The Secret to Running Faster

Looking for the secret to speed? Check out the scientific evidence that supports best way for an athlete to get faster.


"Speed kills!"

Coaches have been chanting this mantra for decades while implementing various training principles to get their athletes to run faster. Some have been successful. Some not so much. Scientific research has provided the template for the fastest way to accelerate your speed training.

In 2000, Peter Weyand, Ph.D., and his associates at Harvard University published a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, which not only contradicted the traditional view of how to run faster, but also provided new concepts for speed training that caused coaches to reconsider their approaches to athletic speed development.

The conventional wisdom about how to run faster had been that speed results from stride length and stride rate. The Weyand study showed that the component with the greatest effect on speed is mass-specific force—how much force you can generate relative to your body weight, and how quickly this force can be produced.

Consider a sports car and an SUV, both with the same 400-horsepower engine. The two automobiles are capable of generating the same amount of force, but they do not have the same performance. The sports car is much faster than the SUV in both acceleration and top speed. Why? Because the sports car is much smaller and lighter. Similarly, smaller athletes typically run faster than larger athletes (think of a running back versus an offensive lineman).

So the goal of your speed training should be to increase the amount of force you can put into the ground without increasing your size. Focus on improving strength and power using methods that won't cause you to bulk up. Many top strength coaches increase the size of their athletes' engines with moderate sets of heavy weights for low reps. Once you become stronger, focus on producing higher amounts of force by performing lower-body plyometrics and Olympic lifts, like Cleans and Snatches. Zero in on these true components of running faster and you will be blowing your competition off the line.

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