By: Christopher Flores
Whether you’re a distance runner, mid-distance runner, or a sprinter, there’s one thing everyone needs in order to be competitive on the track: the ability to be explosive. For sprinters, it’s obvious that you need to explode out of the blocks quickly in order to be in the race, but for mid-distance and distance events, it’s not that obvious for many runners, and definitely not obvious to many spectators. However, being able to explode at any moment during a race is crucial, not only for sprinters, but for mid-distance and distance runners as well.
Think of the 800-meter race; it’s basically an all out sprint for about two minutes. If you don’t have the strength to hold on and explode for that last 200 meters, your competition – who have that strength – will blow by you on the final turn. Now think of a 5k. When you see any competitive 5k on the track, the race doesn’t really start until the last 1200 meters. That’s when you runners picking up the pace and separating themselves from the field. Then there’s the final 400 meters of that race, a time for the winner to showcase his/her amazing kick and explode to the finish.
If you want to finish your races strong and ensure that nobody blows right by you near the finish line, you need to build up your strength and be able to tell your body that it’s time to explode and go all out, even if you’ve already ran 4600 meters in the race. If you want to make sure you have this ability, you must build up your strength and specifically build those fast-twitch muscles.
Below you will find two simple moves that should be included in your training program to help any track athlete, whether you run the 100-meter dash or the 5k, become stronger and more explosive.
Exercise 1: Jumping Toe Squats (with dumbbells)
Start by standing straight up with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your side holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees to about a 90-degree angle while lifting your heels off the ground and staying on your toes. Keeping your hands at your side, jump up as high as you can up in the air. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position (still on your toes) and immediately explode back up in the air.
Routine: 1 minute repetition (10 seconds on, 10 seconds rest)
20-30 seconds rest
Repeat 3-5 times
Do this exercise once or twice a week. Remember to gradually increase the weight and number of sets. You can also increase the time of the repetition as well. A good idea would be to increase the number of sets or time of repetition one week, and then increase the weight the next week.
Exercise 2: Hammer Curl Lunges
Start by standing straight up with a dumbbell in each hand (your right arm at your side and your left arm up as if you were running). Bring your left leg forward and go into a deep lunge. At the same time, bring your left arm back down to your side and your right arm up. Hold that position for 1 second and then bring your left leg back to the starting position, your right arm down to your side, and bring your left arm back up. The motion should look as if you were running. Repeat all the repetitions on one side before switching legs.
In order for this exercise to be productive, you must move fluidly and quickly, as if you were running on a track. However, make sure you don’t move too quickly where you are compromising your form. This workout will help your running form, allowing you to be more efficient, and easily be able to pick up speed.
Routine: Do 3-5 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg
Repeat this exercise once a week, gradually increasing the weight. Once you do this exercise with 25-30 pound dumbbells, start to increase the number of sets.