While having strong quads help, your hamstrings and glutes are the driving force behind speed development and your ability to change direction, according to sports training expert Jude Massillon.
The stronger those muscles, the better you’re able to control starting and stopping motions and run faster says Massillon, a Nike SPARQ-certified trainer.
Massillon breaks down an exercise all athletes can perform to target these often neglected, yet critical muscles of the lower body.
What it is: Step-Ups
Recommended by: Jude Massillon, director of Sports Performance Group (Rockville Centre, N.Y.)
Why and how it helps: The step-up is a single-leg exercise that requires you to control and transfer your bodyweight onto one foot by stepping on a platform.
The exercise practices applying force into the ground, which is how you move when you’re running, cutting and changing direction.
A great benefit of the movement is that it targets one leg at time, which is essential for avoiding overdevelopment in one area and instead building balanced strength in both legs.
How to perform
- Stand behind bench or plyo box with feet together
- Rest arms by sides of body
- Place entire right foot on bench or box
- Drive through right heel and bring left foot up
- Step down with left foot
- Repeat for specified reps, then perform on opposite leg
Form tips: Align hip, knee and ankle when stepping up; relax shoulders; squeeze glutes at top of movement
Sets/Reps: Perform 3 sets of 10 reps each leg
Perform using bodyweight; only after you’ve mastered the movement, consider implementing weight