- Perfect the first step
Practice several starts and get an idea where the first foot contact is. A short step means the rear foot is too far back; too long of a step results in an over stride which decreases force potential. The best way to be sure if the stride is too long is by using a video camera. It doesn’t have to be a fancy set-up. You just need a VCR that plays in slow-mo. Pause the tape when the athlete’s foot contacts the ground. You can even use a protractor to measure the leg angle. An optimal leg angle would be about 45 degrees.
- Get leaner
Get to single digit body fat; fat mass does not work in your favour. The less dead weight you are carrying, the faster you will be.
- Sprint train twice per week, minimum
- Sprint all year round
Form is a large part of speed – when you take time off from sprinting your form will deteriorate
- Stay Hydrated
Some research shows that dehydrating a muscle by as little as 2% can lead to a 12% decrease in strength. Do the math, less strength = less power = you being slower.
- Use video analysis to critique your technique
Unless you have a coach, video analysis is the only valid way to monitor technique
- Stretch at least 4 times per week
Flexibility is super important. The only two ways to improve speed is through increasing stride length & stride frequency. Flexibility has a great impact on stride length
- Train the MUSCLE, not the MOTION
Sports specific training is called practice – you don’t sport specific train in the gym. When you train to improve a muscles contractile ability (speed, strength etc.), it is inevitable that you will get faster in your sport. Focus on strength and power, not copying motions that you perform in your sport – like I said, that’s for practice.
- Perform Deep Squats
Improves hamstring & glute development, while at the same time decreasing the risk for knee injuries.
- Perform Stiff-legged Deadlifts
Improves hamstring and glute strength – hip hinge which is pivotal for athletic development
- Perform Hip Thrusts
Glute strength – it helps at the start of acceleration
- Perform Olympic lifts
No other method of resistance training improves power & explosiveness more than Olympic lifting. You have no choice but to lift it explosively or you won’t finish the lift. Find a coach, take a course and learn how to do it.
- Practice reaction time
Reaction time can make the difference between a 4.4 second 40 and a 4.55 second 40. There are lots of tools to develop reaction time on the net.
- Get stronger
Improve relative strength by decreasing weight and increasing strength
Trying to sprint while tense will slow you down immensely
- Start with the right stance
- Time your sprints twice per month
You need to keep track of progress – the only way you know you’re improving is if you time yourself
- Drive the power side arm out of your stance (Right leg forward = Right side Power arm)
- Perform Prowler sprints
Teaches proper acceleration angle
- Perform Prowler Marches
Teaches proper acceleration angle
- Vary your sprints from 10 to 200 meters
- Increase Your Bench Press
Upper body strength helps with piston action of arms – upper body contributes approx. 30% of speed
- Implement Medicine Ball Training into your Regimen
Improves power & explosiveness
- Improve core strength
Develops the ability of the core to stabilize the body so that the increased quad, hamstring, and gluteal strength can be successfully translated into performance gains
- Incorporate arm drills into your workout routine
- Perform Reverse Hypers
Also improves low back and posterior chain strength
- Focus on Hamstring & Glute development
1:1 Ham : Quad strength ratio
- Implement Max Effort days (Westside Barbell)
- Implement Dynamic Effort days (Westside Barbell)
- Improve shoulder strength
Extension-Flexion: improves to piston arms
- Seek out a good massage therapist and A.R.T provider
A strong network of health professionals can keep you in optimal health or get you back fast from an injury.
- Quality Trumps Quantity
Don’t overdo it on sprint work, and never sacrifice technique for more reps
- Include adequate single leg strength work
Make sure all your strength training isn’t just on two legs
- Focus on improving the first 10 meters
The first 10 meters translates through the rest of your sprint – regardless of the distance.
- Train with someone faster than you
Constantly striving to catch someone, will provide the motivation you need to get faster. Training with someone slower than you will not be as challenging.
- Learn to harmonize your breathing
Rather than just breathing randomly, you should breathe in with your nose and out with your mouth in a steady rhythm with your strides. Find a rhythm that works best for you and stick with it long enough to make it natural.
- Eat carbs before training
Carbs fuel high intensity training, without the proper fuel you will never perform at your full potential.
- Only touch the ground with your toes & balls of the feet
Heel striking increases ground reaction forces, causing more friction and as a result slows you down. Stay on the balls of your feet.
- Take care of your feet
Go barefoot and try to walk on uneven surfaces without shoes. Stretch your toes (seriously). Use a lacrosse ball to massage your feet.
- Head down during acceleration
While accelerating the head should be in neutral alignment, with eyes looking down, several meters ahead. As soon as the head lifts up, the torso will follow, and acceleration mechanics will breakdown.
- Cheek to Cheek
Keep elbows at 90-degrees and drive the hands from cheek (face) to cheek (butt).
- Focus on Improving the Speed Formula
Speed = Stride Length x Stride Frequency
- Improving Stride Length = Strength
To improve stride length, improve overall lower body strength. In addition to the big basic movements (squats, RDL’s, lunges, glute-ham raises) consider giving emphasis to vector specific training, such as antero-posterior movements, i.e. hip thrusts, glute bridging, reverse hypers and others. Sprinting is an antero-posterior movement. This is a Bret Contreras concept.
- Improving Stride Frequency = Rate of Force Development
To improve stride frequency, you need to improve the turnover rate of your hips/hip flexion by improving your muscles rate of force development (how fast it contracts).
- Full Recovery
To train speed improvement, full recovery must be given between bouts of effort. Quality of movement must always be kept high, so proper motor patterns are being grooved. Inadequate recovery will lead to fatigue and sub-par running mechanics. Do not confuse speed training, and conditioning.
- Sled Pushes for Speed Development
Heavy sled pushes are great for improving acceleration specific strength since the proper sprinting angle MUST be used to push a heavy sled. The strength developed in this specific position/range of motion should directly carry over to normal sprinting performance. This is a Joe DeFranco concept.
- Hill Sprints for progression
For individuals who are not physically ready to handle the stress of sprinting on flat surfaces, uphill sprints are a great progression since the deceleration stress is less.
- Vary foot position for hamstring injury prevention
To strengthen the hamstrings group train them directly with various foot angles. Try eccentric leg curls with the toes pointed in, out, and straight forward to negate injury risks in athletes with non-neutral foot positioning.
- Improve upper body posture and scapular retraction
When the shoulders are too tight scapular pronation will occur and force the athlete to swing their arms across their body. Work on scapular retractions and soft tissue work on the pectorals major and minor as well as the anterior deltoids.
- Mentally rehearse everything
In the book The Psychology of Winning, Dr. Denis Waitley found that when athletes rehearse their event in their minds, the muscles would fire as if they were actually performing the event. Pretty damn cool…what does this tell us? The mind is a powerful tool and can actually reproduce an exact event through imagery.