Stretch your calves to counter the muscle-shortening effects of strength training.
If you want to streak across the finish line and break the tape, the fast-twitch fibers in your legs must fire rapidly and forcefully. Sprinting requires not only speed and strength but also power, acceleration and sound technique. By combining various methods of sprint training -- such as traditional resistance training, plyometrics and technique drills -- you can strengthen your calves and lower your times.
Strengthening and Stretching
By lifting your body weight to the balls of your feet -- which works your ankles' dorsiflexion and your calf muscles -- you can achieve a more powerful takeoff. Perform heel raises on a raised platform, such as a stair, or on a calf raise machine. For example, stand with your shoulders positioned under the arms of a calf machine. Place your toes on the foot platform, allowing your heels to hang off the edge. Hold the handlebars, maintaining an erect posture. Exhale and rise to the balls of your feet, holding the peak position for a second. Inhale and slowly return to starting position, pressing down into your heels to stretch your calves. Perform 25 reps for three sets.
Plyometric exercises, especially one-legged hops or jumps, can build power, balance and coordination in your lower body, including the calves. According to вЂњThe Complete Guide to Running: How to Be a Champion from 9 to 90,вЂќ consistent practice of plyometric drills can shave 0.01 seconds of contact time off each foot strike. If you're running the 400-meter race, you can decrease your time by two seconds. For example, perform a distance hopping drill in which you take two or three hops with your left leg and then repeat the hops with your right leg. Swing your arms up and forward, and lift your thigh to a horizontal position on each hop. Focus on hopping as far as possible as opposed to achieving height. Repeat the hops three to four times on each side.
Form drills help you develop your calves in a running-specific way and boost stride frequency and length. For example, perform a high-knee skipping drill and add a lower leg extension. Mimic the motion and rhythm used for skipping rope, but lift your thighs until they're parallel to the ground. After lifting your thigh, kick your lower leg forward and fully extend it. Hold your arms with the elbows bent at 90 degrees, pumping them forward and backward. Keep your head up and your gaze directed in front of you. Perform three to four reps over a distance of 11 to 16 yards. To boost the intensity of your form drills, add elastic resistance. For example, perform resisted stationary skips in which you loop the middle of a resistance tube around a stationary object, such as a bench leg, at ankle level. Wrap both ankles with ankle straps and then secure the other ends of the tubing to your ankles. Stand facing away from the anchor point, far enough away so the tubing is taut. Focus on maintaining good form while you skip against the resistance.
By jumping rope, you're forced to land on the balls of your feet and tap into the power of your calf muscles. For example, perform 100 single jumps each of various types of rope jumping techniques in a circuit. Begin with a basic jump in which you jump with two feet together. Next, alternate your feet during the jump as if you were jogging. The third type is a lateral jump in which you hop from side to side, somewhat like a skier. Try a bell jump in which you leap forward and then backward, using a movement that resembles a bell clapper. Then perform a high-step jump with alternate feet in which you jump with one foot while raising your opposite thigh to a horizontal position. Finish the exercise with the basic two-legged jump. Jump as quickly as possible and try to complete the circuit within 10 minutes.