Whatever sport you play, having serious pace is a valuable asset. When I was in my 20s, I never really thought of speed as something you could build up. I thought you either had it or you didn’t. I was the fastest guy in my rugby team and never gave it a second thought. Now I am 40, my rugby playing days are numbered. But I have bought myself another season or two by modifying my training to give myself more explosive speed.
Many people think that if you want to build up speed, you need to work your legs. While your legs are important, smashing squats won’t make you any quicker. Olympic sprinters don’t just have muscular legs. They have thick arms, strong upper bodies and a strong core.
For this reason, it is essential you add these exercises to a balanced, well-rounded training program and diet with adequate rest periods to increase your running speed.
FIND OUT THE BEST TRICKS TO INCREASE YOUR RUNNING SPEED
The easiest way to quickly increase your pace is by increasing your power. More power means a more explosive start and quicker acceleration to your top speed. The power clean is my favourite exercise for increasing power quickly.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with an underhand grip on an Olympic bar in front of you. With your back flat and straight and your chest tall, pull the bar off the floor, above your knees. Once you clear your knees, in one movement, pull the bar into your hips and quickly extend your hips, catapulting the bar up to your shoulders.
If you are not able to dive straight into power cleans, build yourself up to it with explosive deadlifts. These are the same as regular deadlifts but complete the pull stage aggressively. Once you have nailed this technique, you can add the clean element, taking the bar up to your shoulders.
This is another great exercise to build power and improve acceleration. Load up the bar with a weight you feel comfortable with. I use a weight I could comfortably complete 20 or 25 squats with.
Lower into a squat, then when you reach the bottom, push through your heels and jump straight up with as much force as you can muster. Land the jump comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart, bending your knees to soften the impact. This is one rep.
The calf raise increases your ankle joint extension, which will enable you to harness more of the power in your push off. Stand on an elevated platform or step on the balls of your feet with your heels placed towards the edge. Gradually lower your heels off the platform towards the ground until you feel the stretch.
Don’t overstretch more than what is comfortable. Push through the balls of your feet and rise up onto your tiptoes in one movement. Hold it at the top for a couple of seconds before completing the next rep.
SINGLE LEG HURDLE JUMPS
For many sports, deceleration and the ability to change direction quickly is an essential component of overall speed. Single leg hurdle jumps build just that. Stand on one leg and perform a half squat, on the upward part of the motion jump over a hurdle or object, landing on the same leg you used to jump.
Adding these to your upper and lower body workouts will help you focus exclusively on your quest to increase your running speed. Like I said at the beginning, it is essential you don’t neglect your upper body work. If you lose upper body muscle you will sacrifice speed.