Most training programs don’t include many horizontally directed exercises.
Think about it. Squats, Deadlifts, Cleans, Split Squats—these all see the athlete move up and down as opposed to forward and back. But when you think about sprinting, the idea is more to run forward—not up. So shouldn’t training to get faster entail more horizontally directed exercises?
According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, yes.
The excellent French sport scientist Yann Le Meur summarized the findings in this handy infographic (if you don’t follow Yann on social media, you’re really missing out):
While the vertical Jump Squat and Loaded Jump Squat exercises seemed to be related to top-speed phases, making their effect most evident in sprints longer than 40 meters, the Hip Thrust was more strongly associated with the acceleration phase, which takes place from 0-10 meters. A 2017 study comparing the effects of a six-week Hip Thrust program to a six-week Front Squat program also found the Hip Thrust to be a superior driver of 10-meter sprint speed, as well as 20-meter sprint speed. There’s an argument to be made that elite acceleration is more valuable than elite top speed in many sports simply because the opportunities to utilize acceleration are more frequent.
Running track is probably the best way for a young athlete to get faster, but when it comes to the weight room, athletes should look to mix some horizontally directed exercises into their usually vertically dominant routines. But why are so many training programs lacking in horizontally directed exercises to begin with? Gravity is one of the most obvious culprits.
When standing in a bilateral position, the options to perform a horizontally directed exercise with implements such as a barbell or dumbbell are relatively few and far between. But a little bit of creativity can easily address this issue. An exercise like the Barbell Hip Thrust has the athlete lie in a supine position to perform a horizontally directed exercise that would be otherwise impossible from a standing position. This type of positioning allows for heavy loading and smooth, safe movement.
The Barbell Hip Thrust is one of the most effective and accessible horizontally directed exercises out there, so it should probably be a lot more ubiquitous than it is. But like any exercise, it must be performed correctly to reap its full benefits. See our definitive guide on the Hip Thrust to take your first step toward mastery of this powerful movement.
It’s also important to remember that no one exercise will accomplish everything you need to improve athletic performance. A great training program includes a variety of exercises which train the body to apply and resist force in a variety of planes.
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