Yes, strength-training helps runners add muscle. But to translate that gain into speed, you have to choose the right moves.
"Runners should concentrate on building power—how fast you can use the force you've built up," says Jay Dicharry, director of the Speed Clinic at the University of Virginia. "Explosive movements help you activate your muscle power quickly during push-off."
Do these exercises twice a week, preferably two days before or after a speedwork session. (Try the workout with this 7-Minute Total-Body Warmup for ultimate results.)
More: Strength Train to Improve Running Economy
Enables leg and core muscles to "turn on" faster during a run.
To Do: Face a sturdy knee-high box, an aerobic step, or a weight bench. With feet slightly apart, jump onto the box, taking care to land as softly as you can. Step back down. Do three sets of eight reps.
Strengthens hips for better balance and stability during push-off.
To Do: Place the top of one foot onto a bench about three feet behind you. Lunge and rotate your torso 45 degrees to the right, back to center, and then to the left. Do two sets of eight reps. (To strengthen the muscles in your lower body, try these 4 Moves That Help You Run Farther.)
More: Forward Lunge With Dumbbells
Develops propulsive force in the glutes and hip extensors, which will help your push-off as you increase your pace.
To Do: Place heavy weights on the floor in front of you. Hinging at the hips, with back straight, bend over and grab the weights. Keeping your core and glutes tight, straighten up. Slowly lower the weights to the floor. Do two sets of eight reps. (Be sure to follow the 10 Laws of Injury Prevention)
More: 4 Essential Strength Moves for Runners
Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch
Improves range of motion in the hips.
To Do: Step into a lunge and lower your back knee to the ground. Keep your upper body straight while you tilt your pelvis to feel a stretch. Hold for one minute. Do three times on each leg. (Improve your stride and prevent injuries with these Hip Strengthening Moves.)
More: 6 Power-Training Exercises for Runners
Sign up for your next race.