Weight Training to Increase Speed: 20-Minutes Strength Workout

Weight Training to Increase Speed: 20-Minutes Strength Workout

Many runners have a goal of clocking faster finish times. And while you might turn to speed workouts, like intervals, and tempo runs to make that happen, there’s another key component to pushing your pace: weight training.

Lifting weights not only builds strong muscles, but also a more powerful stride that allows you to create force and forward propulsion with less effort. “Strength training makes our body more resilient, and the more resilient we are, the more load our body can handle,” Danielle Hirt, a.k.a Coach D, NASM-certified personal trainer and RRCA-certified run coach based in Arlington, Virginia, tells Runner’s World. “Running is an extremely high-impact sport, so the stronger our muscles are, the better we can absorb that load.”

Thankfully, Hirt designed a full 20-minute weight-training workout to increase your speed and help you tap into your strength, power, and resiliency, with moves chosen specifically to upgrade your pace. “These exercises are excellent power moves. Being able to move through an exercise quickly and with control creates power,” Hirt says. “Through these movements, we generate that neuromuscular response and develop movement patterns that translate to the run.”

 

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One thing to keep in mind before you jump into this routine: Master the movement first, before you add in speed. You want to feel strong and stable through each exercise, Hirt says, so don’t rush it. Also, start with lighter weights to get the movements down, and then start to increase that load the more comfortable you become with each exercise.

This is especially important for those new to weight training. You don’t want to conquer this strength workout to increase speed without first mastering a squat, deadlift, and lunge—three main movement patterns you’ll see throughout the workout. Nail the form for those moves, add in weight slowly, and then you’re ready to crush this weight training workout.

How to use this list: Perform each exercise below for the reps and sets listed. You’ll start with a warmup, move on to set one, then set two, and end with a finisher. You will need a medium and heavy kettlebell for this workout, but a dumbbell will also work. An exercise mat is optional.

Hirt demonstrates the entire workout in the video above so you can follow along and learn proper form.


Warmup: 2 rounds

Good Morning

Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands behind head. Hinge at hips by sending butt straight back. Keep back flat and core engaged. Drive through feet to extend hips and stand back up. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Air Squat

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly out. Send hips down and back to lower into a squat. Drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Kettlebell High Pull

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell by the handle with both hands. Pack shoulders down and back. Pull elbows straight up, bringing kettlebell to chest. Then straighten arms and lower kettlebell back down. Repeat for 30 seconds.


Set 1: 3 rounds

Kettlebell Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, kettlebell between feet. Hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, keeping back flat and core engaged. Grab the kettlebell. Drive through feet to stand back up, extending hips, keeping kettlebell in hands. Repeat, holding the kettlebell. Do 12 reps.

Kettlebell Squat Clean

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell by the handle with both hands. Pack shoulders down and back. Pull elbows straight up, and as the kettlebell reaches chest height, bring hands around handle to hold at the bottom of the handle. Then, immediately drive hips down and back to lower into a squat. Aim to get hips below knees if possible. Drive through feet to stand back up. Straighten arms, lower kettlebell, and grab it at the top of the handle again. Repeat. Do 10 reps.

Kettlebell Swing

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With a kettlebell placed arm’s-length away, hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Pack shoulders down and back and tip the kettlebell toward you. Swing the kettlebell back and up, behind hips and close to groin. Use glute and hamstrings and drive feet into the floor to swing the kettlebell through legs and up to chest height, engaging core so you hit an upright plant-like position at the top. Let the kettlebell’s momentum bring you back into a hinge, kettlebell coming back between legs. Repeat. Do 20 reps.


Set 2: 3 rounds

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift With Clean

Stand on left leg, holding a kettlebell down in front of you in right hand. Hinge at hips, lowering torso toward floor with flat back and core engaged. Lift right leg behind you. Keep kettlebell close to body and slight bend in left knee. Drive through left foot to stand up and as you do, pull right elbow high, rotating kettlebell around wrist for the clean so it rests on right forearm and elbow lands pointing downward, with kettlebell at shoulder. Drive right knee up to chest. Pause, then repeat the single-leg deadlift, tipping the kettlebell back down and extending right arm. Do 6 reps.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Sit on a box, chair, or bench that’s about at knee height, holding a kettlebell at chest with both hands. Extend left leg, heel on the ground. Plant left foot and stand up, keeping foot where it is, so you’re standing and facing away from the box. Place right foot on the box behind you. This is your starting position. Lower into a lunge-like position, front left knee tracking over toes, and back right knee hovering just above the floor. Pause, then drive through left foot to return to starting position. Repeat. Do 6 reps. Then switch sides and repeat for 6 reps.


Finisher: 4 rounds

Deadlift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, kettlebell between feet. Hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, keeping back flat and core engaged. Grab the kettlebell. Drive through feet to stand back up, extending hips, keeping kettlebell in hands. Repeat the hinge, holding the kettlebell. Do 6 reps.

Goblet Squat

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly out. Hold a kettlebell at the bottom of the handle with both hands. Send hips down and back to lower into a squat. Aim to get hips lower than knees, if possible. Drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat. Do 8 reps.

Swing

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. With a kettlebell placed arm’s-length away, hinge at hips by sending butt straight back, and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Pack shoulders down and back and tip the kettlebell toward you. Swing the kettlebell back and up, behind hips and close to groin. Use glute and hamstrings and drive feet into the floor to swing the kettlebell through legs and up to chest height, engaging core so you hit an upright plant-like position at the top. Let the kettlebell’s momentum bring you back into a hinge, kettlebell coming back between legs. Repeat. Do 10 reps.

After the fourth round of the above, do 20 seconds of jump squats: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes turned slightly out. Send hips down and back to lower into a squat. Drive through feet to stand up and explode upward, jumping off the ground. Land softly with bent knees and go right back into a squat. Repeat.

Headshot of Mallory Creveling

Deputy Editor, Health & Fitness

Mallory Creveling, an ACE-certified personal trainer and RRCA-certified run coach, joined the Runner’s World and Bicycling team in August 2021. She has more than a decade of experience covering fitness, health, and nutrition. As a freelance writer, her work appeared in Women’s Health, Self, Men’s Journal, Reader’s Digest, and more. She has also held staff editorial positions at Family Circle and Shape magazines, as well as DailyBurn.com. A former New Yorker/Brooklynite, she’s now based in Easton, PA.

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