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Tip 289: Perform Heavy Full-Range Squats to Get Faster and Quicker

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 6:03 AM
Perform a heavy lower body training program to get faster and quicker over short distances. Include near maximal full-range of motion squats in a lower body strength program to increase your power and speed off the ground and blow by opponents on the basketball court or soccer field.

A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that was performed on professional rugby players showed that increasing maximal squat strength with an 8-week training program will significantly increase short sprint speed over 5, 10, and 20 meters. The participants first performed a 4-week maximal lower body strength program that included back squats, clean pulls, deadlifts, and leg curls, all at 85 to 90 percent of the 1RM. Then they performed a 4-week lower body power program that included hang cleans, squat jumps, back squats, and leg curls, all at 85 percent of the 1RM.

After 8 weeks, the rugby players increased 1RM squat strength by an average of 30 kg. These dramatic strength gains translated into significantly faster sprint speed. The players increased 5-meter sprint speed by the greatest percent (they ran 7.6 percent faster) after the training program. In the 10-meter sprint, players ran 7.3 percent faster, and over 20 meters they ran 5.9 percent faster.

The greater improvement in sprint performance over the initial 5 meters is likely because of the higher forces required during the initial acceleratory phase of sprinting. The players got stronger and were able to  produce more force with each step to generate quicker acceleration. Being faster off the ground is likely the reason the players increased longer sprint speed as well—they accelerated quicker and that translated into quicker 10 and 20 meter times.

Take away from this study an understanding that increasing lower body strength is essential if you want to get faster and quicker over short distances. The substantial gains in strength and speed will give you a major edge on the basketball court, soccer, rugby, football, or field hockey field. Sprinters would benefit as well. Researchers stress the importance of including full-range of motion squats with a barbell (not smith machine) to gain maximal strength in conjunction with power training for best results.

Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. Are Changes in Maximal squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

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