Runners often look for training strategies to increase speed. While some runners are hesitant to incorporate weight training for fear of bulking up and slowing down, appropriate strength training exercises may actually increase your running speed. Consider incorporating regular weight and plyometric training into your exercise plan.
Strength training offers many benefits for overall health but some runners resist weightlifting. As a runner, you rely on your legs to push you off the ground and propel you forward quickly. This pushing motion requires strength. While traditional weight training and plyometric weight training techniques have been shown improve running performance, plyometric exercises might make the most significant difference in your speed.
Plyometrics include explosive-type training techniques. These types of techniques have been shown to improve performance in 5-km distance runs. Speed benefits from plyometric strength training may be related to neuromuscular adaptation from the explosive power rather than muscle hypertrophy, making this type of training ideal for distance athletes.
Examples of explosive-strength training exercises include split squat jumps and one-legged jumps using body weight or additional weight in the form of dumbbells or a barbell. The leg press can be adapted for explosive strength training by slowly bending your knees and then pushing the weight back up quickly.
Runners typically have muscular quadriceps, but hamstrings are often overlooked in training. Hamstrings are thought to be the most important muscle group for speed in running. Incorporate hamstring curls into your strength training routine. Alternate machine curls for strength with exercise ball curls. Hamstring curls with exercise balls enhance nervous system adaptation.
- "Journal of strength and conditioning research": Effect of plyometric vs. dynamic weight training on the energy cost of running; N. Berryman et al.; July 2010
- "Journal of Applied Physiology": Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power; Leena Paavolainen et al.; March 1998
- "Sports Medicine"; Influence of strength training on sprint running performance. Current findings and implications for training; C. Delecluse; September 1997