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Strength Training for Legs

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  • Strength Training for Legs

    For the longest time I only did cardio training, mostly running with some uphill treadmill and biking mixed in.

    In the last few years I've added some weight training, with a focus on legs. I usually do back or front squats (mostly light weights but making sure to squat to or below parallel with good form), lunges (sometimes with weights), step ups, and hamstring curls.

    I feel like my endurance has increased greatly as a result of having stronger legs.

    I'm just wondering what type of leg workouts people do in order to expand mine.
    Love all wilderness!
    Trying to hike and XC ski as much as possible.

    ADK 46/46 still not official.
    W 27/46

  • #2
    Strength training can really help you out and it will also if done correctly help prevent injuries in the mountains. I do quite a bit of it and my workouts include:
    Squats (Front, Back and Overhead), Deadlifts, Snatches, Cleans, Thrusters, Lunges, Box Jumps or Step Ups. Since I started this several years ago I've been stronger, faster and have much more endurance and have been relatively injury free.

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    • #3
      Not a lot of action on this thread!
      I began doing strength training about a year ago. Before hitting the gym I did some thinking and some research and wrote myself out a little program. My goal for the first 6 weeks was simply not to get hurt while exploring what was a brand new activity for me.

      Here's what I would recommend:
      • Steer clear of the various machines most gyms have and stick with free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls.
      • Focus on legs but don't ignore the shoulder girdle or the trunk muscles completely.
      • Get in, do your business and get out of the gym in 60-75 minutes.
      • Do single leg exercises wherever possible.
      • Don't work the muscles to failure or you will gain mass.
      • Less is more. 5 or 6 exercises tops is plenty, especially if you do 3 or 4 series of 8 reps with 30 secs. rest between exercises and 3-4 minutes of rest between each series.


      The following few exercises have excellent transference to hiking. Ie. they are functional, sport specific exercises.
      • Weighted step-ups. (I think this one is the king for hiking)
      • Single leg dead-lifts. There are many variants that will allow for greater or lessor loads applied onto to the single leg.
      • Single leg squats.
      • Sled push (one rep = 10 second push)
      • Combo squat-deadlift: pick up a weight off the floor and put it down using the butt and thigh muscles. Because this is a double leg exercise the loads will be a lot higher and you need perfect posture so as not to hurt the low back. Stick your butt out, proud chest, moderately braced abs)
      • For upper body I think standing and using a pulley machine, facing the stack and doing lat pull-downs (one arm at a time due to physical constraints) is quite good for poling. You can vary elbow flexion for different effects.


      The dead lift, btw, is excellent for activating and tuning the glute max. This in turn is a great way to prevent hamstring strains. According to Boyle, hamstring problems arise when the glutes are de-activated or weak.

      Of course, warming up and doing some trunk work is important too.
      Last edited by Neil; 12-11-2014, 09:33 AM.
      Project-100: 100 peaks, one winter. https://project100singlewinter.wordpress.com/

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      • #4
        I think much of why strength training improves endurance is that it addresses and prevents imbalances which often cause injuries and/or setbacks in training. By not getting hurt one can continue "training" and therefore improve endurance...


        Originally posted by Neil View Post
        [*]Don't work the muscles to failure or you will gain mass.
        I don't think this is necessarily true. Gaining mass is driven primarily by intake of too many calories. I'm not suggesting people work muscles to failure but that alone won't cause a gain in mass...
        This post is for entertainment purposes only.

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        • #5
          For those who do strength training and also a lot of cardio, how do you avoid having the strength training get in the way of cardio? I lifted a lot in high school/college, and I was always sore for days after leg day. That won't do given my current goals. I know I should try to gain some strength, but I can't bring myself to give up the next day's ride/run/whatever.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by mr33 View Post
            For those who do strength training and also a lot of cardio, how do you avoid having the strength training get in the way of cardio? I lifted a lot in high school/college, and I was always sore for days after leg day. That won't do given my current goals. I know I should try to gain some strength, but I can't bring myself to give up the next day's ride/run/whatever.
            It doesn't need to be "a lot". If it interferes with your cardio you are probably doing too much...
            This post is for entertainment purposes only.

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            • #7
              mr33, my legs have never been sore after the gym, although my (very) wimpy arms have been sometimes just from manipulating the weights for the legs.
              Project-100: 100 peaks, one winter. https://project100singlewinter.wordpress.com/

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              • #8
                Originally posted by mr33 View Post
                For those who do strength training and also a lot of cardio, how do you avoid having the strength training get in the way of cardio? I lifted a lot in high school/college, and I was always sore for days after leg day. That won't do given my current goals. I know I should try to gain some strength, but I can't bring myself to give up the next day's ride/run/whatever.
                I've been balancing both and if I'm sore from a leg workout I'll still run and it actually ends up feeling better after the run. I may modify my run a bit and do a longer slower run depending on how I'm feeling that day but I don't usually change that much. I typically do strength training 2-3x a week and run between 15-20 miles a week not counting hikes on the weekend.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by mr33 View Post
                  For those who do strength training and also a lot of cardio, how do you avoid having the strength training get in the way of cardio? I lifted a lot in high school/college, and I was always sore for days after leg day. That won't do given my current goals. I know I should try to gain some strength, but I can't bring myself to give up the next day's ride/run/whatever.
                  Unless I'm squatting twice a week I'm definitely sore after leg day. I just take the day after leg day off from intense running or biking. I'll usually just do upper body, flexibility, or core work the day after legs with some light cardio. Taking the day off from intense cardio did not set back my cardio endurance though. I've gotten my best 10k times now that I've been running less and lifting more, I feel much more power at the end of runs from my hips and glutes.
                  Love all wilderness!
                  Trying to hike and XC ski as much as possible.

                  ADK 46/46 still not official.
                  W 27/46

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Quick reply: The definition of strength training is any training that enhances the contractile qualities of a muscle>

                    As such there are many, many was of doing strength training. The mistake most people make is using the very popular methods designed for body building rather than those designed for athletes. Body building is an aesthetic pursuit not an athletic pursuit. Athletes don't strength train just to get stronger. They strength train to enhance athletic performance.

                    More is known about strength training than any other form of physical training, thanks to the exercise scientist in the old Soviet Block countries. It is easily quantified and has been. You can tailor strength training to improve speed, power, muscular endurance, build muscle mass (hypertrophy. hyperplasia) and there are well documented ways to so do each. So don't just go into the gym and do what the muscle heads are doing unless you just want to get big.

                    Strength train with a purpose.

                    Scott Johnston

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                    • #11
                      If you're looking into strength programming, find some information on the 5x5 or Strength Training Anatomy by Frédéric Delavier. Both program very nicely for strength gains. Also, Delavier has lots of good information on variations of the two exercises and lots of information on form. Of course, with all exercises, but especially with squats and deads, form is key.

                      Also, leg workouts are often brutal and more difficult than one would imagine. It's very easy to overtrain your legs if you are also doing cardio et al.

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                      • #12
                        My primary leg training is rear squats, either free or to a box. I use a modified version of the Russian Smolov Squat Program. You can find the excel spreadsheet online. This program worls well as it varies the weight, volume and reps from week to week.

                        Everything else after that I consider assistance work. This includes variations of lunges, leg extensions, leg press, hack squat and box jumps.

                        If you are like me and have a hard time with front squats, consider the hack squat machine.

                        Biggest thing is form with squats. So many people cut their squats way too high due to ego. IF you can't break parallel, its too damn heavy for you.

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