Far too many runners think that the best way to improve their speed is, well, simply by running. Just like every aspect of your fitness, the key to excellence is by hitting it from all angles. Whether you aim to improve speed for a 400 meter race, a 5K, or a marathon, you need to do some specific training workouts that look entirely different from running repeats of your race distance. In this article, we’ll focus on 5 sequences that improve the strengths of muscle groups critical to running.
In all of these, maintain consistent form through all repeats. This trains your muscle groups to hold their form, no matter how fatigued you are. In any race you’ll see people flailing about and hunching over as they tire. It makes for dramatic photos, but it’s horribly inefficient. Well-trained runners never let their form break down until they cross the finish line. Start practicing that discipline in these exercises, and it’ll serve you well in races.
Each sequence is to be repeated three times. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.
These simple plyometric exercises increase your leg power. This will give you the strength to jump over obstacles, run up hills, or kick in a sprint to finish a race. You’ll focus on each leg in isolation.
Standing on one leg, hop as high as possible, land on that leg, and go right into the next hop, squatting only as much as needed to get maximum height for the next jump. Do 10 reps, all on that leg without the other one touching the ground. You won’t stay in exactly the same place, and that’s fine. Repeat with 10 reps on the other leg.
Next, do the same thing for distance. This will look weird, you’re basically sprinting on one leg. 10 reps on one leg, then the other.
Repeat three times.
2. Sprint-Form Lunges
These are simple walking lunges. Only difference here is to mimic a sprinter’s form as you transition between lunges. As you come up from each lunge, pull your trailing leg up and raise that knee until your leg is parallel to the ground. That naturally carries you into the next lunge. Get your arms into play also, with full range of motion like you’re sprinting. Start with three sets of 20, and build up towards sets of 30 or 40.
3. Ab Circuit
Abdominal training holds your form together and prevents cramping.
Keep this circuit going without a break: 30 seconds of flutter kicks, 30 seconds bicycle kicks, 30 seconds hello dollys, and 30 seconds with your legs straight out, 6 inches above the ground. Go from here right into the next one without a break:
Start with 30 seconds in a front plank, forearms on the ground with your back straight. Roll over to one forearm and hold a 60 second side plank, then to the other side for another 60 seconds. Once you’re comfortable with this, double the hold times. Repeat #3 and #4 three times.
These shoulder exercises give your upper body the strength to add torque through your hips down to your legs.
For this circuit you need a pull-up bar.
Pull: If you can do pull-ups, knock out a max set. Don’t go to the point you’re struggling for the last rep, but stop when you can just barely make it over the bar. If you don’t have pull-ups, have a friend help you to get your chin above the bar, and then hold there as long as possible. Let go once you can’t keep your arms bent anymore.
Push: Right after you get off the bar, do a max set of pushups.
Repeat three times.
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