No matter how strong you are or how determined, you must have speed to excel at your sport. Here are three speed workouts that will improve your top-end speed.
All of these workouts require a warm-up specifically geared to running at maximum speed—to facilitate full mobility, increase your heart rate, activate your neural systems and help generate oxygen in the blood.
Your cooldown can be a barefoot walk followed by a stretch. No jogging or extended mobility cooldown here—you don't want any negative impact. And don't follow these sessions with any other high-intensity, central nervous system-fatiguing sessions for at least 48 hours.
A Fly workout is one of the simplest and most effective maximum speed workouts. You're running at maximum speed in the purest sense.
Here's my favorite way to perform Flys:
- Warm up, then place a set of cones 30 meters from the start line and another set 10 meters farther out. The 10 meters between the cones is the "flying" zone.
- From a standing start, quickly build up to your maximum sprinting speed and hold it through the 10-meter fly zone. Run three reps, with a steady walk back for recovery.
- After a 15-minute break, repeat the Flys three times but with a 20-meter fly zone. Take another 15-minute break, then repeat with a 30-meter fly zone.
Variation 1: Do all three sets at the same fly distance but change the distance over the course of the training cycle. For example, perform 3x3 sets/reps of 10-meter Flys in the early phase of the training season and build to 3x3 of 30-meter Flys toward the end of the season.
Variation 2: Keep the finish cones and the start line at the same positions, but vary the Fly entry cones. As you increase Fly time, the acceleration zone decreases. (This variation was passed to me by Olympic Sprinter Craig Pickering during a masterclass delivered to my team. Source: www.craigpickering.com.)
Learn more about how Flying Sprints will help you get faster.
Speedmakers is a tough workout but, if done correctly, it's very good for increasing maximum speed. The basic workout is simple, but the emphasis is very important. It is usually best done on grass. A football field works perfectly.
- Start at the corner of the field and accelerate for 60 meters up the long edge.
- Hold maximum speed for 20 meters and then decelerate for the remaining 40 meters. At the corner of the field, make the turn and pitter-patter jog (very short steps but fast feet) to the next corner.
Repeat the acceleration/maximum speed/deceleration moves until you complete two full laps (equals 4 repetitions of the 60/20/20 cycle).
After a 15-minute break, repeat the set. In the early part of the training year, two sets are usually sufficient. Later, you may be able to complete three. A longer rest period allows greater numbers of sets.
Tip: Don't spread the acceleration over the whole 60 meters. Accelerate hard to top speed, which should take a maximum of 30 meters. Then hold your acceleration position and try to continue to accelerate, even though you have hit maximum speed. My cue for this is to "keep your chest ahead of your toes"—which will allow the acceleration to continue—"and then keep pushing!"
Try to push your top speed beyond where you perceive it and then hold that speed for 20 meters.
3. In and Outs
If done correctly, In and Outs can be an excellent pure speed workout.
- Place cones at your starting point, 20 meters, 30 meters, 40 meters, 50 meters, 60 meters, 70 meters and 100 meters.
- Accelerate to cross the first cone running at maximum speed. Hold this speed for 10 meters, until the next cone. This is the "in."
- For the next 10 meters, hold a "float," during which you are neither pushing nor intentionally decelerating. This is the "out." Repeat until the final 30 meters is a slow deceleration.
Each "in" should be your absolute maximum speed.
Recovery between repetitions comes from a slow walk back for three repetitions. Do 3 sets with a 20-minute break between.
Make sure the "outs" aren't so long that deceleration occurs, and that the "ins" aren't so long that fatigue turns into a lactic tolerance or speed endurance session.
Learn three more drills to improve your top-end speed from the Michael Johnson Performance Center.