The Outer-Thigh Strengthening Exercises Every Runner (and Non-Runner) Should Do to Prevent Injury

Photo: Getty/Geber86

Whether you took up jogging during the pandemic or have been marathoning for years, you’ve potentially had your share of runner’s injuries. It’s a high-impact sport and, typically, most people begin running without any kind of formal training or instruction. As such, it can leave you prone to some pain. In fact, a study from April 2021 found that almost half of all runners injure themselves at least once in their running career, particularly in the knees, calves, and Achilles tendons. Ouch. What's more, injuries don't only happen to specific age groups or experience levels—they can occur for beginners as well as seasoned athletes.

So, despite trying to live a healthy, on-the-move lifestyle, you’re stuck with this 50/50 chance of hurting yourself—no, thank you! But here’s the good news: There are steps you can take to prevent injury so you can keep clocking those miles and beating those PRs, and one of those ways is much simpler than you might imagine. All it takes is a little outer-thigh strengthening. 

The same study that said nearly 50 percent of us are doomed to a bum knee or shin splints? It pointed to outer thighs as a weak link (damn you, side quads!). Those who had relatively weak outer thighs faced a higher risk of injury, the study found (apparently, however, weaker abs or limited flexibility didn’t impact the injury rate). Knowing that a little extra thigh work can prevent pain and suffering—and keep you outside, getting that fresh air and runner’s high—is all the more reason to keep leg day in the rotation. 

So let’s talk thigh exercises, shall we? All thigh exercises are great (we love a good squat), but if you’re targeting the outer thigh muscles specifically, you’ll want to focus on some lateral movements (side to side) to get that abduction (a fancy way of saying “moving away from the center body”). Think: lateral lunges, fire hydrants, resistance band side steps, side-lying clamshells, and side-lying leg lifts à la Jane Fonda. These will hone in on your outer quads (which are known as vastus lateralis) and side hips and buns (aka: the gluteus medius)… and you’re definitely going to be feeling the burn. You can also round out the targeted moves with some additional lower body exercises, like curtsy lunges, squats, etc. 

Now you know—the next time you’re lacing up for a jaunt through the neighborhood or climbing on that quarantine-purchase treadmill, pause to do some outer thigh work and strengthen those muscles. And don’t skip leg day!

Ready for some inspo? Here's Traci Copeland's lower body workout for better running stability:

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