Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to sprint just a tiny bit faster?
You know, hit the ground a little bit quicker so you can smash those 100m PBs, or break through more tackles in rugby.
Well, you’re not the only one.
A ton of people have come to me with the same dilemma – “I keep running for hours upon hours a day, but I just can’t seem to sprint faster?”
And do you know why they are not getting faster?
Because they are training the completely wrong way.
Luckily, in this comprehensive guide, I will give you everything you need to know about training for speed and strength.
Not only this, but I am going to give you a quick 45-minute routine to improve your explosivity and help you run quicker.
Let’s get into it.
The one key factor that seems to be forgotten when trying to increase your speed is that it is largely based on the power in your legs.
It’s all well and good practicing how to run and doing a lot of cardio, but this only results in an improvement in your endurance.
Your body begins to obtain energy from the slow-twitch muscle fibers in your core and leg muscles, meaning you aren’t getting used to short bursts of exercise and training to hit the ground quicker.
But, if we start to train with intensity, and use short intervals of movements that resemble some key powerlifting exercises, we can guarantee that our strength will improve.
As our fast-twitch muscle fibers are more anaerobic with less blood supply, they deal with providing larger forces through the body, but fatigue more easily.
So we must train these effectively to increase our speed for smaller distances.
So, with our workout, our best bet is to keep the workout period as minuscule as possible, with plenty of rest between sets to allow our muscles to recover.
Remember, we want the ratio of muscle fibers we use to be largely favoring the fast-twitch.
Then, by incorporating ballistic exercises, plyometrics, and sprinting, we can ensure that the type of stress on our muscles will resemble that of sprinting, meaning we are getting stronger in the right places, and we can fight gravity more effectively to make each stride more explosive and quicker.
Last but not least, each exercise has been chosen specifically for the added health benefits it can provide the body to make running a lot more efficient.
For example, each exercise hits the right areas for agility and balance, making running a lot easier and more fluid.
In short, your main area to target should be your legs.
Your hamstrings, quads, and calves are the 3 most important muscle groups to ensure the speed you take each stride increases.
But it doesn’t just stop at your legs.
The strength of your whole body is important for power and helps you run quicker.
For example, your abdominal muscles are the main source of energy and power.
They provide the all-important support so your hips can flex and put as much explosivity into each step.
Then your back and arms become just as important for your form.
Swinging your arms is vital for a streamlined effect that will help you move quicker.
If you aren’t as strong in your upper body, you can’t cut through the drag as easily.
If you have read a few of my other posts, you will understand how much I love this exercise.
It is one of the best exercises for building strength and muscle in your legs, by combining the most famous lower-body compound exercise, with a plyometric, so you can get a full taste of strength and hypertrophy training rolled into one.
We are going to be using this exercise a little bit differently in this regime, though.
Usually, the emphasis is on the squat, as we aim to build muscle. This is the part that puts the most amount of strain on our leg muscles.
However, in this routine, we are looking for movements that require intensity and explosivity, with the jump doing just that.
So, on the way down, we are gathering as much depth as possible.
This means, as we explode into the jump, our body is gathering as many fast-twitch muscle fibers in our legs as possible, to help provide a large force and get our body as close to the ceiling as possible.
Yes, we could just do a box jump, but this isn’t nearly as intensive and effective as a squat jump on the leg muscles, or more specifically, the hamstrings.
Also, the squat jump is awesome for providing added benefits, such as stability, flexibility and even improving your posture, as your core is doing a buttload of work to keep you steady.
I am going to be quite honest with you here, but I don’t usually give a lot of love to power cleans, or clean and presses.
I’m not entirely sure why that is, maybe because, in periods where I am not training for strength, I don’t really consider it.
However, when I am looking to improve my, or my client’s, power, especially for sprinting or sports, this is always a go-to.
The great thing is, a power clean will enhance the strength of your whole body, with the initial movement working your posterior chain of muscles, such as your glutes and hamstrings, with the actual clean movement targeting your abdominals, glutes, and chest muscles.
As it’s a short, high-intensity movement, you can guarantee that there will be a high ratio of fast twitch muscle fibers involved, making this exercise perfect for anaerobic endurance, and helping enhance your body’s performance in short bursts of exercise, such as sprinting.
Obviously, we never choose an exercise that hasn’t got an array of added health benefits.
The power clean is intensive, as well as great for hypertrophy.
This means you are not only getting an improvement on your athleticism, but you will tone up at the same time.
Your core muscles are also very important to keep your body balanced in this movement, so expect development in your stability.
Similar to the jump squat, we have another high-profile exercise that I never forget to put on my workout regime.
Just before we get started into why I think the Kettlebell swing is not only perfect for power but also for size and endurance, if you are lacking in the kettlebell department, and need to stock your home with high-quality and affordable weights, then check out the reliable DMoose, who never fail to satisfy me when it comes to gym equipment.
So, you may be thinking about how exactly is the kettlebell going to help you with your speed.
It doesn’t look like it uses much leg strength, does it?
Putting it fairly simply, the kettlebell swing uses the entirety of your posterior chain of muscles, or in other words, all the muscles that run from the back of your calves to the back of your neck.
With this being the case, a kettlebell swing is a common exercise used in strength and conditioning.
It puts a pretty large emphasis on explosivity, coming from the glutes and the hamstrings, in order to hinge the hips and drive the kettlebell up to your shoulders.
For this hard hip drive to come about, your body will seek a great amount of force from your fast twitch muscle fibers in the back and legs, helping to train them to deal with these short periods of intensity and provide a vast amount of energy efficiently.
I can almost guarantee that a kettlebell swing will help you to tone up and increase your overall cardiovascular health, helping to decrease the risk of nasty illnesses like heart disease showing up later in life.
The best way to improve at something is by practice.
But if we just continue to sprint the same way, every single day, we will not see a vast amount of progress in our strength.
To progress the muscles in your legs, and result in an increase in explosivity, we must incorporate overload.
We can do this by applying weight to the muscles, as we have done with the previous 3 exercises.
But, to finish off our workout regime, we want to hit those hidden muscle fibers that don’t get involved with the standard movements. And we do this by changing the angle.
By doing short intervals of sprints up a hill, we are varying the incline each stride takes, putting pressure on the fast-twitch muscle fibers to provide a force that counteracts gravity even more.
We can also expect a great decrease in our risk of injury. The joints in our ankles and knees will begin to become more mobile, meaning they are stronger and more adapt to harsher conditions.
Obviously, your overall endurance will also thank you for finishing your workout with some hill sprints.
My recommendation would be to finish with a 4 x 4 set. This means, depending on the distance of the hill, you run up and down the hill 4 times for one set.
Rest for 3-4 minutes, and repeat 4 times. You will feel the burn, but it is worth it.
So there we have it.
A simple routine for the strong-minded of us that truly want to become faster, and more powerful with each sprint we take.
The one thing you may have noticed with this routine is that none of these exercises are impossible if you don’t have a gym membership.
Every single one of these can be done at home.
This ties nicely into my message that you can work out anywhere you want.
I have dedicated a lot of my fitness career to this fact, and have even written a free Ebook “Train Wherever The F*ck You Want” so you can learn more.
What are your key exercises for building power in your lower body?
Did you notice an increase in speed?
Let me know in the comments below.