I like lifting weights. I try to get to the YMCA about four times a week. I am usually there for about an hour. In between sets, I like talking to people along with watching some of the basketball games taking place.
The other day I was there and a friend of mine, whom I’ve known for about a year now, asked me to spot him on the incline bench press. We got to talking and he informed me that he will be trying out for a local semi-pro football team next season.
He’s about 22 years old, 6’2” and weighs about 235. “Solid as rock” is the best way I can describe him. He has more than enough strength to be competitive, as his 315 lb. incline bench press would demonstrate.
Of course, like most competitive athletes, however, strength wasn’t his biggest concern. Speed was. He runs the 40 in about 5.0 seconds flat and for him, that’s not good enough.
Knowing what I know about speed training, I asked him what he does to help him with this. He went around the gym pointing at most of the equipment: leg extensions to help my quads he said. Leg curls for hamstrings he added.
Continuing on, he stated that he liked doing hack squats for explosiveness, adductor and abductor machines for his lateral mobility, calf raises for more speed and jumping, squats for overall strength and speed, lunges for more overall strength, and plyometrics by jumping up and down off of about 2’ X 2’ wooden boxes..
I listened patiently and after he was finished, I asked him if he knew about isometric training. His answer didn’t surprise me. He said he didn’t know too much about it. But at that very moment, another “light bulb” if you will, turned on in my head.
Of all the machines he mentioned, not one of them was designed to help him with, in my opinion, the most important muscle group involved in sprinting — the thigh flexor muscles. I wondered why. To me this was common knowledge, but now that I think back on the countless number of questions we receive through our online support, it seems that no one really pays too much attention to these muscles.
Instead, there seems to be an over-emphasis on the quads and hamstrings and what can be done to these muscles to help them get faster.
Before I go on, let me just say that training these muscles properly is very important to speed, and our programs do just that.
But, my concerns are why is there so much emphasis placed on these muscles and so little on the thigh flexors and why are weight machines often considered as the best (and sometimes only) way to quicken them? (More on this below.)
Running is not all that complicated of a motion. When you look at a sprinter taking off from the starting blocks, you will notice that they first have to push themselves forward with one of their legs. This pushing motion involves mainly the quadriceps, calf muscles and thigh extensors. It is a very recognizable motion to just about everyone watching.
The second thing that happens at about the same time is that the opposite thigh is flexed upwards, followed by leg extension. This is the main function of the thigh flexors and quadriceps. This too is a very recognizable motion. See Figure 1 below:
Thigh flexors. (See Arrow)
Main Function of Thigh Flexors
Both of these movements are equally important in running, however, as my good friend stated earlier, none of the machines he uses are designed to help him with this part of running, and that is to help you flex your thigh upwards (the primary function of your thigh flexors).
As I looked around the gym something very interesting suddenly became apparent to me. There was only one machine, hidden among the 100 or so other machines, that was designed to help exercise the thigh flexors muscles. This one machine is called a rotary hip machine. See Figure 2 below:
Rotary hip machine.
The only machine for thigh flexors is ignored.
In my opinion however, it is not all that effective. Still, it remains as the only machine I am aware of in the entire gym that even stands a chance of helping you exercise these all important muscles.
Besides training the thigh flexors, it can also help train thigh extensors, abductors and adductors depending upon how you stand on the machine. These multi-purpose machines sometimes add a little confusion to the user as to their actual purpose and tend to diminish their effectiveness.
If my good friend continues to go to the gym looking for ways to help him with his speed training, he is going to have at least two problems I can think of. One of them might be obvious to you by now: And that is, he is doing absolutely nothing to help him with the most important muscle group involved in sprinting – his thigh flexors.
He trains every other leg muscle he can think of except these. He leaves the gym every night unintentionally forgetting to train half of the muscles in his body designed to make him run faster. Do you see a problem with this? Do you see room for massive improvement? I sure do.
The reality of this is that he is like a lot of athletes, trainers and coaches who are simply unaware of the importance of the thigh flexor muscles. There can be many reasons why. Maybe it’s because there is really no good way to train them on a weight machine at the gym and, therefore, they go unnoticed.
Maybe it’s because you really can’t see them, because they are located deep in the anterior hip region further adding to their obscurity. Or maybe people think they are training them when they really aren’t. It could be there funny sounding names, like “iliacus” and “pectineus” and “psoas”. I don’t know, but for whatever reason, since they go untrained in the gym, they go untrained altogether.
The second problem my good friend is going to have with his speed training workouts is the fact that even if he were to train his thigh flexors effectively on the only machine in the gym designed to isolate these muscles (the rotary hip machine), weight machines, in general, were designed primarily to help increase your strength and endurance, and not speed.
So before you rush out to your gym and search out this piece of equipment, read on.
It’s a proven fact that lifting weights makes you strong. We all can attest to that. It’s one of the reasons I go to the gym. But, is it a proven fact that lifting weights makes you faster too? I am not so sure.
Here’s one that’s bound to generate a little controversy: When it comes to speed training, the best thing you can do doesn’t involve going to the gym. And no, it doesn’t involve running down a football field with a weighted sled attached to your waist or a parachute.
Can you guess the main reason why these two strategies have only a limited effect on your running speed? Here’s a hint – Guess which muscle group is completely unaffected by the weighted sled and parachute? Did you guess “thigh flexors”? If you did, you are absolutely correct.
Running down a football field with a weighted sled or parachute tied to your waist is not much different than training on the weight machines at the gym.
First, these exercises mainly train your quads, thigh extensors and calf muscles. As mentioned earlier, these muscles help with only about half of the running motion. They don’t train your thigh flexors (an equally important muscle group responsible for flexing the opposite thigh upwards, out in front of you).
In fact, your thigh flexors are not being exercised any harder than if you had nothing attached to your waist while you ran.
With weak and slow thigh flexors, your running speed will be significantly affected more than you could ever imagine. Second, like weight training, these exercises will primarily help you develop your strength and endurance within these muscles, and not the speed of contraction.
Any increases in muscle speed will be secondary to strength and as a result, the true muscle contraction velocity will never be even close to being realized.
The only way that I have ever been able to effectively isolate the thigh flexors is with resistance bands. No other method is more effective. The only way I have ever been able to increase their contraction velocity is with isometric training.
Again, No other method is more effective. This combination of using the resistance band with an isometric training strategy can be done basically anywhere. You don’t need to go to the gym to do it. You can do our exercises in the privacy of your own home.
Now here’s the exciting part about using our speed training programs: There’s a very good chance that you have never trained your “iliacus”, “pectineus”, “psoas”, “sartorius”, “vastus rectus”, “adductor longus” and “adductor brevis” muscles, (also known as your thigh flexors).
Even if you did, you probably never properly trained them for speed (isometric training with the resistance band the way our programs teach).
Instead, if you are lucky, you may have used the rotary hip machine, but like I said earlier, weight training is great for strength, but not for speed. So if this is the case, you then have an incredibly huge reservoir of untapped muscular energy just waiting to be released inside your body!
By doing the exercises the way we show you, you can’t help but run faster, jump higher and kick farther! And the same methods will work for throwing, hitting a baseball, tennis ball or golf ball!
Unlike a lot of other programs, – you are not going to have to train for hours and hours a day before seeing even a glimmer of results. No, about 10 minutes a day will get the job done. Most people don’t even break a sweat. Also, you are not going to have to train for months and months either.
Take a good look at our testimonial page. The majority of these athletes have achieved results beyond their wildest imaginations in less than two weeks, all the while training less than ten minutes a day! This is unheard of with a lot of other programs, yet it is absolutely true and very common with ours!
I promised my good friend whom I mentioned earlier that I would personally show him the exercises to run faster the next time I saw him. He was very excited. Of course he was anxious to know what makes our programs so incredibly effective for speed.
“It’s simple,” I told him, “we show you how to train muscles you probably never heard of in a way you probably never thought of.”
Always glad to help!
Dr. Larry Van Such