Train Fast to Be Fast: Explosive Weight Training for Runners

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If you want to be fast, you have to train fast. Makes sense, right? Explosive weight training leading to a more explosive athlete is fairly intuitive. But for whatever reason, this fundamental strength and conditioning principle that gets applied to every other athlete doesn’t get applied to runners.

What do runners do when they go in the weight room? Come on, you know because you’ve probably done this yourself. They lift light weights for a lot of reps at a moderate to slow speed. Sound familiar? This is the same muscular fitness capacity that you train when you’re running, which we call muscular endurance. Although muscular endurance is certainly important to runners, it’s NOT what should be trained in the weight room.

When improving any athlete’s performance, a good strength coach looks for the weak links in the proverbial athletic chain, and for almost every runner that’s muscular fitness. Runners normally have great endurance, but they lack strength and they lack power.

I know what you’re thinking—“running doesn’t require strength or power”. But that’s where you’re wrong. Lack of strength to overcome the inertia of body weight and lack of power to explosively push off the ground are often the biggest limiting factors to a runner reaching maximal speed capacity. Simply put, the more force your foot can produce in the split second it makes contact with the ground, the faster you will be. This high rate of force development is called power (literally, in physics, force multiplied by velocity). Power is trained in the weight room while the mileage on the road gives you the ability to harness your power by providing fuel to the contracting muscles.

5 Basic Power Training Principles for Runners

1). Lose Body Weight First: This one is as straightforward as it gets. If there is too much of you, it’s very difficult to move your body quickly. Reduce your body mass and you’ll become more powerful.

2). Build a Strength Base: Before you can start training explosively you need to have a decent base of muscular strength. This means spending some base-building time in the weight room learning technique, improving training tolerance, and developing enough strength to perform more explosive movements (remember one component of the power equation is strength). Men should be able to barbell squat their body weight for 10 reps, and women should be able to do the same with 75% of their body weight before any power-based training is attempted.

3). Use Body Weight-based Power Exercise: As a runner, the best tool you have for power training is your own body weight! Jump squats, long jumps, and plyometric skips are all great ways to become more explosive without fancy gym equipment.

4). Do Short, Intense Sets: When training for power, nearly all research suggests sets of fewer than 8 reps should be performed. When you’re doing some of the exercises recommended below, make sure they are done at the highest possible quality to ensure maximal power development.

5). Take a Longer Rest Period: Power development is dependent on building strong connections between your mind and muscles. In order for these connections to be developed properly, rest of 2-4min should be taken in between sets to ensure adequate recovery going into the next set.

Below is a basic power and explosive development workout that any runner who has built adequate strength base can use:

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Interval

Jump Squats

3

8

2min

Long Jumps

3

8

2min

Skips for Height

2

5/leg

2min

Lateral Skips

2

5/leg

2min

Try this workout two days per week, with at least 72hrs in between workouts to become a more explosive, faster runner. You’ll be glad you did!

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