How to Build Legs for Sprinting

Allyson Felix crosses the finish line first for Olympic gold in the 200 meters.
i Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Nesties who run distance events or cross-country have skinny legs ’n’ all, but sprinters do not -- their thicker but well-shaped quads and hamstrings are beautiful in a more athletic and aesthetically pleasing way. They need the power of thickly muscled legs and glutes to propel themselves along the track for 100 to 400 meters in record time. Olympic medalists such as Allyson Felix spend time in the strength room to build their legs for sprinting.

    Step 1

    Design the timing of your program so that you ideally start your strength workouts about three months before track season commences in the spring. If you also run cross-country in the fall, or if you are sprinting in preparation for recreational soccer or other team sports, begin your strength program in the early summer instead. Expect to work out about three days a week, with 48 hours of rest between each season.

    Step 2

    Begin each session with a warm-up consisting of arm sweeps above the head, jogging in place and doing butt-kickers in place for around five to 10 minutes or until you begin to sweat. You can also skip, lunge walk or jog forward and back.

    Step 3

    Focus on endurance during the preseason, recommends the “USA Track & Field Coaching Manual.” Perform three sets of 10 to 15 reps of squats and and step-ups on the first and third training days of the week, with lunges and single-leg squats on the second day. Select a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell weight that you can handle for this volume of work, and add weight as you become more proficient.

    Step 4

    Add barbell cleans and snatches once the season starts to create explosiveness during your sprints. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps on Day One and Day Two. These moves require rapid multi-joint movements that serve you well, getting you prepared for churning down the track, all systems go.

    Step 5

    Continue in season with step-ups on Day One of your strength workout, along with single-leg squats and lunges with dumbbells on Day Two and squats on Day Three. Felix does goblet squats with a kettlebell, as well ad verse dumbbell lunges, dumbbell split lunges and single-leg bent-knee calf raises. Your goal now is to maintain strength but allow for rest and recovery, so switch to three sets of three to five reps and avoid overloading yourself.


    • As you come into your late phases of your track or team sport season, cut back to just two strength sessions a week, and perform three sets of three to six reps of barbell work with a heavier load.

    Things You'll Need

    • Barbells and weight plates

    • Dumbbells

    • Kettlebell

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