Speed Exercises to Run Faster
Running requires a lot more than just a pair of running shoes and a healthy mindset. To have success with running, from either a standpoint of progress in fitness or performance, it requires consistency, motivation, discipline, and determination. To become a faster runner, one needs a balance between speed sessions, strength training, and recovery.
To read more about speed work, check out our latest article on Sprint Training. In regards to strength training, there are specific exercises if done in combination with running training programs, that can help a runner gain explosiveness and speed, resulting in faster times. Speed specific exercises will usually focus on compound movements and plyometrics. This means you will be working more than one joint at a time in a powerful, jumping manner. The effect of this type of training translates to running by building more force and power to produce quicker turnover ultimately resulting in faster speeds.
Plyometrics are considered advanced movements. Before starting a high impact activity, be sure you speak with your health care professional to determine if these types of exercises are acceptable for you to try. If you are new to strength training or returning from an injury, you can always eliminate the jumping component to reduce impact.
The following 10 speed exercises can be incorporated into your training routine 1-2 times a week to help you run faster. They only require your body weight but don’t be fooled as they are high-intensity. Try each exercise for 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off for 3 rounds, repeating on each side as necessary. You can click on the link of each exercise title to get to a short video on how to perform each speed exercise.
Start with your feet hip-width apart as you lower yourself down into a sitting position by bending your knees and pushing the butt back. Keep the spine straight and chest up. As you stand back up, jump off your toes so both feet come off the ground as you squeeze your glutes to bring you into full extension. Land softly back on both feet.
Explosive training assists your muscles to have a quicker reaction time while also building power and strength. This exercise tests the leg muscles like the calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Start with your feet hip-width apart. Then step the left foot back while keeping the right foot forward. Lower the legs so both knees form 90-degree angles. Keep your upper body straight. Push your weight into your right heel to stand up while bringing the left knee up toward the chest as you push off and up into the air with the right foot. Land softly and repeat on the other side.
Lunges emphasize strength building in the glutes which help with hip extension during the push-off phase of running. The plyometric push off at the end helps to build power in the calf to help with sprinting and building faster overall speed.
Start with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping the right foot stationary, bring the left leg back while crossing behind your right leg. Lower your body down by bending both knees. As you rise to stand back up, hop-off both feet. Land softly back to the curtsy position.
The curtsy position emphasizes the outer hip of the front leg, focusing on the gluteus medius which is an important muscle that helps to keep a neutral pelvis while running. By maintaining a neutral pelvis during high impact activities, you reduce your risk for iliotibial band (ITB) injuries.
Start by standing on the right leg as you lift and extend your left leg back while slowly hinging the upper body to be parallel to the ground. Squeeze the standing leg glute to help you rise back up to standing. Transition the left leg from back to a front march as you hop off the right standing foot. Land softly back onto the right single leg.
Running is a single leg activity, thus it is important to train your muscles with single-leg exercises. Single leg plyometric exercises help to improve balance and stability during the push-off and landing phase of running.
Start with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your body down by bending both knees and planting both hands on the floor, under your shoulders, as you hop both feet back into a high plank position. Hop both feet back to a low squat and as you stand up, jump up off both feet. Land softly back on both feet.
This full-body high-intensity exercise helps to build power in the lower half of the body while also strengthening the core which helps with stabilization. It also promotes upright posture when running at faster speeds.
Start with both feet wider than the hips. Lower yourself slightly by bending the knees a bit, then quickly sprint in place. Sprint for 5 to 10 seconds and then quickly transition from a standing position to sprawling your chest and body onto the floor. Recover and promptly go back to the fast feet sprint.
Speed exercises that train the feet to move quickly help to train the legs to have a faster reaction time and helps to improve cadence by promoting faster turnover.
Start by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift one leg in the air and hop off the foot that is on the floor. While in the air, switch the legs to land softly on the opposite foot.
This plyometric exercise strengthens the posterior chain focusing on the explosiveness of the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back which are all important in sprinting.
Start on your side on the forearm and with feet stacked on top of each other. Lift the hips off the ground and then while in the side plank, lift the top leg straight up. Hold for a second and lower the top leg back to a side plank. Repeat lowering the body with the hip drop and back up to the leg lift.
This side body strengthening exercise focuses on the gluteus medius and core strength. The side body is important in stabilization and postural alignment while running at high speeds.
Start in a high plank position with hands on the ground under the shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Jump the feet in and out while maintaining a flat back.
This plyometric core exercise helps to stabilize the trunk while working on speed work of the inner and outer thighs.
Find a wall and place hands at shoulder height while you lean your trunk to a 45-degree angle. As you lean into the wall, quickly drive the knees up and down toward the chest into a high knee running position.
This acceleration drill works on forceful hip flexion and foot placement. It also promotes quick turnover as you drive the legs up and down.
In conclusion, strength and speed exercises should not be neglected to help one run faster. To be a faster runner sprint work and speed specific exercises are both essential training tools that should be implemented in a runner’s training program. However, speed exercises, as with sprint training, should only be performed a couple of times a week with adequate recovery and easy run days to help reduce your risk of injury.