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Is Upper Body Strength Important in Sprinting?

I get many questions about strength training for sprinting and it’s usually from athletes, coaches and concerned parents. Recently one such athlete asked “ I am curious as to whether gaining upper body strength would be beneficial to running faster?

In two words "Absolutely Yes!"

Everyone is potentially able to improve their upper body strength but your strength gains in your upper body are not necessarily going to be 100 percent transferable in improving your speed development.

 

Here is the complete question from the athlete from the website.

Athlete Question:

I am curious as to whether gaining upper body strength would be beneficial to running faster?
I currently have good strength at 70kg 180kg below parallel squat & 180kg RDL. I can bench only 100kg as I don't do the exercise or really train my upper body much. Should I train my upper body a little bit more?

Coach Ange’s Answer:

Gaining upper body strength is essential to improving your fitness, your overall strength and therefor it will directly and indirectly be beneficial to running faster.

Getting stronger in your upper body you will not guarantee improved speed. Begin to integrate bench, arm pulls, seated row, incline and decline bench. Adding pushups with in your warm up in small numbers as well as adding pushups into tempo days is another way to raise your upper body strength.

Incorporating strength training for sprinting has been an area of specialty for Coach Charlie Francis. I strongly recommend reading Speed Trap to fully understand his training methods. I also recommend purchasing the Weights for Speed Bundle. Reading this material will give you a comprehensive look at how to plan effective training for speed development. . You need to prioritize speed work, add lifts only if you are able to maintain high quality work. When it comes to sprint workouts everything possible needs to be done to put yourself in the best possible situation to run well every time you perform a sprint. Quality sprinting consistently needs to be your end goal to improve your sprinting.

 

Here are a few ideas you might think of when you begin the discussion on how to add a variety of upper body training and how that will help you towards sprinting faster.

1. Making sprinting a priority in your training, combined with lifting weights, will supplement the high intensity demands of sprinting. Weights for Speed Bundle 

2. Using a medicine ball in your warm up and within your training does not only add an element of strength training to your daily routine but it is also adding an exercise that helps with mobility, core strength and coordination. Use a very light medicine ball and don’t’ be hasty moving to the next weight of medicine ball. 

3. Adding upper body mobility exercises to your daily warm up like arm swings front and back help loosen the area around your shoulders and neck. 

4. Practicing Power Speed Drills within your warm up and making sure you are using your arms for each drill is an important addition into your training. How you use your arms in your drills will transfer into your running.  South Africa Practical Sessions Bundle 

5. Stand in front of a mirror and watch your arm actions while using your arms as though you are running. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down while consistently maintaining a 45-degree angle at the elbow. Hands should be relaxed and practice holding hand in a fist with the thumbs up (don’t clench your fist tightly, tightness has a tendency to migrate into other areas which is not desirable for sprinting) 

6. Weights to add into your weight lifting routine: Bench, Arm Pulls and or seated rows, upright row, incline and decline bench, pull downs and push ups. Cleans are an advanced lift which require technical advice to make the most of this exercise. 

7. Practicing explosive medicine ball throws and drills allows you to both gain strength and utilize and or convert the strength you have into power for running. Examples of these throws are in GPP as well as South Africa Practical Series download.

8. Running Tempo in your off days facilitates loose muscles, muscles that are more mobile and muscles that have greater circulation which makes them easier to get stronger and also easier for you to utilize strength you currently have. A great example of a tempo workout which combines upper body strength training is the:

 

PUSH UP / SIT UP WORKOUT

Everyone learns to dread this workout but you will love the results.

 

TRY THIS PROGRESSION FIRST.
If you have been routinely doing tempo such as 2(10 x 100meters) with less than 5 minutes rest between sets you will likely have little trouble doing this workout yet there is a specificity to all training so give yourself a few weeks of doing this workout 1 or 2 per week before you will start to feel great doing it. 

I strongly suggest beginning this workout with a shorter distance such as 80 meters and using less than 10 pushups to begin (for woman) and less than 20 situps (for men). Initially men will have little trouble with the pushups and the woman will have little trouble with the situps. Obviously exceptions apply. A reasonable starting number is 4 to 6 pushups building to 10 over 2 week period. 10 to 12 sit ups building to 20 in a 2 week period. If this progression is too steep a more radical reduction is suggested. NON TRACK athletes may need more progressive progressions. 

It's recommended that you modify warm up for tempo.  If you are stiff from speed work take more time. Cooler weather like the spring and or fall may require more time.  Use contrast baths before and or after tempo to jump start a warm up leading into tempo or speed workouts.

 

PUSH UP AND SIT UP WORKOUT

Full workout is 2 sets of 10 x 100 meters ( *tempo pace / low intensity as defined by 75 percent intensity or lower)

    Method =
  • Run 100 meters and do 10 pushups
  • Run back 100 meter do 20 varied sit ups ( press here to see varied sit up circuit in GPP)
  • Repeat to 10 sets
  • Rest is less than 5 minutes for elite athlete / if it takes you more than 5 minutes begin the progression of this workout with 1 x 6 x 100 meter of push up / sit up workout. Repeat 2 to 3 x per week for 2 or 2.5 weeks before trying 10 x 100 meters.

 

Good luck.

Send me questions if you have any.

Best,

ange

 

 

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Best,

Angela Coon

 

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What are the Best Hamstring Exercises for Sprinting?

The best hamstring exercises for sprinting comes from sprinting itself.   Speed drills ( or Power Speed Drills)   are also effective  hamstring exercises  for sprinters and runners.   The hamstring exercises noted  below are supplementary to your speed training. 

Outside of sprinting fast , I wanted to share some insights on Christian Thibaudeau’s T Mag article recommending his “ 7 best hamstring exercises”  and how they fit into my training experience as a sprint hurdler. 


1.Back Extensions
One leg back extensions are a no brain – er in my opinion.  Coach Charlie Francis  still preferred both leg work to prevent injury. I do singles and doubles and also add in arm pulls with varied weights. I find single leg anything requires more attention and higher risk of injury almost all the time outside of those days when you are feeling AMAZING. Learn your own body and what works best for you. Careful training is smart training as prevention of injuries is time saving. Injuries suck and are draining in multiple ways. Coaching athletes to be cautious is tough. Learning it as an athlete takes time and most much learn the hard way. Sometimes you might not get second chances depending on injury severity.  Don’t confuse caution with less effective training or cautious means you are weak or afraid.  I rarely missed a full training day ever. Training might be modified but I always view training as an opportunity to see how much I could "get" each time I stepped into a workout.  Elite athletes tend to understand caution better than less experienced athletes .  Single leg stuff is higher risk for cramping. I guess cramping does not matter so much if you don't mind missing training. I was taught to  " Live to fight another day" and if you don't have to do something with risk don't. Find an alternative exercise or skip the exercise entirely.  I have a back extension machine and it's one of the most essential exercises for anyone and especially important for sprinters because of how it develops your entire back end. 

2. Natural Glute hamstring raise
I know I already made the point of ultra careful but if you are trying new hamstring exercises be fully warmed up and progress slowly.   The disconnect in literature regarding training IMO can be not knowing the common training mistakes and what the exercise looks like within a performance program vs a fitness program.  Keep the  emphasis on slow with this exercise. Start with a repeatable angle  and work towards going lower over time. You can get plenty done without going to the floor.

3. We called this exercise Hamstring Ups
( CT calls this Scissor hip Extension)  We did this exercise first with double legs and then progressed to single legs.  I would not start doing this exercise with speed. Make sure you can successfully do this exercise for 3 sets of 15 over a few to several week period , feel great at doing it and then add the variable of speed.  As a trainer or coach make sure your athlete or client is fully warm. Cramping is very common with this single version. 

4. Leg curl
We did a lot of leg curls or hamstring curls as we called it. My first weight lifting had leg curls in each 6 week block of 1. Anatomical Adaptation Phase, 2. Max Strength Phase One, 3. Max Strength  Phase Two.  After this background we did a lot of supplementary leg curls depending on need and time of year. 

5. I am not familiar with this exercise
but it sounds interesting and I love how easy that would be do replicate anywhere.

6. Band Stomping
We did several versions of band resistance exercises but not like this. This exercise looks like the leg swings we did ( daily)  only with  added resistance. It looks like a great exercise. 

7. Stiff Leg Good Morning
I never did much of this exercise but I know CF liked it. I was much better at  squats, cleans and RDL in that order so consequently I spent more time performing these lifts. You need to choose exercises where you get the biggest bang for your buck in your training. 
My first organized weight lifting was 6 weeks beginning in August and ending in late September. This training coincided with the end of my competitive  season and the very beginning of my fall training in Canada. 

  1. Half Squats were the first exercise
  2. Vertical / Upright Row 
  3. Leg Curls
  4. Incline Bench
  5. Reverse Leg Press
  6. 6. Dead Lifts.

( These lifts were ordered in priority and sometimes I might not have been able to finish all my lifts. I loved the feeling the results of lifting weights, getting stronger and running fast. I hope my comments shed some light on how we used the hamstring exercises discussed above. 

Cheers,
Ange


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