You don’t have to be a sprinter to want to run faster. Shaving minutes off of the mile time is one of the top goals of most runners. Distance conditioning, anaerobic training, and speed work are often the first exercises runners will turn to in order to increase their speed. However, experienced runners know that a high intensity strength training program and weight loss workouts are just as important as those other exercises to run faster.
Lung capacity and endurance are important. Strength is also critical: The stronger the runner, the more efficient they are in their movements. This makes them more resistant to injury and faster.
If you didn't realize it Running is also a full-body activity. Your legs, in particular your hamstrings and glutes, bear the brunt of the physical activity. Last but not least, having a strong core is also critical to moving efficiently. This enables runners to resist fatigue and keep optimal form.
As an added bonus, properly conditioning the muscles also reduces the imbalance between muscle groups that often leads to chronic pain and potential injury. Less chronic pain and injury reduction means that you can train more, also leading to increased speed.
For those who don’t run enough because you want to spend most of your time in the gym—thankfully you can focus on just these five exercises to run faster.
Works: Core, back, chest, shoulders
Procedure: Get into the top of a pushup position. Keep your feet together and your hands planted directly under your shoulders. Distribute the weight over the heel of your palm and up into your fingers, particularly your thumb and index finger to protect your wrists. Make sure that you are not collapsing in between your shoulders or at the small of your back. There should be a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Maintain this line by engaging your abs. Work up to holding for a count of 30 seconds.
Variation: Widening the stance of your feet to hip width will force you to engage your lower abs more in order to protect your lower back. You can also experiment with coming onto your forearms for a low plank.
Take it to the next level: You can further increase the difficulty by picking up one foot at a time and tapping it out to the side. Alternate feet.
Gaining a strong core is essential for improving your stride and speed. Planks are excellent for strengthening the entire abdominal wall.
Works: Quads, inner thighs
Procedure: Stand with feet hip-width apart with toes pointing forward. Step left foot directly out to the side and lower into a squat, keeping knees in line with the ankles. Stand up and pull the left foot back into hip-width stance. Alternate on the other side. Do twenty repetitions on each side.
Take it to the next level: Incorporate a jump. When in the squat position, jump up in the air as you transition back to center hip-width position.
This exercise is key for runners who typically develop strong hamstrings and glutes but can have difficulty strengthening the quads and inner thighs through running alone. This exercise helps to balance these two muscle groups, decreasing the chance of injury.
Works: Hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, glutes
Procedure: Stand with feet hip-width apart, step one foot back and bend at the knee until front leg is bent at a 90-degree angle. Avoid bending the front knee past the front toe to prevent injury. Bring foot back in line and repeat on the other side. Do twenty repetitions on each side.
Take it to the next level: There are two options to increase the difficulty. The first is to add a knee up before alternating. To do this, take your back leg and, keeping the knee bent, draw all the way through and up in front of your torso, slightly leaning back for a single count. Return foot to the ground and then proceed to alternate. For the second variation, pick up the tempo and jump as you alternate, switching the position of your legs on the fly. Both variations will contribute to greater core strength.
This exercise builds strength in the key lower body muscles used in running and also helps improve coordination and balance.
Works: Glutes, core, lower back
Procedure: Lie on your back with your knees in the air and your feet firmly planted on the floor. With your arms out at your sides for stabilization, peel your buttocks, and lower back up off the floor. Maintain a straight line from the bottom of your shoulder blades up to your knees. Squeeze your glutes to keep your hips lifted. Lower and lift ten times keeping your motions slow and controlled.
Make it harder: Start with your toes lifted, and grounding your weight in your heels, lift your hips up. Transfer your weight fro your heels to your toes before lowering. Continue to shift your weight from your toes to your heels. As another option, you can also alternate lifting one leg off of the floor, trying to keep hips level. In option two, keep your foot flat on the ground.
Your glutes are the powerhouse of your stride. Another great way to build up your glutes and core is with a Bose Balance Trainer. Based on how you do certain exercises it can really target these muscle groups, and even give you a full body workout.
Pushups + Pullups
Works: Chest, core, biceps, triceps, back
Procedure: Place your hands, fingers facing forward and slightly wider than your shoulders. As you lower down, bend your elbows directly out and away from your body.
Variation: In the top of your pushup position, place your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your elbows hugged into your sides as you lower down.
Make it harder: Pick up one foot as you lower down, alternating with each pushup. You can also place your hands directly under the center of your chest, touching your two thumbs and index fingers together to form a diamond shape.
Now I know what you’re thinking: How is creating a bunch of muscle in my upper body going to make me faster? In fact, you may even think it will slow you down. But, your arms play an optimal role in your speed. With optimal form, they should help to channel your momentum and act as a counterbalance to your legs.
For optimal results, do each exercise in succession. Repeat two to three cycles containing each exercise, and complete twice a week. Take your time as you work through each exercise, paying attention to your form. If you experience muscle soreness, be mindful during your runs. Remember that the ultimate companion to any strength routine is stretching. Incorporate these into your training routine and you’ll be feeling fitter and faster in no time!