The Best Dumbbell Exercises for Getting Faster

Build a foundation of strength to increase your speed with dumbbell exercises from STACK Expert Robert Taylor.

Dumbbell Squat

When trying to get faster, most athletes focus solely on increasing power. There's no doubt that this is imperative; however, you cannot ignore the importance of strength.

Power is the amount of strength you can apply over a period of time. Developing a base of strength will increase the amount of force you can produce, which can then be converted into power through on-field drills and plyometric exercises. You will be able to impact the ground with more force on each stride, propelling you forward at a faster rate. (Learn more about the importance of strength and power for speed.)

This is particularly important for young athletes who have little training experience. Strength serves as a foundation on which the fundamentals of speed, such as technique and the ability to maintain form, can be built. Also, stronger muscles are better prepared to handle the extreme stresses of sprinting, reducing the risk of injury over time.

The Dumbbell Speed Workout

The following dumbbell speed workout will build your foundation of strength for speed by targeting the major muscles used when sprinting, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Specifically, it works these muscles through their full range of motion so you can apply strength during each phase of the stride.

These exercises can be performed with only your body weight or, for more advanced athletes, with heavy dumbbells. If you hit a point of failure, simply place the dumbbells on the ground and complete the set with only your body weight. You'll still receive the full benefit of the exercise.

How to Do It

Perform this circuit two to three times with minimal rest between exercises.

Lunge Pauses

These increase overall strength in your upper legs and hips so you can put more force into the ground and drive your body forward at a faster rate.

  • Assume athletic position with toes touching wall and hold lightweight dumbbells at sides
  • Step back with left foot and lower into lunge; touch wall with right knee
  • Hold position for 30 seconds
  • Drive up out of lunge without moving back foot; maintain knee contact with wall
  • Perform as many stationary Lunges as possible

Sets/Reps: 1xMax each leg

Increase weight if you can exceed 10 reps.

Power Zone Squats

This Squat variation builds strength through the entire range of motion so you can accelerate quickly from any starting position.

  • Assume athletic stance holding dumbbells at sides
  • Bend hips and knees to lower into Squat until thighs are parallel to ground; keep chest up and back flat
  • Extend hips and knees to drive up out of Squat and return to start position
  • Using the same form, perform a three-quarter, half and quarter Squat

Sets/Reps: 1x10 each variation

5-5-5 Calf Raises

Builds calf strength to help transfer energy from your powerful quads, hamstring and glutes into the ground.

  • Assume athletic stance holding dumbbells at sides
  • Extend ankles to raise heels off ground for specified duration
  • Hold extended position for specified duration
  • Lower heels to ground for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 1x5 seconds each leg

Bonus: Check out the Swinging Hammer Curls Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay uses to get faster.

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