It's logical that you need strong legs to run fast. Serious runners know that they can't rely on just running to develop strong legs; they need to include strength exercises in their workout to improve speed. The strength-building exercises you choose should concentrate on building power. The explosive movement of squat jumps is perfect for activating the muscle power necessary for speed.
What's a Squat Jump?
Squat jumps are a plyometric exercise that enables your leg muscles to attain maximum force in a short amount of time. To perform a squat jump, begin in a shoulder-width stance with your back straight, arms extended at your sides. Bend at your hips and knees to lower into a squat position. Push upward with your legs, jumping up just as you reach the bottom of the move. Lift your arms overhead as you jump, keeping them straight. When your feet land on the floor, immediately move into the squatting position again and perform another jump.
Using squat jumps to build leg muscle power is useful even if you aren't a runner. In a study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," researchers concluded that incorporating jump squats into athletes' training programs significantly improved speed and agility performance. Squat jumps also help runners because they condition your legs for enhanced springing action when pushing off and increases hamstring torque.
Working Them Into Your Workout
Because squat jumps don't take long to perform or require any special equipment, adding a few sets of squat jumps to your training routine is simple. Try including squat jumps as part of your program twice a week, performing two sets of 10 during each workout.
Additional Speed Improving Exercises
You can enhance the benefits you reap from squat jumps by including other speed and strength building exercises regularly. Runner's World recommends rotating lunges, straight-leg deadlifts, kneeling hip-flexor stretches and another jumping exercise -- the box jump -- as moves that will build power and speed when performed as little as twice a week.
- Shapefit; Extreme Fitness - Intense Workouts & Exercises; Linda Cusmano
- Running Times; Sample Plyometric Training Program; December 2007
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/PubMed.gov; Comparison of loaded and unloaded jump squat training on strength/power performance in college football players; J.R. Hoffman, N.A. Ratamess, J.J. Cooper, J. Kang, A. Chilakos and A.D. Faigenbaum
- Sports Fitness Advisor: Lower Body Plyometric Exercises
- Runners World; Strength Exercises to Help You Run Faster ; Debra Witt
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images