3 Powerful Lower-Body Lifts for Strength and Speed

Increase your strength and explosiveness to get faster with these three exercises.

Everyone who plays sports wants to sprint faster. This is obviously easier said than done, but there are ways you can build speed fast. It comes from the weight room. Strengthening your legs is a key component in getting faster.

Along with speed training, there are certain things you should be doing to ensure you can develop the fastest sprint you are capable of. Add these exercises to your program and you will see yourself getting a little quicker off the line, getting a step ahead of your competition and moving faster than you ever have before.

1. Squats

Squats are the perfect lower-body exercise because they directly target the muscles you use when you sprint. Back Squats strengthen your glutes, quads and hips, which give you explosiveness out of your start. With strong legs comes a powerful drive phase. They also help you prevent injury when done properly, so it is important to emphasize form in the early stages.

RELATED: Front Squat 101: How to Master The Move in 5 Minutes

Athletes who begin squatting should focus on hypertrophy rep ranges before jumping into a strength phase and going for maximum percentages. Aim to do 10 reps at about 70% of your 1 rep max. Once you are doing that properly, and it begins to feel easy, you can begin strength rep ranges (3-5 reps). As your leg strength increases, you should notice your stride length increasing. This is not a bad thing as long as you have a proper balance of your stride length and frequency. Too much of either can result in overstriding or choppy steps. Find that balance and you'll get the most out of your stronger legs.

2. Glute Ham Raise

The two most important muscles for sprinting are the glutes and the hamstrings. During a Glute Ham Raise, you lower your body eccentrically while your feet are supported and fire back up using your hamstrings and glutes to explosively contract and pull your body back up to its original position.

This exercise has direct carryover to running since you stretch your hamstrings and follow  that movement with an explosive motion while engaging your glutes. This exercise should be done with some weight to add resistance greater than gravity. Do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps about twice a week. This will give you the best results and earn you some speed you didn't know you had.

RELATED: 7 Steps to Mastering the Glute Ham Raise Exercise

3. Barbell Step-Ups

Barbell Step-Ups can be quite challenging. They target the quads and glutes but carry over to pushing off the ground and driving out in a run. They are absolutely crucial for building speed. Place a 12- to 18-inch box inside the squat rack and make sure the safety racks are set to a higher height, since you won't lower the weight, you will raise it.

Lift the barbell onto your back and put one foot on the box. Lift your other leg off the ground and straighten the leg on the box before bringing your trailing leg on. Slowly lower your trailing leg back to its original position. Switch legs and continue. An important component of this exercise is to control the weight on the way down. It's easy to injure your knees or back if you do this improperly. Do 5 reps on each leg. Over time, increase the weight and make it more of a challenge.

RELATED: 4 Step-Up Exercise Variations That Build Explosive Strength