How to Weight Train the Legs for Sprinters

Fact Checked

OSTILL/iStock/Getty Images

Most weight-training exercises focus on one body part. You sit down and perform sets that are often based on bodybuilding and power lifting. However sprinters, who run in a standing position, need to train the specific sprinting skills they need to succeed. In 2013 physical therapist Tony Ingram advised athletes to remember the SAID principle, which stands for "specific adaptation to imposed demands": your body can only get better at what you train it to do. Therefore, to become a better sprinter, your weight-training program should be tailored toward sprinters, not bodybuilders.

Strength Conditioning Basics

Warm up your body with five to six minutes of light cardio to get your heart pumping and increase neural activity, such as jumping rope, jogging or skipping. Do some dynamic stretching, such as leg swings and standing trunk twists, within the warm-up period.

Start with some forward lunges. Stand with your feet together, carrying a kettlebell in each hand by your sides. Keep your elbows slightly bent. Inhale as you step about 2 feet forward with your right foot, and bend both legs to lunge straight down until your left knee almost touches the floor. Keep your back straight and your shoulders down. Exhale as you push against the floor with your front foot to step back to the starting position.

Next, move on to jump lunges. Stand with your left foot about two feet in front of you with your knees slightly bent. Inhale as you lunge straight down, bringing your left elbow behind you and your right arm in front of you with both elbows bent at about 90 degrees. Keep your fingers slightly curled and relaxed. Exhale as you jump straight up, switching your leg position in midair. Land gently on the balls of your feet with your right foot in front of you. Your back leg and hip should be extended behind you with your knee slightly bent.

Top your strength training off with some kettlebell swings. Hold a kettlebell with both hands in front of your body so that the weight is hanging near your groin. Stand with your feet about shoulder-distance apart with your feet pointing forward or slightly out to the sides. Rock your hips back and forth with your knees slightly bent and your back straight to gain momentum. The arc in which the kettlebell swings should gradually increase. Exhale as you thrust your hips forward and straighten your legs once you gain enough momentum to swing forward and upward. The kettlebell swing should reach as high as your nose or eye level. Inhale as you swing down between your legs as you hinge your torso forward at your hips. Do not muscle up the kettlebell with your shoulder and arms.

Cool down your body with breathing exercises for about 10 minutes. These exercises can be qi gong and yoga exercises, which move and stretch your body in various directions and positions as you breathe deeply. Add simple leg, hip and back stretches, such as standing toe touches and seated spinal twists, to alleviate muscle fatigue.


There aren't any specific number of sets, reps, and number of days you train per week that you should stick with for maximal strength conditioning, because these variables depend on your training level and experience. However, in a study that was published in the May 2008 issue of "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," researchers at the University Pablo de Olavide in Sevilla, Spain, observed that doing more high-intensity training days isn't always better. Subjects who trained one or two days a week had better 20-meter sprint times than those who trained four days a week. Therefore, train no more than two days a week unless your coach tells you otherwise. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that you start with two to three sets of eight to 12 reps of each power exercise.

What weight should you use? It's individual. Use a heavier weight if you can do the recommended number of sets and reps easily with little exertion. Otherwise, use a lighter weight if you cannot control the exercise movement, feel exhausted after one set of exercise or cannot perform the recommended number of variables.


High-intensity weight training can increase your risk of getting injured if you're new to physical conditioning. Stop training and see your physician or health care provider immediately if you feel pain in your hips, legs or back during training. Work with a qualified strength coach to help you customize your sprinting workouts.