This Run and Leg Day Combo Workout Contains Just About Everything

U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, run during a physical training session at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, run during a physical training session at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, July 26, 2022. (Lance Cpl. Cristian G. Torres/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Have you ever wondered what is a good warmup for a leg day? Well, it depends on what the leg day entails, but the following leg day flows perfectly with this classic squat/run half pyramid as a standard leg-day warmup.

This warmup works so well that after a local group is shaking from swimming in 60-degree water, we have them perform the short run with squats to get the body temperature naturally back to normal. Granted, these are special ops-level candidates, but this warmup is easily adjusted for various fitness levels by walking or jogging 50-100 meters between sets.

Classic Warmup -- Squat Pyramid 1-10 with 50- to 100-meter run/walks between sets + one-mile easy run. The warmup works like this: One squat, jog 50-100 meters; two squats, jog 50-100 meters ... keep going up until you reach the 10th set and do 10 squats. You can also make 10 meters of the run be dynamic stretches as well. Then jog one mile or bike for 10 minutes if you prefer nonimpact cardio activity.

Now, for the Run and Lunges workout: This is a total of 10 sets of increasing speed at 400-meter intervals.

  • Set 1: Run 400 meters in two minutes*
  • Set 2: Run 400 meters in 1:50*
  • Set 3: Run 400 meters in 1:40*
  • Set 4: Run 400 meters in 1:30*
  • Set 5: Run 400 meters in 1:20*
  • Set 6: Run 400 meters as fast as you can -- _______.
  • Sets 7-10: Run the remaining 400 meters at your goal-mile pace.

* For rest intervals between sets: Do five lunges per leg and walk 100 meters.

Goal Pace Defined: Whatever you are currently running your timed runs, figure your mile pace for that event, subtract 30-60 seconds and that is your new goal pace. So if you are currently running a 10:30 1.5-mile timed run, that is a seven-minute mile pace. Your goal pace is to shoot for a 6:00-6:30 mile pace, which gives you a goal pace range of 1:30-1:37 per 400m run.

But wait, the workout is not quite done. If you have anything left, try this continuation of the initial Squat Pyramid and go up to 11-20. Run a fast 200 meters between sets:

Do 11 squats and run 200 meters fast; 12 squats, run 200 meters fast ... keep going to set 20 and stop with an additional 10 x 200-meter, faster-paced run between each set. The rest is the minimum on this one. See whether you can catch your breath during the squats.

Cooldown -- Swim or Bike Workout

Warm up by swimming 500 meters with no fins or tread for 10 minutes (no hands). Swim with fins 2,000 meters or more; see what you can do in 35 minutes of swimming with fins, using any stroke, but a side stroke is preferred if you are preparing for military diving, special ops or rescue swimming programs.

If swimming is not your thing or needs to be replaced with something else, try the bike pyramid for roughly the same amount of time that it would take to do the swimming workout (40 minutes). If you do the bike or elliptical pyramid, use a machine with increasing resistance programming. Every minute on the minute (EMOM), increase the resistance by one level (starting at level No. 1).

Keep the RPM on the bike in the 70- to 80-RPM range and the steps per minute roughly 50-65 per minute on the elliptical at each level of resistance until you fail to maintain that set pace. Then return in reverse order back to level No. 1.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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