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Weight Training for Speed

There are a surprising number of athletes who are afraid to combine a weight training program with their speed training program. This may, in part, be due to the naggingly persistent idea that one visits the gym in order to bulk up one’s muscles and the resulting extra large musculature would make it more difficult to perform. This is partly true – extra, unnecessary bulk would, in fact, make it more difficult to perform. The element that is not true, however, is that weight training always must result in hypertrophy (adding a great deal of muscle mass.)

In fact, strength training is an essential element of speed training. Properly done, weight training for speed will add power to your run and help to decrease running time. In addition, training the abdominal muscles, or core, will stabilize your torso and enhance your movements by providing a strong center through which your limbs will transfer force as they move.

When weight training for speed, you should be weight training for neural adaptation and power. Exercises like squats, dead lifts and Olympic lifts like the snatch and the clean and jerk are effective for improving the ability to produce high accelerations against heavy resistance. Since these exercises involve lifting especially heavy weight, caution against improper form or working past effective exertion is very important. As weight increases, so does the potential for injury.

Repetitions when weight training for speed should be between one and five with exertion levels never dropping below 80%. Indeed, exertion levels can even go as high as 100% as long as proper form is maintained. Maximal exertion of this sort with these type of exercises are precisely what is needed to build power for a run.

Exercises for the core cannot simply focus on the lower back muscles (the erector spinae) or the “six pack” stomach muscles (the rectus abdominis muscle). The most important muscles of the core are located much deeper in the abdomen. When on your back, you can locate the transversus abdominis, or TVA, by placing your fingers on your hip bones, sliding them closer to each other by about and inch and simply coughing. You’ll feel a muscle pulse under your fingers and this is the TVA. Practice engaging this muscle first by inhaling and then trying to tighten it as you exhale. Be sure to keep your shoulders and neck relaxed and your back in a neutral spine (very slightly arched so that your abdominals are parallel with the floor) position. Your abdominals must also stay flat at all times. Since your rectus abdominis muscle is undoubtedly stronger, it will attempt to “take over” for the TVA and you’ll notice it raised along the length of your stomach like a loaf of bread. You must engage your TVA and keep your abdominals flat for a real benefit.

Core abdominal exercises include straight double leg lowering on your back, scissors legs and even sit ups and decline sit-ups as long as your abdominals remain flat at all times and your movements are smooth and never jerky.



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