Are Lunges the Secret to Improving Your Speed?

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Lunges are a basic human movement pattern.

Walking, jogging, running, and sprinting are all forms of lunging.

So, is it possible that lunges could improve your speed?

Here’s what you need to know.

Lunges can be used to improve your running gait by either increasing your stride length or stride rate. However, performing lunges should be viewed as the final part of the chain, as opposed to the primary way to improve speed. The focus should be on correcting hip and core weaknesses, strengthening the legs through glute and adductor-focused squats and deadlifts, and performing exercises which isolate the glutes and hamstrings.

Lunges aren’t the Best Way to Improve Speed

So, while running is a form of lunging, lunges aren’t the best way to improve and increase your speed.

Sure, they should form part of your overall training program, but view lunges as the icing on the cake and not as the main course.

Firstly, lunges will help to increase strength and flexibility in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Clearly, this is extremely important when it comes to running fast.

Basically, when you’re running your pace will slow down as your leg muscles fatigue.

So, it stands to reason that the stronger your legs are the longer you’ll be able to maintain your top speed.

And this is true whether you’re running 400 metres, 5km, or even a marathon.

That being said, lunges aren’t the best exercise to increase leg strength.

Sure, lunges will definitely make your legs stronger, but I’m sure you realise that there are better exercises out there.

How to Improve Your Speed

Strengthen the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, & hip adductors.
Perform "Wide" Squats & Deadlifts
Strengthen Glutes & Hamstrings with isolation exercises.
Front-foot elevated lunges to strengthen the hip flexors.
Explosive Movements, e.g. jumping lunges, jump squats, box jumps, etc.

Which Lunges are Best For Speed?

I’m sure you’ll find lots of information about increasing explosive power in order to increase your speed.

This is true, but once again, it’s only one part of the puzzle.

And when it comes to explosive lunges you’ll typically be told that you should be performing jumping lunges.

In fact, most trainers would focus on a variety of lower-body explosive movements, which include jumping lunges, jump squats, box squats, etc.

Once more, some fantastic exercises to improve your explosive power, but not everything that’s required to get faster.

Realistically, you should be targeting your hip flexors during lunges.

I’ll introduce you to the three primary aspects to improve speed in a moment.

However, these focus more on shoring up weaknesses and improving strength in the major lower body muscles.

But, the one muscle group that isn’t specifically highlighted during the initial training is the hip flexors.

And so, this is where your lunge-specific training comes in.

Now, the best exercise to achieve this would be the front-foot elevated split squat.

A split squat is basically a static lunge, so your feet will remain in the same position throughout your set.

You should ensure that the outside of your front ankle (elevated foot) is in line with the outside of the hip.

And the outside of your back knee should be in line with the other hip.

From this position simply drop down until your back knee touches the ground and then come straight back up again.

The aim here is to have all your weight on the back leg in order to load up the hip flexor.

 Complete your reps on one side and then repeat on the other side.

The main reason to strengthen your hip flexors is that they are responsible for both acceleration and deceleration while sprinting.

When you push off the back foot and land on the front foot your hip flexors have a major role to play.

So yes, lunges are a great way to get faster, but mainly for strengthening your hip flexors.

I will also say that lunges will increase flexibility, after all they are a dynamic stretch.

So, this can help to increase your stride length, which is ideal for running faster.

The Primary Factors to Improve Speed

So, as I’ve mentioned, lunges form part of the speed equation, but there are definitely more important things to focus on.

Address Hip & Core Weaknesses

What you’re aiming for here is to strengthen what are known as the medial and lateral rotators of the hips.

Most lower body training focuses more on the major muscle groups, such as the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

Obviously, you’ll need these areas to be strong in order to run faster.

But, if you also strengthen the smaller muscles of the hips and core they’ll work better as an overall unit.

And clearly, the more muscles you have working together in the lower body the more explosive and faster you’ll be.

I’m specifically talking about the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and the hip adductor (groin) muscles.

It is typically a weakness in these muscles that limits your speed potential.

Glute & Adductor-Focused Squats & Deadlifts

I’ve spoken a lot about lower body strength, as strength and speed go hand-in-hand.

As I’ve mentioned, your pace will slow as your leg muscles fatigue.

So, it stands to reason that the stronger these muscles are the longer you’ll be able to run at speed.

And of course, there are few better lower-body exercises to increase strength than squats and deadlifts.

Personally I feel that if you want to get faster you should be able to perform traditional squats and deadlifts with very heavy loads.

In fact, a good aim is to build up to squatting and deadlifting twice your body weight.

Obviously, in most cases you should be able to deadlift more than you can squat, but this will largely depend on your body shape too.

That being said, when it comes to improving and increasing speed conventional squats and deadlifts aren’t the best.

Basically, you want to strengthen the glutes and adductor chain.

The best way to achieve this would be to squat and deadlift with a wider than usual stance.

I’m not talking full-on sumo lifts, but rather let’s say approximately 1.5 times your normal foot-width.

Plus, if you’ve never squatted or deadlifted double your body weight I don’t expect you to start off like this either.

The aim here is to improve lower-body strength with a primary focus on the glutes and adductors. 

The stronger you get in these lifts, the more force you can apply into the ground when running, which also means you’ll be faster and more explosive.

Glute & Hamstring Isolation

The final part of the puzzle (which still comes BEFORE lunges) is to isolate your glutes and hamstrings.

What I specifically mean is to perform isolation exercises that will strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.

The stronger your posterior chain, once again, the faster and more explosive you’ll be.

Some of the best exercises to achieve this include:

Glute & Hamstring Isolation Exercises

Hamstring Curls (Seated and/or Lying)
Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
Glute-Ham Raises
Romanian Deadlifts
Hip Thrusts
Glute Bridges

Key Learning Points

  • Lunges only form a very small part of improving and increasing speed.
  • Explosive movements such as jumping lunges, jumbo squats, and box jumps will increase power and speed.
  • Strengthen your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and hip adductors.
  • Focus on wide-stance squats and deadlifts for overall lower-body strength.
  • Perform glute and hamstring isolation exercises.
  • Front-foot elevated lunges/split squats will increase your hip flexor strength.

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