In order to improve your sprint speed, you have to sprint.
That makes sense, right?
It does—to an extent.
Sprinting is a skill, and to improve the technical aspects of your sprint technique, you need to hit the track. However, you could sprint until you are blue in the face every day and only get marginally faster. That's because you are not improving your ability to put force into the ground, which is really how you get faster.
To do this, you need to get in the weight room and effectively and efficiently train the muscles required for an explosive sprint. This is the true route to speed.
Below are 3 ways you can do just that.
If there is one group of muscles that nearly all top-level sprinters have strengthened, it's the glutes. Your butt is the powerhouse and it plays a primary role in force production during a sprint.
To develop the glutes to their fullest, look no further than the Deadlift. Not only does it work the glutes, it also trains the entire posterior chain (back, glutes and hamstrings.)
It's tough to come up with a movement that works more muscles than the Deadlift, so its efficiency is incredible.
Check out the video player above to see how to properly perform a Deadlift.
Improve your max strength and power with sets in the 3-5 repetition range. Focus on getting the bar off the floor as quickly as you can.
It's easy to forget that walking and running are technically done with one leg at a time.
Therefore, to maximize your sprint speed, you need to perform single-leg exercises on a consistent basis. They improve your single-leg strength and balance, and they are easier on the lower back than bilateral (two-legged) exercises.
I'm a big fan of heavy Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squats. When you hold the dumbbells down at your sides, your upper back has to work to maintain your posture throughout the movement.
Check out the video player above for a demonstration.
To ensure working your glutes and hamstrings to their fullest, sit down and back onto your front heel. Drive through that heel back to the top. As you are coming up, keep your abs braced so your low back doesn't take over.
To give yourself a reference point for hitting the appropriate depth, place a small pad in front of the bench and tap it each time.
Emphasize the Eccentric with Gliding Discs
Athletes often overlook the eccentric, or lowering phase, of an exercise. But controlling the motion on the way down trains the glutes and hamstrings to perform at their best and resist injury to their fullest.
One way to improve your eccentric lower-body strength is to use gliding discs in your training.
I really like them for Reverse Lunges, as seen in the video player above.
The key with this exercise is that when you transition out of the bottom, you focus on "pulling" through with the glute and hamstring of your planted leg. If you go straight to your quads, the movement loses its effectiveness.
Also, when you are coming up, keep your ribs down to avoid swinging into your lower back and putting unnecessary strain there.
Some coaches say speed can't be taught, but I believe anyone can get faster with smart time spent in the weight room.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock