Sprints Strength Training
To sprint faster, strengthening your muscles is key so they can produce more force with every footstep.
The development of strength and, particularly, power are further key elements in the armoury of a sprinter. This is done with a combination of weight training and plyometric work.
The key to weight training for any sport is to be specific to the discipline that you want to specialise in. There is no point in just getting stronger - you need to ascertain which muscles are required for your sport and whether they need to be strong (shift large weights - regardless of the speed of motion) or powerful (whereby the movement must be fast as well).
Sprinting requires powerful muscle movements to propel your body along a track. However, a muscle's strength must be built before the more powerful work is done.
Good exercises for sprinters include:
- Squats (including Overhead Squats) and Squat Jumps
- Calf Raises
- Straight Leg Dead Lifts
At the start of a winter training regime, high numbers of reps should be done to build a base of strength through increases in muscle size (hypertrophy). This would typically be something like 4 sets of 10 reps on many exercises. As the winter progresses you should increase the weight and cut the reps, maybe looking for around 3 x 6 by February (this is for a single periodised year - when you'll compete in the summer only).
The finishing touches are put to your weights by alternating high speed, low weight reps for power (e.g. 3 x 6 on a very light weight) and very heavy weight with low reps (3 x 3 on 90% of maximal lift) for pure strength.
Plyometric work is used to increase power and speed of movement. This is normally in the form of body weight explosive jumping and bounding. There is much more information on this in the Strength and Mobility Drills section within our running section.
It is a good idea to do your plyometrics at the beginning of your session when you are less fatigued so you can really focus on doing each movement with maximum speed, effort and intent (otherwise it is pointless doing them). It is also important to take adequate rest between sets so that you maintain the quality of the exercises in each set. Build up the number of plyometric exercises that you do slowly over a number of weeks as they can be quite hard work and your body will take a while to get used to them.
Typically beginners are advised to start with around 80 contacts per session and then to slowly build on this week by week. However, everyone is different so some people may be able to progress more quickly than others. Furthermore, some drills are higher intensity and will take more effort than others, so it is hard to generalise exactly how many you should do per session. It is all about starting small and gradually building up from there.
Plyometrics can be performed throughout the year, but you should avoid doing too many in the run up to competitions as you want your legs to be as fresh as possible when you compete.