4 Principles for More Effective Speed Training

Are you training for speed the right way? Learn the quickest way to get faster by following the four principles for more effective speed training.

Football Speed
Speed gets you to the ball to beat the defender and ultimately score. It's the athletic attribute most evaluated by coaches. Your speed could determine whether you make the team, actually play in games or sit on the bench. Essentially, speed is critical for athletic success.

Below are four major principles for speed training. Following them will keep your training effective. Failing to follow them will hurt your results.

Sprinting takes technique

Good technique prevents hamstring pulls and shin splints, keeps you consistent and may help you to move faster. Here are some technical pointers for sprinting:

  • Swing your arms from your shoulders, not your elbows. Pull them back hard. The stretch reflex at your chest and shoulders will move them forward all on their own.
  • Avoid your arms crossing the midline of your body; this makes you rotate.
  • Pick your foot off the ground, bring it to your hip and then swing your leg forward. Keeping your lower leg tight to the upper leg when swinging forward helps you to move faster.
  • Swing your leg forward so that your upper leg is parallel to the ground.
  • Drive your foot back toward the ground using your glutes. It's not a knee extension. Your glutes are big and powerful muscles; your quadriceps are small by comparison.
  • Land on the balls of your feet; avoid running heel to toe, as it may overstress your hamstrings and tends to cause a braking motion that slows you down.
Find a sprint technique checklist and more in our Get Faster guide.

Running fast is a skill

You have to learn how to run fast. It's a skill not a talent. For this reason, you need to perform every sprint close to maximum velocity. Running at slow speed might be okay for developing endurance, but it teaches you to run at slow speed, which is not what you want. You'll never see sprint programs advocating training at a percentage of maximum velocity. All training is done at close to maximum velocity. Don't train yourself to run slow!

Check out STACK's Speed Workouts.

Avoid excessive fatigue

Because it needs to be done at close to maximum velocity, sprinting takes a lot of technique. But you must avoid excessive fatigue. Sprinting when you are too tired teaches you to run slowly and with bad technique, neither of which should be enforced by your training. This means a few things for an effective sprinting training program:

  • You need to recover fully between sprints; rest thirty seconds to two minutes depending upon the distance.
  • Don't do too many sprints in one workout. It's rare to see an elite collegiate sprinter cover 1,000 meters in a single workout, and most do far less. Three to ten sprints with full recovery are more than adequate.
  • Sprints should be done towards the beginning of your workout when you are fresh.

Sprinting is exerting force against the ground

In other words, you have to be strong. This means performing Squats, Deadlifts and Romanian Deadlifts. However, there is a point of diminishing returns with strength training. For male sprinters, a good goal is to Squat around twice your bodyweight; for females, around 1.5 times your bodyweight. More than that won't help sprinting. But less than that will reduce your performance.

Follow our Get Faster page for regular updates on speed training from some of the country's top speed coaches.
Photo: U.S. Navy

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