While many people think that in order to run faster you just have to focus on running training, this is far from the case. Including lower body strength exercises, such as squats, in your program can help to develop the strength and power in your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and gluteals, which will carry over to your running performance. By performing different types of squats and aiming to increase squatting power, you can become quicker in your runs.
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Squat heavy once per week. Performing below parallel barbell back squats places a huge strain on the musculature of your lower body, and forces your nervous system to adapt and become stronger. Your fast twitch muscle fibers also develop with regularly heavy training, become more powerful and are able to contract at faster rates, which may increase your running speed, particularly across short distances. According to trainer Dr. Helen Kollias, in theory, the heavier your one repetition squat maximum is, the faster you are. Do five sets of three repetitions with a weight that is around 90 percent of your one-rep max.
Perform box jumps before your lower body training sessions. According to Joe DeFranco, owner of DeFranco's strength and conditioning facility, combining explosive body weight exercises, such as box jumps, with heavy resistance training makes athletes stronger, more powerful and improves overall athleticism. To perform a box jump, stand facing a plyometric box, bend your knees, push your hips back and jump on to the box. Aim to do six sets of two reps, focusing on generating as much speed, power and height as you can. If you have not done box jumps before, then start with a low box until you are more confident.
Include one dynamic squatting session every week. Load up the bar with about 60 percent of your one-rep maximum, and perform eight sets of two reps. While in theory this sounds easy, the key is to control your descent, pause for a second in the bottom position, then accelerate the weight as fast as possible back up again. These speed squats provide the perfect blend of strength and speed training, and can be done either after your heavy squats, or on a separate day.
Do one day of Litvisprints each week. Strength coach Dan John advocates Litvisprints for increasing your power, speed and work capacity. Perform a heavy set of eight back or front squats, then immediately rack the bar and sprint 400 metres. Rest for five minutes, then do this twice more. This workout tends to work best if you have access to a running track, although the sprints can be done on a treadmill. Litvisprints are very demanding, so make sure you are recovered from your previous session before you attempt them. If you are looking to increase your speed over shorter distances, then you can do 50, 100 or 200 meter sprints instead of 400 m.