Sprinting requires a delicate balance between strength and speed. Long distance runners don’t require bursts of speed, they need strength and stamina. For sprinters, the game is won or lost in a matter of meters. Certain workouts can help performance, while others can hurt it. Keep your legs strong and lean to build the burst necessary to blast off the blocks toward the finish line with a few simple exercises.
The most crucial factor with sprinting, aside from overall speed, is burst. How quickly you can push off of the line determines whether you win or lose. Gassers are an effective exercise for strengthening your legs and developing burst, and you can perform them without any equipment, but it’s most easily performed on an open field. Mark a start line, then measure out a distance of 150 feet, mark a finish line, then return to the start line. Sprint at top speed from the start line to the finish line while using the balls of your feet to spring forward. Turn at the finish line and sprint back to the start line. Repeat for one to two sets of five gassers, then increase sets as you get used to the exercise.
For a sprinter, the toes and balls of the feet are critical. Perform sets of toe raises to strengthen the spring in your step. Stand straight with both feet flat on the floor. Raise your body up onto your toes, so that your toes are the only part of your body touching the floor. Hold the toe raise at the apex of the motion for several seconds. Return to a standing position. Perform three to five sets of 20 to 30 reps. Perform your reps with a 10 or 25 pound weight plate to increase difficulty.
Squats help you generate more power in your lower body, which gives you improved burst, and can help you increase short-distance speed. Place an Olympic barbell into the cradle of a squat rack. Load each side of the bar with weight, keeping that weight capped to about 60 percent of what you can handle. Get into position so that the barbell rests just behind your neck, on top of your shoulders, and grip the bar with your hands using an overhand grip. From a standing position, slowly lower yourself at the knees to a squatting position, hold for a moment, then push yourself back to the starting position. Perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps.
The lower abdominals are an often overlooked muscle group that improves athletic performance when you properly work them out. Plus, the lower abs are easy to isolate. Lie down on an decline workout bench, then raise yourself so that you’re sitting upright at the top of the bench. You’ll feel the pinch in your lower abs because they are the only muscles pulling you up. The development of fast twitch muscle fiber growth in the lower abs increases speed and agility as you run. Do two to three sets of 20 to 30 reps.
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.