Sprints Training for Speed
Having good mobility and range of movement in your muscles allows your body to be able to perform all the training needed of a sprinter.
As mentioned on the main page for this section, sprinting speed is about two things: moving your legs fast, and getting a good stride length on each stride. To improve these you can focus on:
- Technique Development
Much of these are covered within other parts of the website, which are referred to below. Here we will concentrate on what you should try to do, and use the other sections to help with the "how to do it" parts.
Good running technique is vital in sprinting for 3 reasons:
- it enables you to move as fast as you possibly can (the most obvious, but probably least important reason).
- it allows speed maintenance over the period of a race as your technique becomes more efficient
- it is relatively easy to get a good top speed, but maintaining it is much harder.
- it significantly reduces the risk of injury.
One of the best ways to develop technique is to practice running drills at every session. More on these and how to develop a good running technique are discussed in our Event Specific Drills and Running Technique sections.
Moving your legs fast is, to an extent, a genetic predisposition. However, improvements can normally be made. Here it is a case of 'practice makes perfect'; the more you move your body fast, the more your body gets used to it, and the faster you can move.
So, the most important thing to do is practice moving fast.
This can be done by just running fast! It sounds stupid, but repeating the sprinting action at pace will get the body used to working quickly. To help you run faster you want to reduce the time your foot is in contact with the ground (ground contact time) on every step as this will promote a more rapid turnover of your legs.
Also, you can cut your stride length and do drills with quick movements, such as high knees. The Event Specific Drills performed quickly are good for this - particularly the heel flick and high knees drill.
Over-speed running can be practised as well. This can be done by the use of a mechanical device to aid you, e.g. a high strength piece of elastic, or by running on a slight downhill decline (no greater than about 5 degrees).
Power in a sprinting sense is the ability to generate maximum force as quickly as possible. Much of sprinting fast is related to the amount of force that you can produce and transfer to the ground with every foot contact. By training to develop power, it enables your muscles to produce maximal force more quickly, reducing your ground contact times and increasing your overall sprint speed. The best sprinters have muscles that can produce maximal force very quickly.
Training to develop power can be done in different ways. Clearly the most sprint specific way is to practice running fast! However, most of the training to develop power is done in the gym, with a focus on moving the weights quickly and explosively. You can read more about this on our weights training pages.
Plyometrics are also another important training tool to develop power. Plyometrics should be done towards the start of any session when you are not so fatigued so you can maintain the quality of each exercise. For power you should focus on short ground contact times and quick, explosive movements.