Running is a great exercise that allows you to enjoy countless health benefits. For one, running can help you build strong bones as this is a type of weight-bearing exercise. Running can also strengthen your muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, and help maintain a healthy weight. As long as it’s done regularly, running can become your ticket to achieve optimal health and wellness.
The benefits one can experience from running is one of the reasons why more and more people are adding this exercise to their daily routines. Unlike other workouts, running can be done anytime and anywhere. It’s a very cheap exercise as you don’t have to invest in any equipment for you to run.
Are you a runner wanting to improve your pace? There are several strength-training moves you can perform help you run faster, and we’re going to share our top 10 with you now.
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To increase your speed, you’ll have to increase your overall power, and this cannot be done with running alone. Strength-training can help build up your hamstrings, quads, glutes and core, giving you more power in your sprints. The power you have, the more you’ll be able to explode past your competitors.
Incorporate these moves into a strength-training routine three to four times a week along with your regular running workouts and you’re guaranteed to see results.
1. Barbell Lunges
Lunges work your glutes and quadriceps, while also activating your hamstrings. To perform a lunge, start with one foot about 12 to 18 inches in front of the other. Keeping your hips and shoulders straight, lower yourself down by bending your knee, until your forward quadricep is parallel to the floor, and your rear knee almost touches the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 to 12 times for each leg.
2. Single-Leg Squats
The single-leg squat is more challenging than a traditional bodyweight squat as it requires balance. Standing on one leg, hands at hips, bend and lift one knee (the one that won’t touch the floor) and squat standing on the other leg. Your squat won’t be as deep as a two-foot stance. Do 3 sets of 5, working up to 3 sets of 10, on each leg.
When it comes to squats, you can do the routine on your own or invest in a squat machine/rack. The latter is a great option if you’re planning to work out at home.
3. Barbell Squats
Barbell squats target your thighs, glutes and hamstrings. For the best possible form (and to make every squat maximum efficiency) use a squat machine/rack. With the barbell resting on your back and your legs shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and lower down to perform a squat. Keep your back straight, your chest out, and push your butt back as if sitting on a chair. Never let your toes overextend over your toes. This protects your knees. Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
4. Leg Press
Leg press is another strengthening exercise that targets your quads, glutes and hamstrings. Begin lying on the bench, keeping your back flat. If you have trouble keeping proper form during this exercise, you may be trying to lift too much weight; decrease the weight and never sacrifice form. Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 presses.
5. Stiff-Leg Deadlifts
This works glutes and hamstrings for strength and fast twitch muscle reaction.
Stand with your feet about hip-distance apart, holding your weight in front of you (either a barbell or two dumbbells). Lean forward by hingeing at the hip until the barbell, which should be grazing your body, reaches midway to your shins; do it slowly to really feel it in the back of the legs. Look forward and keep your chest up. You should feel tension in your hamstrings. Do not lock your knees; keep them slightly bent if necessary. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
6. Laying Hamstring Curls
- On the hamstring curl machine, position your feet so that the back bar is at your ankle, not your calf. This ensures full engagement of the proper muscle groups which is what you want if you’re aiming to run faster.
- Laying across the machine, grab the handles and engage your core.
- Proceed to do your curls with enough weight that it challenges you, but not so much that you have to arch your back to lift it.
7. Pylo Side Lunges (Or Speed Skaters)
From a normal standing position, take a large hop out to the right. As you hop, sweep your left leg behind you while bringing your left arm across your body, like a speed skater. Next, hop to the left, bringing your right leg behind you and your right arm across the body in a fluid motion. Continue alternating sides for 60 seconds.
8. Box Jumps
Another popular plyo movement, box jumps will give you a cardio boost and build up your leg muscles big time. With your plyo box about six inches in front of you, place feet shoulder-width apart. From squat position, jump on to the plyo box, landing gently on the balls of your feet. Step down, rest, repeat.
Yes, your inner 10 year old wants to laugh at the name. Go ahead. This Swedish word means “speed play” and involves alternating sprints with jogs for multiple reps. A good place to practice these is a marked football field. Use the 5 yard increments to keep track of your distance and pace. This builds up both endurance and speed.
10. Jump Rope
When it comes to speeding up your feet, jumping rope at a fast pace will do it. No matter what the particular sport, all athletes can benefit from jumping rope;
If you haven’t tried using a jump rope to work out, it’s best if you start from the basics first—skip to prevent the rope from touching your feet. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can try out learning new tricks and extend the duration of the routine. A lot of people are using jump ropes to work out and improve their running speed, so you’ll never run out of tricks to try out!
A Few Reminders
If you haven’t tried the mentioned exercises in the past, remember to start slow and progress gradually. Regardless of your fitness levels or the simplicity of these exercises, never attempt to try out everything at once. Doing this will only cause injuries and accidents, preventing you from improving your running speed. In worse cases, straining your body too much can even become the reason why you can’t run for months.
To stay on the safe side, try out these routines slowly and progress only if you’re comfortable with the duration and intensity of the routines. If your body aches or if you feel any discomfort when trying out any of these routines, rest. Don’t push yourself to the limit as this can lead to setbacks that can prevent you from running.
Don’t Forget To Hydrate
There you have it; the top 10 leg exercises to help you run faster. Remember that in addition to strength-training, speed and agility training, you also need to hydrate and fuel your body properly if you want to finish that race. Now go work those legs!