Research has shown that a runner's speed is related to the ratio of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers in the legs. However, certain exercises can be effective at increasing your running speed no matter what kind of muscular make-up you have. Here are three exercises you should incorporate into your speed training routine.
While sprinting drills on a horizontal surface are an essential part of any speed training routine, adding resistance while sprinting is an excellent way to strengthen your leg muscles. Uphill sprints are an easy way to add resistance to your run because they don't require weights or any other equipment.
Uphill sprints will provide the biggest benefit if they are done in short bursts. Focus on semi-explosive movements such as powerful knee raises and backward arm swings while sprinting up hill, but do not exaggerate these movements so much that you sacrifice speed. To progress this workout, work toward steeper inclines or gradually increase your sprinting distance.
Squats are one of the best exercises for developing the leg strength you need for an explosive start when running. However, it is important to choose your weight and frequency carefully to avoid adding extra muscle bulk that could actually slow you down. Squatting around 90 percent of your maximum for three sessions of three to five reps is an effective way to build the explosiveness you need for a sprint. Do this workout only two to three times per week to avoid unwanted bulking.
Bounding is a form of plyometric exercise where the muscles exert their maximum force in the shortest time. Put simply, bounding is "jump-running." To perform the exercise, start jogging to gain momentum, and then begin leaping forward with every stride. As your leaping foot goes back, bring the opposite arm forward forcefully to create an exaggerated running motion.
The goal of bounding is not maximum speed, but maximum distance with each stride. Attempt to fully extend the back leg with each leap, and progress in the exercise by increasing the distance that you bound or the length of each run. This helps to train both strength and endurance in a way that is directly applicable to sprinting.
There are a number of ways to improve your speed besides repetitive sprinting drills. Use these exercises to vary your workout and develop the strength and endurance you need for both short-distance sprinting and long-distance running. You can also visit websites of speed training specialists, such as http://www.athleticquickness.com/, for more information.