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Speed training is more complicated that simply running sprints. For your speed workouts to be effective, you must account for both acceleration and top-end speed, and how best to train them.
Acceleration is the most important element of speed in most sports, because short bursts of speed are much more frequent than top-end sprints.
To increase your acceleration speed, you need to improve your ability to put force into the ground. The more force you can apply into the ground with each stride, the faster you will go. To do this, you must perfect your form and minimize stride inefficiencies.
One phrase I stand by is, "Form dictates function." When you accelerate, you have to position your body in a way that you can create the most leverage through the ground to push off. So, you should have a 45-degree forward lean to ensure that you can drive your knees forward and powerfully push through the balls of your feet (your heels should not touch the ground).
Here are some of the best speed drills to work on the acceleration phase.
- Face a wall and extend your arms out in front of you
- Lean onto the wall with your body at a 45-degree angle
- Keep your hips forward
- Keeping your feet flexed, drive one knee forward toward the wall; this is the position you want your body in when accelerating
- Drive both legs fast as if you were trying to push the wall down
Mountain Climber Starts
- Assume a push-up position
- Drive your knees forward in an alternating fashion as fast as you can for five seconds
- Keep your back flat and your shoulders in line with your hips
- Explode into a 20-yard sprint
Check out these other exercises to train acceleration:
When you reach your top speed, the action of your body changes from pushing to pulling. You want to pull back on the ground with the ball of your foot instead of driving forward, as if you were pulling the finish line toward you with each stride. During the top-speed phase, your body angle switches from a forward lean to approximately 10 degrees and you want to stay tall with your hips forward.
My favorite top speed drill is:
Bound with your legs straight and feet flexed. Go for 20 to 25 yards in as few bounds as possible.
Here are two other drills for top-end speed: