suitable for a wide variety of runners, from ultra-endurance athletes to those training for a 5K. While the mountain-leg routine helps runners get strong, Roche shared in Trailrunner Mag that there was a need for a speed-focused routine for runners looking for help nailing down faster paces.
Before doing this routine, note that if you aren’t struggling with speed, the mountain leg workout should be a sufficient boost for you, and you can safely increase reps as you gain strength. Roche recommends speed legs only for athletes “who have evidence they need it, whether from health issues or imbalances or weakness at higher outputs.”
Make sure you aren’t adding any new exercises to your routine if you’re recovering from an injury, and ease into the routine, starting without weights of any kind. Roche suggests not rushing between exercises and says: “Do not go to failure. We’re looking to do some work, not get worked.”
Eight-minute speed leg routine
Warm up with a brisk walk or slow run, or do this routine following your workout (add these exercises to a hard workout day, so that your easy days stay easy).
10 x alternating rear lunges on each leg
Since rear lunges are easier than the rest of the exercises they’ll help you warm up, and Roche says to avoid going anywhere near failure. Focus on using controlled motion up and down, with your back knee getting close to the ground. Quads, glutes and hamstrings will all be engaged in these lunges, with both eccentric and concentric movements–great for descending and climbing. Alternate legs to avoid getting too tired.
10 x Bulgarian split squats on each leg
With your trailing leg on a bench or platform a few feet high, go up and down, staying in control. Roche says you’ll feel this in the butt and high hamstrings—make sure you start with no weight. Avoid this one if you have any pre-existing injuries or concerns.
10 x single-leg Romanian deadlift on each leg
Roche is firm on this one–start without weights. Firmly plant your foot and bend your knee slightly, raising the other leg parallel to the ground. Push down and pull back with the engaged leg to raise up to center, with controlled up and down motion.
10–20 x goblet squats
With legs shoulder width or a bit wider apart and feet slightly out, do a typical squat. Some people like to go to 90 degrees or beyond, but Roche says he prefers staying a bit higher. After you adapt to these exercises, it’s OK to use slightly heavier weights.
20-50x single-leg step-ups
Runners familiar with the three-minute mountain legs will recognize the burn of the step-up portion to wrap up the speed leg routine.”Go up and down a bit more rapidly now, with the burn concentrated in your quadriceps,” says Roche. “It should feel almost exactly like climbing up a steep grade.”
Roche suggests going for a walk after the speed leg routine and making sure you have an easy running or recovery day planned to follow.