We know a lot about sports-specific training. We know that the body works as one unit, and training only the muscle groups you believe are useful for your sport will eventually lead to a lack of progress and potential injury.
The same is true for the sprinter.
Strength exercises for the sprinter focus on whole-body power generation.
Keep in mind that this sort of training can, and often does, interfere with sprinting workouts. Let’s go over some of the most common exercises for the sprinter:
The Romanian Deadlift is the precursor to power movements such as the hang clean. There is a healthy debate as to whether or not the deadlift helps or hurts sprinting.
The deadlift is traditionally used for mass gains and strength. To convert the movement into one that helps build explosiveness, you have to lift sub-maximal weights.
Don’t go too heavy, and lift fast.
It should be used as a way to train for the movement pattern of picking things up off the floor. Once you’re able to build some base strength (be able to lift twice your bodyweight), then you don’t need to perform the movement as often, nor do you have to continually add weight to the bar.
Essop Merrick has the best argument for not including the deadlift in your plan:
The choice is yours, but I think you should give it a shot.
There are a number of benefits of the front squat that translate well for the sprinter:
#1 – The front squat improves your overall mobility and improves posture. You need a strong thoracic spine (upper back) to keep your chest up along with shoulder, hip, wrist, and ankle mobility to complete the movement. While back squat may limit mobility, the front squat won’t.
#2 – You do not need to lift heavy to get the benefit of the front squat. Most people will be able to lift more weight on their back then on their front. But, just as with the deadlift, we’re not trying to get strong for the sake of getting strong, but instead to build power.
#3 – The front squat places greater emphasis on the quads then the back squat.
#4 – Both variations of the squat help boost your jump power and strength speed, but if you want to increase performance with snatches and cleans – two of the most important movements for generating power – then front squats are the way to go.
The Hang Clean is a highly technical movement that you should spend time learning. Don’t expect to get it down in one try.
The progression goes something like this:
- Barbell Jump Shrug
- Barbell Romanian Deadlift
- Barbell Hang Clean Pull
- Barbell Front Squat
The following video provides the best breakdown for Hang Clean progressions and technique:
Bent Over Barbell Row
Bent Over Barbell Rows is an awkward position for many people. For sprinters, it is the ideal static position to train the hip-hinge motion. Even though you are training your lats and mid back, the bent over row loads your glutes and hamstrings for hypertrophy and strength.
This is your ideal exercise for explosive hip extension.
Here’s how to row:
- Place a barbell on the floor, with your feet under the bar, mid-foot. Grab the bar with a slightly wider then shoulder width apart, overhand grip.
- From here, make sure your back is straight, and shoulders are over the bar. Brace your abs as you pull the bar towards your stomach.
- Pull your elbows to your sides and back until the bar touches just above your belly button. Squeeze your lats, pause, then slowly return to the ground.
- Extend your arms to near full extension, then reverse the movement and pull again. Complete all repetitions before placing the barbell on the floor.
But that also doesn’t mean the body part should be completely ignored. While many sprint programs prescribe heavy bench press training or involved chest workouts, I recommend going light and choosing your exercises wisely.
My suggestion for the chest: Renegade Row
Here’s how to do it:
- Place two light dumbbells on the floor, shoulder width apart. Grab each dumbbell and get into pushup position.
- Get your balance and perform a pushup. When you return to the top, bring one dumbbell off the floor and row it to one side.
- Return the dumbbell to the floor, perform a pushup, and then row the opposite dumbbell.
- Feet will be slightly wider then shoulder width apart. Make sure your torso does not rotate excessively.
You can also include a number of pushup and dumbbell variations. Go light.
There you have it, a pretty solid overview of the best exercises for sprinting.