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Increase Sprinting Speed

Speed and power athletes, such as track and field sprinters and jumpers, are always searching for new ways to increase their sprinting speed. Improved speed on the track and on the runway is a skill that can be developed in athletes at every level.

In this article, I will discuss the three primary components that must be trained in order to see maximal improvements to fastest sprint times. These training elements are speed development, strength training and power training.

The only way to get faster is to practice running fast. The only way for athletes to truly develop their speed is to run workouts at top speed, with full recovery between each repetition. I strongly recommend a ‘short to long’ program when you sit down to periodize your upcoming sprint season program.

This means starting your workouts focusing on acceleration development. I begin with acceleration work of about 30 meters and then extend it from there. Of course, full recovery is required. Once this becomes natural, you can progress to longer runs that we call maximum velocity work (top speed training). This is where you will run your fly 30s and fly 40s and focus on ‘floating’ so that near top speeds can be maintained. Since athletes have perfected the acceleration phase, they should have no problems working into these longer runs. By the time athletes are running up to 60 meters (or so) powerfully and with good form, they should already have seen a significant increase in sprinting speed. The next element is to inject speed endurance training. Speed endurance is defined as runs of 80-150 meters at 90-100% intensity, again, with full rest. This is the most effective method of improving sprint speed, essentially adding layers on top of the speed foundation, which is the ability to quickly and efficiently accelerate.

Since faster speeds are the result of an athlete applying greater amounts of force to the ground, strength training is a critical element of any sprint training program. The reason is simple: all things being equal, a stronger athlete can propel his or her body down the track must easier than a weaker athlete. At the same time, strength training must develop maximal strength increases while adding a minimum amount of weight to the athlete in the form of muscle mass. Therefore there are certain parameters that must be followed in the weight room. Lift heavy weights (85-100% of 1RM) using low reps (1-6) with full recovery (at least 2-3 minutes) between sets. Also, make sure to use multi-joint movements only. That means squats and deadlifts, but not hamstring curls and leg extensions. An example would be:

Deadlifts 4x5 @ 90% with 3’ rest
Squats 6x3 @ 95% with 4’ rest

But never:

Leg extensions 3x10 with 1’ rest
Bicep curls 3x12 with 1’ rest

Finally, adding plyometrics will help develop the explosive power of any athlete. These exercises are excellent in aiding an increase in sprint speed. However, these movements can be dangerous if introduced to athletes who have not developed strength, coordination and body awareness required to perform them correctly. That is why you must start of with basic stabilization type exercises such as box jumps and cone/mini hurdle hops. Teach athletes to land evenly on both feet and absorb each landing with the muscles, not the joints and bones. You know athletes are doing these drills correctly if they are landing softly, without making much noise.

Take all these training elements into consideration when developing your sprint training program. These methods are proven to be the safest, most effective means increase sprinting speed, whether working with athletes at the age group, high school or collegiate levels.



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