Leg Exercises for Speed Development

Allyson Felix's training routine gained her Olympic gold in the 200 meters.
i Andy Lyons/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

If you watch speed demons like Allyson Felix tear around the track in the Olympics and want to be a fast Nestie yourself, you can attack this goal from several angles. In the process, you may need to make the acquaintance of exotic tools such as the power cage at the gym as well as simple exercises like skipping and hopping.

Strength Exercises

The exquisite arcs of the hamstrings, glutes and quads of the world’s fastest women may appear to be a result of their running. But in reality, time spent in the weight room doing barbell exercises builds the strong, shapely bodies of Olympic-class sprinters and hurdlers. As do her male counterparts, Felix sets up a barbell in the power cage or on the squat rack at the gym to perform squats, moving to a lifting platform for cleans and clean and jerks. Straight-leg deadlifts on the regular gym floor strengthen the hamstrings to develop speed.

Explosiveness Routines

Without any special gear except yourself and the track, you can begin to work on explosiveness by skipping and hopping. Run up hills to create resistance to test your legs. If you have speed hurdles, typically 6 or 12 inches high, or an agility ladder, you can work to speed your footwork by hopscotching forward, laterally or backward. If funds in the Nest are limited, you can make your own agility ladder with rope or sticks.

Tools and Toys

If you are looking for exceptional speed development, you can fly from your Nest to a high-end athletic training facility to play with high-end toys to exercise your legs. Felix works with the same vertical resistance training system also loved by NBA stars, featuring a waist belt and resistance bands attached to a jump-training platform. While linked to this platform, she leaps against the bands to touch the rotating vanes on a precision vertical-jump tester. The 200-meter Olympic gold medalist also performs long jumps on an indoor track, pulling a sled as she jumps with a weight plate on a spindle -- while wearing a tight, heavy weight vest as well.

Program Design

Trainers typically recommend strength work three times a week, or twice a week during the competitive season so that you aren’t burned out for meets. Your plyometrics or explosiveness work should be twice a week. You can track your height on the vertical leap monthly as a measure of progress, both unencumbered and when attached to a jump-training platform if available.

the nest