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Improve Your Running By Becoming A Better Athlete

  • By Caitlin Chock
  • Published Sep. 19, 2013
  • Updated Sep. 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM UTC
Box jumps are a great way to improve your power and explosiveness. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Explosive Power And Agility

One may easily guess why having more power would be an asset; power translates to speed, which benefits you in the finishing stages of a race you want to be the one kicking rather than the person being passed. Agility is about getting your legs to move faster and is a neuromuscular component of training, essentially teaching the muscles to be able to fire at a faster rate. In short, you want to get your feet used to moving up off the ground and coming down quicker in order to take advantage of the power behind the propulsion.

RELATED: General Strength Training For Distance Runners

“Developing power through explosive training is the best way to increase the amount of muscle fibers we can recruit. Everyone’s got a giant pool of muscle fibers they can recruit.  But the brain never lets you fully access all of them for safety reasons,” Magness says. “But, you can increase the amount of that pool you can recruit by doing exercises that essentially call upon a lot of fibers and convince the body it’s safe…the bigger the recruitable pool, the more fibers you have to call upon when your regularly used fibers begin to fatigue.”

When it comes to power and agility the aim is clear: “You’re looking at decreasing the [amount of] time spent on the ground.”

Coach Magness’ Power Moves

When: “Do power work in a relatively fresh state. It’s very hard on the nervous system so you want to be recovered.”

  • Hill Sprints: Start with 4 x 100 meters, work up to 8 reps. Allow a full recovery between each sprint.
  • Squat Jumps and Single-Leg Hops: “A simple progression would be to do squat jumps in the pool then progress to single-leg hops in the pool. Once you get through the pool work, I’d switch to jumps/hops into a high jump pit or on top of a box to minimize the eccentric landing phase.” Begin with a set of 10 and build up to 3 sets.
  • Medicine Ball Throws: “Throws for height focusing on squatting down and really exploding with the legs while tossing the med ball.” Start with one set of 10 and work up to three sets.

Coach Magness’ Agility Drills

When : “Perform some agility training as a warmup with various skips included.”

  • Jumping Rope: Varying the speed as a warmup.
  • A-Skips: 2 x 30 meters
  • Quick Feet Fires: Rapid-fire, lift each foot a few inches off the ground and then back down; 2 x 20 sec.
  • Knee Height Dribble: Aim to lift your foot up to knee height and back down a quickly as possible in full circle; 2 x 30 meters.
  • Ladder Drills: Set with one foot per square, set with two feet square, then set with one foot per square and carry that out into an accelerated stride at the end of the ladder.
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