Five simple exercises to help improve your running
You can do more than pound the pavements to make yourself a better runner. Use your workouts to focus on leg strength and to generate explosive power
Just as strength athletes have a training routine tailored to them becoming stronger, and endurance athletes have a routine with a stamina focus, there are multiple exercises one can utilise in order to promote speed development. For example, you should focus on exercises that strengthen the muscles used when sprinting, as well as incorporating drills that train rapid leg movement. Practising running is not the only way to improve your performance. So what can you do? Here are five exercises that help to increase your optimal speed.
1. Mountain climber
An excellent move, as it trains the legs to move explosively, at a high cadence, while also simultaneously engaging the core muscles. Start in a push-up position with one leg straight and the other bent, with your knee under your torso. Maintaining a steady upper body, focus on explosively alternating legs for 20 seconds, with 40 seconds recovery. Repeat five or six times.
2. Vertical jump squat
Squats are probably the most effective strength training exercise for runners, engaging a great deal of the muscles used in running. This move trains similar muscle groups to a squat, but the power output is maximised. Squat down, hips back, maintaining your knees in a position behind your toes. Once you reach your lowest point, immediately jump with as much power as possible, focusing on engaging your glutes and core muscles to straighten your body as you rise. Do eight to 10 reps, rest for 60 seconds. Repeat four times.
3. Single leg bound
A very effective plyometric (the term for explosive jump training) exercise, single leg bounds are basically consecutive jumps using only one leg at a time. This exercise not only forces the leg to generate a great deal of power, as the opposing leg is passive, but allows one to train force production in each leg independently.
This is important, as many runners compensate when they sprint, using their stronger leg significantly more than the weaker leg. Jump off one leg as explosively as possible, straightening your leg as you leave the ground, with toes pointed down. As you land, bend your knee slightly, preparing to immediately power into the next jump. Bound five times on each leg, repeating five times.
4. Single leg balance
The foot and ankle muscles are directly involved in running at all distances so it should not be a surprise that strengthening these often neglected muscles can help in your quest to produce more power in your legs, thereby increasing your speed. Stand on one leg for 60 seconds without allowing your passive leg to touch the ground (eyes closed if you find it easier). Start on flat ground, advancing to the same exercise on an unstable surface such as a BOSU Ball. Repeat three times on each leg.
5. Single leg Romanian dead lift
This exercise is highly effective at developing speed, as it dynamically strengthens the posterior chain (the muscles on the back of the body). It is extremely common for runners to suffer from weak gluteus muscles, but this movement works these muscles, as well as the hamstrings, in a functional, explosive and highly transferable manner.
Stand tall on one leg with core engaged. Maintaining neutral spinal alignment, hinge at the hips as you lower your torso to parallel with the floor, only slightly bending at the knee. Now explosively extend the hips forward as you straighten your body to the start position, maximising contraction in your glutes and core muscles as you rise. Complete eight reps each leg. Repeat four times.
Andrew Power is a qualified fitness and kickboxing trainer who trains students outdoors at Happy Valley and Victoria Park. More details via Facebook: AJ Power Fitness