If you're a runner who wants to kick her speed into high gear, consider adding strength training to your routine. Champion runners like Kara Goucher know that strength training enhances speed and endurance, and include strength exercises in their daily training. But there's more to it than stamina and speed. When you build strength you'll also improve the condition of your muscles, which helps reduce your chances of injury.
Set up a program to build the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes to power push-offs and your forward movement. Well-trained hip flexors propel you smoothly and quickly through your stride. And when you strength train, you improve the condition and functioning of your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which influence how quickly you move.
If you choose the right strength exercises, speed results should follow. Dynamic, explosive exercises activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers and provide the power and energy you need to increase speed. Work into your program exercises that engage your core and leg muscles as well as ones that duplicate the actions you perform when running, like leg lifting and knee bending.
Deadlifts and Squats
Whether you follow “Running Times,” “Runners World” or want to take a page from Kara Goucher's training schedule, you'll find that they all include similar strength exercises to improve speed. Performing forward knee drives using some form of resistance like rubber tubing, straight leg deadlifts, box jumps and squats are all effective strength training moves that include the explosive quality important for enhancing speed. Include hip flexor exercises, too. Lunges and standing and kneeling hip flexor stretches are must-have moves that will increase speed as well as improve flexibility and reduce the chances of injury.
You also can improve your technique by strength training. If you have a stride problem such as a pronounced heel hit, a hip extension exercise can give you an accurate feel for the movement and build the strength necessary for a more effective technique and performance gains.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.