If I asked you to develop a strength training workout to improve your speed, how would you answer it? Would your response be something like this:
“I do my chest on Mondays, back on Tuesdays, bis and tris on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday, and legs on Friday.”
This looks like a typical bodybuilder type routine. Why would you use a bodybuilder routine to help you run faster? Are those big muscle bound individuals a lot faster than they look?
Your biggest muscles in your body are your legs. You use them to run, correct? So why don’t you split those muscle groups up in your workout program, train them on different days, rather than dissecting your upper body? The answer is that people generally hate to do their legs, but athletes have to be different. Especially athletes that need to improve their speed and get to running fast now. Consequently, athletes really need to be specific on how they develop their leg strength. Hamstrings are vital to speed development and need to be targeted appropriately.
Here is a video showing the glute ham exercise. Probably one of the best exercises to improve your speed and get you to run faster. After watching, continue on with the blog and read how I realized hamstring develop was vital to improving your speed.
I learned this the hard way. I played intramural softball in my 20’s and all winter I was hitting my legs hard. As a change in my program and trying to condense my workouts, I took out all specific hamstring exercises and focused my leg program on the major hitters – squats, lunges, step-ups, maybe a leg press. My thought was that my hamstrings were getting enough work with those exercises and I didn’t want to waste time doing curls or something like that.
I was wrong!
My first softball game that season I was trying to beat out a grounder running from home to first and I tweaked my hamstring. I didn’t pull it, but it was uncomfortable. The rest of the season that injury was there and I immediately went back to putting hamstring exercises back in my program to start strengthening them. That and stretching.
The lesson learned was that you don’t hit the hamstrings effectively enough doing the aforementioned exercises. You develop the quads a lot more and when you try to generate those high speeds that the quads are pumping out, the hamstrings just don’t have the strength to keep up and eventually something gives. I was lucky and just tweaked my hamstring, but you remember from last newsletter how I got my first varsity letter. It was by someone pulling the hamstring.
With all the knowledge out there, I don’t know why more athletes don’t work those hamstrings more. Not only does it make you run faster, but you will prevent injury to those hamstrings and stay on the playing field more to utilize that speed. You need to build up that hamstring strength so it can keep up with your quads and they don’t get tired. Simple hamstring curls help, but also Romanian deadlifts, glute ham exercises, and manual hamstring curls are also beneficial. Essentially, you need to keep your fast twitch muscle fibers fast. Understand fast twitch fibers a little better, click here to read about the fast twitch fibers and how they are often ignored in training.
So the lesson is simple. If you do your legs, you want to run faster and gain serious speed improvement, start adding hamstring exercises to your squats and lunges. You will not be sorry and the speed you will gain will be very noticeable. Oh, by the way, I did beat out the ground ball to first base.