When you sprint, your glute muscles work to extend your hips. If your glutes aren't in top shape, you won't put enough force behind your stride to increase your speed.
Here are two key glute exercises to increase your force and running speed. Make them part of your strength program to improve your sprint time.
45-Degree Back Extension
This is one of the most underrated exercises for speed development. When performed correctly, it works more than just your lower back; it also increases your glute strength by pulling your upper body from the top of the glute muscles. It's one of the speed-developing exercises we use in the weight room at Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, N.J. Our athletes say they can feel their glutes getting stronger as they progressively overload with this exercise.
The key is to engage both your body and your mind to control the movement, so you can use the correct muscles to run faster. It's great for developing strength at the top of the posterior chain (lower back and glutes).
Start with the 45-Degree Back Extension rather than the full hyperextension machine. That way, you will train your body to bend from the waist and not the back. Many people do this exercise incorrectly. They tend to round their backs on the eccentric phase, use the wrong muscles and wind up with back discomfort.
- Start by descending until your upper body is just below parallel to the floor (or until you are in the shape of a number 7).
- Come back to the starting position with your body in a straight line without using momentum. If you've done it correctly, you will feel most of the work in your lower back muscles (erector spinae), but also in your glutes.
- By slowly lowering your upper body (eccentric contraction) you stretch the muscles of your lower back and control your movement. By exploding up to your starting point (under control) you contract those muscles.
- Squeeze your glutes as tight as you can so your lower back is not the only part of your posterior chain putting in the work.
Start with three sets of 10 reps with a three-second pause at the top and without extra weight. The weight of your upper body places enough stress on your lower back. Once you've mastered this, perform three sets of five reps with a three-second pause at the top and a light weight.
Progressively overload this exercise as you would with a Squat, Deadlift or Bench Press. If it seems—and sometimes feels—like an easy movement, the muscles in your lower back are not as big or strong as other muscles in your body.
This uncommon weight room exercise mimics the body's motion in top flight. You pull up your lower limbs from the bottom of your glute muscles.
If you have a Reverse Hyperextension machine at your facility, now is the time to use it. If you don't, you can perform this exercise with a physioball. This variation requires balance.
- Begin in a prone (face-down) position on the physioball with your palms on the floor and your legs locked out and together, almost like you are about to perform a Superman exercise.
- Keeping your upper body as still as possible, raise your legs in the air without bending your knees or turning your feet to the side.
- At the top of the movement, hold for three seconds and squeeze your glutes.
- Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position without bending your knees or turning your feet to the side.
It will be hard to progressively increase the resistance of the exercise on a physioball unless you have a partner who can offer manual resistance. Otherwise, the Reverse Hyperextension machine is the greatest way to improve the firing rate of your glute muscles.
Start with three sets of 10 reps with a three-second hold at the top, with no added weight. Your legs should be enough weight to start with, especially if you have never performed this exercise before. Make sure your feet do not turn to the side and your knees are always extended. You want to fully engage your glutes and mimic the motion of pulling your legs back, as in the top flight phase of sprinting. Once you master the movement, decrease the reps and increase the weight either with manual resistance—if you are using a physioball—or by adding weight to the machine.