Squats, Deadlifts and other exercises are the most commonly performed strength moves to improve speed. But are they the most effective?
No doubt these exercises build speed, but there's another type of exercise that athletes need and often ignore—horizontal lower-body strength exercises.
Squats and Deadlifts are considered vertical exercises because the weights move up and down vertically. However, sprinting is primarily a horizontal movement—although there's some vertical movement.
Research shows that focusing on Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts and Olympic lifts will not be as effective to increase speed because they only involve motion in the vertical plane. Athletes who practice these exercises without focusing on horizontal strength lack to the ability to drive their legs back into the ground, which is critical for acceleration.
It's almost as if they are jumping to run down the track.
Horizontal movement is done when lying down, moving weight horizontally and producing force against gravity. Horizontal exercises include:
Glute Ham Raises
You'll notice in these exercises that the muscles primarily used are the hamstrings and glutes. These are the critical muscles that dictate how fast you will run.
Of course, it's important to practice sprints as well, and they can be done by starting up and down a staircase. Include 10 wide-armed Burpees with a Push-Up at the top of the steps to add a challenge.
To increase linear speed, you need to consider exercises done in a linear plane. You can be strong, but to be fast you have to minimize resistance and stop superfluous motion. To practice this, you must perform the exercises that challenge your effort against gravity while your body moves horizontally.
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