Although sprinters and distance runners both
engage in the sport of running, in looking at these two types of athletes it is
not likely you will find any obvious similarities. Distance runners are
typically leaner than sprinters. While distance runners may utilize weight
lifting for the purposes of strengthening their muscles in terms of endurance,
sprinters turn to weight lifting in an effort to build the muscles in terms of
strength and speed. Therefore, sprinters typically have physiques which are much
more muscular than distance runners. This gives them the ability to gain
explosive power from their muscles which makes them capable of achieving faster
top end speeds. This article will examine some of the strength training
exercises which are best for sprinters who are trying to achieve greater speed.
Plyometric exercises are some of the most commonly used exercises by sprinters.
These exercises focus on explosive movements which help to develop the fast
twitch muscle fibers which are necessary for improving speed. The typical
formula for a plyometric exercise is it should combine an eccentric muscle
contraction with a concentric muscle contraction. Simply stated this means the
muscle should first contract as it lengthens and then contract as it shortens.
The lengthening contraction is the eccentric contraction and the shortening
contraction is the concentric contraction. Through this sequence of muscular
contractions the muscles are stimulated in a new way which encourages
improvement of the fast twitch muscle fibers.
Before doing any plyometric exercises, the sprinter should be sure to warm up
properly first. This is important because these types of exercises are extremely
difficult on the muscles and not warming up properly may result in muscle pulls
and tears. Two examples of plyometric exercises which are beneficial for runners
include plyometric squat jumps and plyometric box jumps. To perform a plyometric
squat jump the sprinter should first lower into a squat position where the
thighs are parallel to the floor and the knees are not extending past the toes.
As soon as this position is reached the sprinter should jump upward as high as
possible to complete the exercise. Plyometric box jumps are usually performed
with the aid of boxes designed specifically for this purpose. These boxes
usually come in a variety of sizes and sprinters are advised to start out the
training session with a lower box and then progress to higher boxes. This simple
exercise is performed by standing facing the box and then jumping up onto the
box. The jump onto the box should be explosive in nature but the sprinter should
return to the ground with a soft hop and should land with the knees slightly
bend to avoid injury.
A sprinterís legs are usually much more muscular than the legs of any other
types of runners. This is because the sprinter gains a great deal of power from
the legs and building up these muscles helps to give him the explosiveness he
needs to propel himself over the course as quickly as possible. Weight lifting
exercises which are active but also focus on the lower body are very important
for sprinters. This includes exercises such as weighted lunges and weighted
squats. When performing these exercises sprinters should be focusing on using
heavier weights and performing fewer repetitions. This will help to encourage
muscle growth which is necessary for improved speed.
Upper body exercises are also important for sprinters although most sprinters do
not invest as much time into training their upper bodies as they do their lower
bodies. The muscles of the upper body need to be strong to enable the runner to
use his arms to derive additional power during the sprint. Additionally, the
upper body needs to be relatively in proportion to the lower body because it
would be difficult for a sprinter with a weak upper body to generate the type of
power he needs to assist his lower body without if the upper body was
In addition to doing more intense weight lifting workouts, sprinters must also
modify their diets somewhat to truly realize the benefits of weight lifting.
This is important because without proper nutrition the body will not generate
the type of muscle growth the athlete requires. In general increased protein
intake may be necessary to give the muscles the nutrients they need to grow and
improve. A healthy diet of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat is ideal
for most runners but sprinters who are in the process of doing heavy weight
lifting may want to consider increasing their protein intake to stimulate muscle
growth. Increasing the amount of protein consumed throughout the day is helpful
but the sprinter may also want to focus on consuming additional protein within
the first half hour after a particularly intense weight training session. This
can be accomplished by consuming a sports drink which is rich in protein or
consuming a small meal which is rich in protein and will help to replenish the
muscles so they can grow properly.
The video clip above is from my DVD about running stetches and other running related information. Click on the DVD case below to find out more.