10 Exercises to Increase Your Running Speed
Last Updated: Mar 15, 2016
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Pure speed is the foundation of all athletic activity. Whether you’re keeping up with your kids, running down a soccer field or sprinting to the finish line, speed is absolutely essential. Sure, squats and Olympic lifts are helpful for increasing strength, but both sports and everyday life involve horizontal movement. For all you scientists out there: Speed equals stride frequency times stride length. So how do you increase your speed? Try these 10 horizontal training methods.
It’s easy to have a love/hate relationship with the Prowler sled. Without even spending that much time on it, it can completely exhaust you -- but in the best way possible. The Prowler push is all about power, and an increase in power output, especially against resistance, will increase your speed. HOW TO DO IT: Add weight to the sled and hold onto the high poles, which will help with lower-body activation. Engage your core and drive your knees aggressively as you push the prowler forward as fast as you can.
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By having a weight attached to your midsection, you are exaggerating the movements that help with sprinting (arm pump and knee drive). The added resistance also amps up your power output. HOW TO DO IT: Place weight onto a sled and attach a rope or strap around your waist or shoulders. There should be enough weight to create resistance but not enough weight that can't move the sled at all. You should be able to run with the sled. Drive your knees and pump your arms to drive out and sprint with a sled attached.
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ALTERNATE LEG BOUNDS
Alternate leg bounds are a foundational move for any athlete but especially for speed demons. Alternate leg bounds, which look like exaggerated sprinting, teach you how to apply horizontal strength quickly into the ground. Imagine a gazelle meeting a sprinter and you get a bound. HOW TO DO IT: Start by taking a step forward with your right leg and drive off of that leg while driving the left (back) leg into the air. Drive the knee up as forcefully as possible while the opposite arm drives forward, like you would in a sprint. As you land back down on the leg that was driving forward, quickly alternate legs and repeat the same movement on the opposite side.
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Tires make cars move faster, and they can make you move faster (if you know how to use them). Tire flips work your entire body, but they especially work on the explosion out of the bottom, which is key in starting a sprint. They also make you feel like a superhero. After all, you’re flipping tires! HOW TO DO IT: Place the tire on the ground so that the hole is facing up. Squat down deeply so that your hands can grip underneath the tire while keeping a proud chest. Engage your glutes and powerfully lift the tire up and flip it over so that it lands back in the starting position but on the other side.
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BROAD JUMP WITH PROWLER
Since you can't drive your arms forward in this exercise like you would in a regular broad jump, this is a major activator of your lower body. HOW TO DO IT: Add weight to the prowler as you did with prowler pushes. Hold onto the high poles and get into a leaning squat stance with a flat back and your feet fairly close to the sled (closer than the Prowler push). Take a large leap forward, simultaneously pushing the sled forward.
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FROG HOP WITH MEDICINE-BALL THROW
This exercise helps improve muscle elasticity, strength and explosiveness. HOW TO DO IT: Hold a medicine ball in your hands. Lower down into a deep squat with a tall, proud chest. Squeeze your glutes as you jump forward. As soon as you land from your jump, quickly jump forward again as you toss the medicine ball with immense power. The ball should go out in a 45-degree angle as your hips come to a full extension.
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Sprinting with resistance is a great way to work on knee drive and arm drive. And since you'll be fairly contained (and have a partner on hand), this is the perfect time for you to work on form. HOW TO DO IT: Perform resisted sprints with a resistance band wrapped around your waist. Have a partner hold the other side of the resistance band as you explosively drive forward. If your form starts to break down, your partner is using too much resistance.
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The kettlebell swing is an incredible exercise to increase explosiveness and help your speed. HOW TO DO IT: Begin with your feet wider than your hips and the kettlebell held with both of your hands in between your legs. With a slight bend in your knees, hinge forward at the hips as the kettlebell swings backward between your legs. Quickly reverse directions and swing the kettlebell up to eye level. Keep your core tight so that you don’t sway your back.
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This one may remind you of your school days, but it’s perfect for building explosiveness and elasticity -- two key components of sprint speed. Skips can be done two ways -- for height or for distance -- but both of which will help your speed. HOW TO DO IT: Forcefully drive your leg into the ground while you drive your opposite knee into the air. As in sprinting, your legs will follow your arms, so remember to drive your arms aggressively into the air. If you’re focusing on height, emphasize exploding off of the ground. If you’re focusing on speed, stress foot speed off the ground while you drive your knee forward. For fast skips, imagine you're on hot ground that you want to skip over as quickly as possible.
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What better way to end your horizontal training session than with hill sprints? With a forceful knee lift and aggressive arm pump, hill sprints are one of the best exercises to help with acceleration. HOW TO DO IT: Find a hill with a manageable grade. You want it to be steep enough to be challenging but not so steep that you can maintain your speed. You also want it to be long enough to make you work but not so long that you wear yourself out. Start at the bottom and sprint to the top. Walk back down to the bottom and repeat.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you ever done horizontal training before? Did you use any of these exercises? What are your favorite exercises to increase speed? Are there any that we missed? If you're a runner, what other kinds of strength training do you do in between runs? Share your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments section below!
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