12 Strength Exercises Your SPRINTER Should Be Doing

by Matt June

Stiff Leg Deadlift

This exercise is very specific to sprinting as we are eccentrically loading the hamstrings/glutes and quickly driving up through hip extension.  Beginners to this exercise start lighter and progress this movement.  Use a tempo on the way down (3-4 seconds) and drive up fast by extending the hip to meet the bar at the top. 

Wide Stance Box Squat

Setting a box just below parallel (an inch or two), complete this exercise with a wider stance than you normally squat from.  Be sure to sit back to the box and have your knees slightly behind your toes.  By doing so we are now squatting properly and using our glutes and hamstrings to drive out of the bottom.  This exercise is tremendous for teaching how to squat properly but you are now working on two major muscle groups vital to sprint performance.  Use this exercise as a staple and keep your reps between 2-4, staying between 70-80% of your 1 RM.

90 degree Front Squat

We want to load this between 75-85% of 1 Rep Max and the focus is moving the weight fast out of the bottom position.  We’re calling this “90 degrees” only to imply that we are not getting to the very bottom of our squat.  Unlike the Wide Stance Box Squat, our focus here is the leg extensors (quadriceps) and the concentric action of the squat.  At the same time, we are using the stretch-shortening cycle to quickly reverse eccentric to concentric action (same as in a sprint).  Bar speed is more important than weight on the bar for this exercise.

Hip Thruster

We use this exercise specifically for hip extension and we can achieve both power and strength with this movement.  Specific to sprinting this is an exercise that will improve the acceleration phase of our sprint (where the majority of athletes will spend the most time in their sport)

DB Walking Lunge

Specific for sprinting, this exercise is great because of multiple things going on at once.  One we have a single leg exercise, we are moving in the horizontal direction, we have to decelerate on the way down, accelerate as we come up and drive forward to the next step.  By using dumbbells we now have a stability aspect, not allowing our torso to move side to side. 

Single Leg DB Calf Raise

One of the most forgot about exercises for sprinters / all athletes.  This industry dwells on the hamstring and quad for knee health yet we always forget whats underneath the knee…the calf.  This is just one example of a calf exercise you can easily do with little equipment.  Plain and simple you need to train the calf, every other day. 

Heavy KB Swings

Heavy, challenge yourself with weight for this exercise (when our form and technique is perfect and ready to use heavier loads).  Very similar to the Hip Thruster, except this exercise is now standing and we can work on horizontal power.  Again, we are working on decelerating load and accelerating load (Sprinting). 

Heavy 1 Arm KB Walks

A simple exercise that can easily be done incorrectly.  We are doing this for anti-rotation purposes.  In sprinting our torso must avoid rotation as we are trying to move in the horizontal direction.  With this exercise, we can work on just that and can be down as a superset with another big exercise from this list. 

Heavy Sled Towing

If you are going to take away any exercise from this list, take this exercise.  Start lighter and progress the weight, dragging for sets of about 50-80 yards.  When you are towing make sure you have a slight lean of the torso (acceleration/start phase) and you are making contact with the ground behind your hip.  This exercise is phenomenal for acceleration and really should be done with all athletes.

Weighted Sled Block Starts

This exercise is more specific to sprinters coming out of blocks but it can still be done with athletes struggling to stay horizontal in their first few steps of a sprint.  The load does not need to be too heavy, we need to be able to fire out of the blocks and drive the sled about 5-10 yards (no further).  This exercise is concerned with our initial first step and staying aggressive for our 2nd,3rd,4th,5th…etc.  Do this exercise as a warm-up or superset with a barbell exercise from the list. 

Plyoball Hamstring Curl

Plyoball or machine we need to be doing leg curls.  Focus on the eccentric portion (about 3-5 seconds to return to the starting position).  The reason we like the plyoball is because now you have a stability aspect and you have to control your whole body while completing the leg curl.  Superset this exercise with the squat or use right before the squat. 

Reverse Hyper

The all mighty exercise for everyone, not just athletes.  We get therapeutic and strength sides of the same exercise.  Therapeutic – we are getting spinal traction or decompression (relieving pressure of the spine), this is the eccentric component.  The Concentric component of this exercise works the entire posterior chain at the same time.  We have hamstring, glute and back extension all at once.  This is not only an exercise that can help you become faster, this exercise is just as important for injury prevention. 


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