In any race, there comes a point when you have to shift into fifth gear. You need to pass an opponent, push through a wall, or fly to the finish line.
Your ability to unleash incredible speed at pivotal moments like these can transform your performance.
It can set you apart from the rest of the pack. It can mean the difference between an average finish and a personal record.
Now you can train for those moments with the Extreme Speed Running Workout, created by Ian Torrence, winner of 53 ultra trail marathons and lead ultrarunning coach for McMillian Running Company.
The workout uses downhill strides to build quad strength and improve turnover, while decreasing soreness.
“Downhill running is ‘free speed.’ Gravity is working with you, not against you like when you run uphill,” Torrence explains. “You can run faster because your heart and lungs aren’t working so hard.”
It’ll also make you comfortable with running at a faster clip during a race. “Running fast requires coordination,” he says. “If you don’t practice running at higher speeds, it’ll feel awkward and you’ll be inefficient.”
In addition to downhill work, Torrence includes resistance exercises to target big muscles like your glutes and hamstrings that run along the backside of your body.
“This is where the power in your running stride comes from,” says Torrence. The stronger and more explosive these muscles are, the faster and harder you’ll go.
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In fact, a study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who added strength workouts to their usual training regimen improved their mile time by 15 to 20 seconds.
Are you ready to break your speed limits? Supplement your running routine with the drills and exercises below so you can go full throttle when it matters most.
Part 1: Downhill Strides
Perform this workout every 10 to 14 days.
How to do it: Find a hill that has no more than a 5 percent slope. The hill should be grass, dirt, or gravel—not concrete or pavement—to protect your joints and muscles.
Warm up by jogging on flat surface for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then begin your downhill strides. You’ll do four downhill strides to start. Run the first two repeats at 85 to 95 percent of your maximum effort.
For the final two strides, go as fast as possible while still staying in control.
Recover between repeats by slowly jogging uphill to the starting point. Once your quads stop feeling sore after these workouts, it’s time to add another repeat. Your goal is to work your way up to 10 downhill strides in one session, says Torrence.
Cool down with easy running for 10 to 15 minutes.
Part 2: Strength Exercises
In addition to the downhill strides, perform these exercises three times a week, resting at least one day between each session.
How to do it: Do the exercises shown in the video below as a circuit, performing the movements back-to-back without rest. Once you’re finished all three exercises, rest for two minutes. That’s one round. Do 3 total.
You should focus on form and power, not speed, says Torrence. The goal is to feel the burn without going to muscle failure. Watch the video below to see how to perform the movements with perfect form.
3 Exercises to Run Faster
Try these four moves to improve your runtime.
Half Turkish Getup: Lie faceup with your right leg bent and your left leg flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand, raise your right arm straight overhead until it is perpendicular with the floor.
Your arm will stay like this throughout the entire movement. Keep your eyes on the weight. Roll onto your left side and prop yourself up onto your left elbow. Bracing your core, straighten your left arm and raise up onto your left hand. Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Complete 8 reps, switch sides, and repeat.
Single-Leg Hip Raise: Lie faceup, arms out to your sides at 45-degree angles, left foot flat on the floor with that knee bent.
Raise your right leg off the floor, your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Then squeeze your glutes, drive your left heel into the floor, and push your hips up until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your left knee.
Your lower back should stay naturally arched the entire time. Pause, and return to the starting position. Do 8 reps, switch sides, and repeat.
Hip Hinge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Set your head in a neutral position with your ears aligned with your shoulders, hips, and ankles, and maintain this position as you hint back and bend forward.
Keep your knees soft with a slight bend, and push your hips and hamstrings back as far as you can until your torso is parallel to the floor. Picture yourself closing a door with your butt. Pause, and then push your hips forward and come to a full stand.
Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Do 8.