How to Increase Your Running Speed Without Running

Speed is one of the elements of youthfulness and even though we all slow down  as we age, keeping your speed up will help you not only sprint out of the way of a derelict driver but also will help you feel younger.

We know that your top walking speed is closely tied to your longevity and sense of youthfulness.1

Increasing your walking speed is fairly easy and has low risk of injury since all you have to do is walk as fast as you can for short intervals.

But increasing running speed is a different story. There’s a lot more risk of injury since the ground reaction force is much higher than walking. Depending on how fast you run, you’re looking at 4-6 times your body weight in force traveling up your leg into your trunk.

How to Increase Speed Without Running

So how can you increase your running speed without actually running?

The key is squat strength.2

The stronger your legs (and trunk) are, the more force you can produce and absorb.

You don’t have to use a barbell slung over your shoulders either.

Remember, strength can be increased in a lot of ways. Sure, loading up a barbell and doing a back squat is one way but there are other, more joint-friendly ways to boost your leg strength.

Drills to Increase Leg Strength

The following are drills from the ActiveAge Blueprint.

Backslider. This drill looks relatively easy but it’s deceiving. The reason is that as you squat one leg, you’re balancing and sliding on the other. Some people look at the drill and say, “Oh, that’s the same as a reverse lunge.” Not true. A reverse lunge is actually easier because it’s almost impossible to not push off with the opposite foot. You’ll get plenty of leg work with body weight force to start with but if you need more load, it’s easy to do with a dumb bell or two.

Sideslider. This is another sneaky drill. Some ActiveAge Blueprint members have commented that they discover hidden imbalances, weaknesses when they try this drill. You need decent hip mobility and control. The sliding leg is not the load bearing leg. You squat on one leg while sliding the other.

Speed Squat. A simple drill requiring only a chair and your own effort. When you try this, keep the legs moving just up and down. No deviation to the side in or out. Speed is a simple way to boost strength.

You might be thinking, “Well, I don’t ever run so I don’t need to worry about this.” I understand that. But, try changing your thinking about it a bit to prevention like flossing your teeth. Day to day you don’t have to floss unless you want to reduce your risk of tooth decay and gun disease. Same thing with leg strength. Maybe you don’t need to run but I’ll bet you will want to feel younger as you get older.

What do you do to increase or maintain your leg strength? What works for you?

You might also like:

  1. Michelle Lusardi, PT, DPT, PhD, Geriatrics Section session, Combined Sections Meeting, APTA, Feb 2012 “Walking Speed: A Vital Sign and Even More” []
  2. Comfort, P., N. Bullock, et al. (2012). “A comparison of maximal squat strength and 5-, 10-, and 20-meter sprint times, in athletes and recreationally trained men.” J Strength Cond Res 26(4): 937-940. []