Besides running itself, there are a few exercises that will help you become faster. Some of them are for a specific group of muscles – in the case of running we’re talking about your glutes, calves and rest of your legs. The other group is made up of stamina exercises which increase your ability to run faster and go farther by handicapping you.
Muscle Group Exercises
So, the first type of exercises that you’ll want to start are pure lower body exercises that are intended to build the muscle in your legs and make them as strong as possible. The stronger your legs are the faster you are going to be able to run. Here are some of the muscle group exercises you should be doing:
Squats: This is a great exercise for improving your running speed because you are improving all of the muscles involved in that process. You want to stand with your feet lined up with your shoulders and then act like you are lowering yourself into a chair behind you. When you get to the point where you feel those muscles engage, do your reps. I recommend you do heavy weight low rep training to strengthen your muscles as much as possible with gaining unnecessary muscle, which would slow you down.
Leg press: This is another great leg strengthening exercise and an excellent alternative for those who can’t do the squat because it targets the same muscles in the legs. Simply buy a leg press machine or go to a gym and start pushing weight with your legs. This exercise is probably the best one for the legs because it’s easier than the squat and you can easily do it on your own.
One-Leg Deadlifts: You’ll want to grab a barbell and hold it in front of you with both hands as if you were offering it to someone. Then, lean forward and bend the right knee while lifting your other leg beside you. Lower the weight and raise them again when you can feel your glutes and your hamstring taking over the weight. The one leg deadlift puts more pressure on the leg muscles than the ordinary deadlift and that’s why it’s ideal for runners.
Leg Extension Exercise: This exercise focuses mainly on the quadriceps, the muscle which helps you move forward so it’s a great one for sprinters. The only drawback of this exercise is that it puts a strong and unnatural strain on your knees so be careful when doing it. Stretch your legs well beforehand and don’t lift too much weight.
Core Strengthening: Pick some of your favorite core-building exercises and add them into your routine. Your core is a big part of how fast you run. Improve your core and you’ll be able to run faster.
Plyometric Exercises: These are exercises where you jump and land, and they can help your body deal with that impact so that you can run faster. There is so much to plyos that there are entire books about the technique. But what you can keep in mind is anytime you force a muscle to exert the max amount of force in a short period of time (like a jump) that’s a plyometric exercise. Such exercise will train your muscles to act faster.
The other technique that we’ll talk about is handicapping. Handicapping is simply pushing yourself farther and farther, and even pushing yourself too far in some cases. Handicapping serves two functions – first, to make you stronger and exerting more effort when your current level of activity peaks and second, to trick your mind into doing what you think you can’t.
Imagine that you are running a mile. Each day you try to go faster and aren’t really making progress. So, you attach a weight belt and weights on your ankles and go out and run that same mile. You’ll find that even with the extra weight, you’ll get pretty close to your original time. That’s crazy, right? That’s because your brain already believes that’s your expected time, whether you are weighted down or not. Now, take the weights off and you’ll be able to improve your time because you just tricked your brain into believing that you can.