Get Faster this Winter with Treadmill Speed Workouts

November 1, 2012 | Brett Bartholomew | Featured in the Holiday 2012 Issue

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Winter is here and the cold weather means that many of you won't be able to continue your speed workouts outside. However, this is not an excuse to ignore this part of your training. Treadmill speed workouts are a great alternative way to get faster during the winter months.

Speed workouts on a treadmill don't involve arbitrarily jogging at whatever pace is comfortable or simply sprinting as fast as you can. To get the most out of your workouts, you still have to follow fundamental speed training principles and understand the limitations of treadmills. (Check out STACK's Speed Training page.)

To get faster this winter, perform the following two treadmill speed workouts on non-consecutive days. When combined, the two workouts are a great substitute for traditional outdoor training.

Note: Perform a proper dynamic warm-up before each workout.

Treadmill Speed Workout 1: Less is More

Many athletes believe that running for distance will increase speed. This is flawed thinking. You must perform short and intense workouts that feature work intervals of five to 15 seconds. Anything shorter than five seconds and you will struggle to get near your top speed. Anything longer than 15 seconds and your form will begin to break down.

  • Set treadmill to 75 percent max speed
  • Sprint for 5 to 10 seconds; rest for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat for specified reps; add .5 to 1 mph between sets

Sets/Reps: 2-3x5-6 with 2-minute rest between sets

Treadmill Speed Workout 2: Move Mountains

Studies have found that running on a treadmill decreases stride length and ground contact time (1). Since the belt is pulling your legs, you don't need to put as much force into the ground to propel you forward. This is a serious problem since a longer stride equates to greater speed.

To counter these effects, set the incline to at least one percent. This forces your legs to put more power into the ground and increases your stride length. Start with a low incline and gradually increase as you advance in your training.

  • Set treadmill to 75 percent max speed at a 1-percent incline; jog for 1 to 2 minutes
  • Increase incline to 6-7 percent and adjust speed to 75-80 percent max; run for 3/4 mile
  • Decrease incline to 1 or 2 percent; jog for 1-2 minutes
  • Increase incline to 8 percent and adjust speed to 85-90 percent max; run for 1/2 mile
  • Decrease incline to 1 or 2 percent; jog for 1-2 minutes
  • Increase incline to 10-12 percent and speed to 100 percent max; run for 1/4 mile
  • Decrease incline to 1 or 2 percent; jog for 1-2 minutes

Sets/Reps: 1-5xsequence (do not allow form to break)

If you are an endurance athlete, this principle can dramatically improve your leg strength, which is particularly beneficial for hill climbs. Below is a variation specifically designed for long-distance runners.

  • Set treadmill to jogging speed
  • Work up to 6 to 12 percent incline
  • Adjust treadmill speed to allow for 30-second sprints (8 out of 10 difficulty rating)
  • Sprint for 30 seconds; rest for 30 seconds
  • Repeat sprints for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1-3x8-10

Rest for Success

Speed and conditioning are two different things. You will get in shape as a byproduct of speed work, but this isn't your primary goal. Make sure to take longer periods of rest between reps to allow your body to fully recover. Running fast requires an immense amount of power and energy, and you need those stores available in order to sprint full speed each rep. Research suggests that a rest period of two to three minutes is best in order to maximize speed gains and technique (2).

This principle should be used in conjunction with the sample workouts above. Whether you are manipulating the speed of the treadmill, the incline, or both, it is imperative that you allow your body to recover between sets in order to make each successive set as explosive as possible.

Learn more about Athletes’ Performance and the professional and elite athletes they support on the Athletes’ Performance page on STACK.

Sources:

1.) V,Wank Frick, & D. Schmidtbleicher (1998). Kinematics and Electromyography of Lower Limb Muscles in Overground and Treadmill Running. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 19(7): 455-461

2.) Baechle, Thomas, R. & Earle, Roger, W. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning (3rd Edition) Human Kinetics Publishing. Page 477-478.

Brett Bartholomew
- Brett Bartholomew is a performance specialist at Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, where he works with elite college, high school and youth athletes. Prior to joining...
Brett Bartholomew
- Brett Bartholomew is a performance specialist at Athletes’ Performance in Phoenix, where he works with elite college, high school and youth athletes. Prior to joining...
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