Besides accentuating your curves, fast and powerful glutes and hamstrings are necessary to give you a speedy advantage in sports performance, such as sprinting and tae kwon do. Although there isn't any single best method of training for everyone, pick speed exercises that closely resemble the sport or activity that you take part in. The closer the exercises resemble the actual sports skills, the faster you will become for that sport.
Get Movement Specific
Your brain can get very specific in what kind of movement pattern you want to master. Not only do you need fast muscles that turn on quickly at the right time, but you also need to get specific in the type of exercises you need to become faster in. This is based on the SAID principle -- specific adaptation on imposed demands -- which states that "your body will adapt specifically to whatever you train it to do," says physical therapist Tony Ingram. For example, if you want to get faster glutes and hamstrings for sprinting, practice sprint mechanics and drills, such as striding and stepping in a standing position. Doing fast leg curls on a machine or donkey kicks won't have the same benefits because the body position and movement patterns are different than sprinting.
Plyometric training provides a foundation for speed and power performance, which involves quick, powerful and repetitive movement patterns over a duration. Plyometrics improve the elastic properties of your muscles so that they can shorten and lengthen quickly to produce force. Plyometrics also build up your reflexes in your glutes and legs so that you can perform without conscious thoughts. Sample exercises include box jumps, box marches, lateral bounds, vertical jumps and split jumps.
Cut and Sprint
When you sprint or jump, your glutes produce force and accelerate your body, while your hamstrings act as brakes when you slow down from a run or land on the floor after you jump. Cutting and sprinting drills teach you to quickly accelerate and decelerate while changing directions without getting injured. These moves, for example, are needed in tennis and basketball or when avoiding an errant skateboarder during your afternoon jog. Shuttle runs and diamond sprints are two of many ways to improve speed and cutting. Always warm up thoroughly by doing dynamic stretching that take your glutes and legs through their full range of motion repetitively, such as standing leg lifts, butt kicks, leg and hip swings and heel flicks.
Martial Arts and Combat
Speed and accuracy are essential in all types of martial arts. You need to strike, block or divert an attack as quickly as possible before you get hurt. Different types of martial arts that involve kicking and footwork require different techniques and movement patterns, such as the front kick in tae kwon do, the ginga in Brazilian Capoeira and the roundhouse in muay thai. Like sprinting, all kinds of kicks require your glutes and quads to generate force while your hamstrings reduce force as your foot makes contact with the target. Based on the SAID principle, the best exercises should mimic the kicking technique that is specific to your martial art style. Before you get too eager and start kicking the boxing bag, work on flexibility, balance, form, breathing and rhythm first. Setting a foundation allows you to kick faster and with more accuracy and with a lower risk of injury.
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Plyometric Progressions for Athletes
- Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning; Vern Gambetta
- Capoeira-World.com: Main Capoeira Moves
- Taekwondo-Information.org: Taekwondo Kicks! Are You Ready to Master Yours?
- CoachesInfo.com: Isolation (Sprinting) Drills
- ISAKOS: Hamstring Injuires
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.