Increasing your running speed will take more than running a few extra sprints. With proper weight training you can not only improve your running stride, you can also correct any muscle imbalances that may be slowing you down or causing unwanted injuries. Incorporating the right weight-training exercises will allow your body to run faster and more efficiently.
Don’t over-train your muscles when incorporating weight training into your routine. When starting a new weight-training exercise program, start with a lower weight that allows you to do 15 to 20 reps per set. As you get used to a workout, increase the weight and reduce the number of reps per set. Also, don’t substitute strength training for running workouts. Instead, use it in addition to your runs. If you are running five days a week, set aside two days for weight training. Make sure your weight-training days are not back to back. You need one to two days of recovery after weight training.
To increase your running speed you’ll want to make sure all lower-body muscles are working synergistically for optimal speed and power. To correct any muscle imbalances that occur in the legs, focus on your hamstrings. A seated hamstring curl with a weight machine engages the hamstring muscles to improve speed for runners. Sit on the weight bench, keeping your ankles at the top of the bar. Choose a weight range that will allow you to do 15 reps without strain. Press down on the bar with your legs and raise your legs until your knees are almost straight. Repeat. Complete two sets of 15 reps.
Plyometrics are one of the best workouts to use when working to improve running speed. Plyometrics use both concentric and eccentric muscle contractions in order to build muscles. These muscle contractions mimic those used during running. The box jump is an example of a plyometrics workout. To do this exercise you’ll need a solid box or bench that will support your weight. Stand behind the box, squat down keeping your knees from going over your toes and jump up to the box or bench. Both feet should land on top of the box softly. Step down from the top of the box easily in order to not strain the lower back or knees. Repeat the exercise for 15 to 20 reps.
The core muscles comprise your abdominal muscles, oblique muscles and your lower-back muscles. A strong core will allow for better balance and body alignment, enabling your body to transfer force from the upper to lower body and vice-versa. Core exercises can use weights to achieve faster results. A good example of a core exercise that uses weight is the half up twist with a weighted medicine ball. Sit up, holding a 5- to 25-pound medicine ball on top of your knees. Lean back from the sitting position until your arms are straight, still holding the medicine ball. Pull the medicine ball to your chest, elbows out and twist from side to side. Both left and right side twists count as one rep. Complete two sets of 15 reps.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.