At Evolution Sports Performance we have helped thousands of athletes improve their speed.
Speed can be a broad term but I typically think of it as the ability to sprint fast. I will typically use agility or quickness when talking about change of direction.
To go a step further what I am technically talking about is acceleration. Acceleration is sprinting as hard as we can for the first 15-20 yards of the movement. After that we usually are not gaining any more speed but simply maintaining it.
You can see this in a 40 yd dash. The athlete will often “pop up” or run more upright for the last 20 yds of the test.
The acceleration is the first half and most athletes do not accelerate well. Some athletes can be very fast but it takes them 10-15 yds just to get going. That makes a big difference because an athlete is usually out of the play by then.
Acceleration training comes down to 2 things: technique and intent. You must have the proper movements to run fast but also must have the intent. Perfect technique with no effort still will not be fast.
If you follow the 10 Laws of Speed Training, you will have no choice but to get faster and get the leg up on your competition.
1. All Sprints must be All Out Efforts
As I just mentioned, you must shift your mindset to sprint all out when it is time to. No half efforts.
2. Drive Your Knees
This technique is important because it helps improve stride length. A shallow knee drive will result in contacting the ground earlier and reducing speed.
Running speed is stride length x stride frequency so to improve speed you must have a good stride length.
3. Swing Your Arms Forward and Backward
Many athletes will lose energy and effort by swinging their arms across their body. Our arms are supposed to help enhance our ability to sprint, not oppose it.
Swing you arms forward and backward, tight to the body, to sprint faster and improve your knee drive. Good arm action is a complement to knee drive.
4. Push the Ground Away from You
When one leg is driving, the other leg is extending. This trail leg needs to extend in order to push us forward. If we do not push the ground away to get us going forward, we will not gain any distance.
A high knee drill is run with a lot of reps and not a lot of ground covered. A sprint is all about getting past a distance in a short amount of time. Make sure you are extending the back leg and driving down the turf.
5. Get Off Your Heels
Fast sprinters do not run on their heels when they accelerate. Joggers do.
Don’t be a jogger.
The goal is to strike the ground with the front half of the foot, or the high arch. Not toes, not heels, but in the middle. This will provide a good rebound off of the ground to sprint fast.
6. Pull Your Toes Towards Your Knee
This builds off of the last point. If your front foot is pointed towards the ground when you drive your knees, you will have difficulty with a good foot strike.
The ankle should be dorsiflexed which can be done by pulling your toes towards your knee.
The above picture shows a good knee drive, ankle pull, and trail leg extension on this start out of the blocks.
7. Run on Hot Coals
This will allow you to spend minimal time with your feet on the ground. The less time on the ground, the better because that means you are moving towards your distance quickly.
Running on hot coals is a good way to think about it and paints a pretty clear picture of what the contact time should be like.
8. Brace Your Core
Good core stability can help make for efficient running. A stable core will improve hip range of motion and allow the extremities to do their job.
Athletes that lack stability when they run are almost like running on a trampoline. We don’t want to be bouncing around when sprinting. We want to be stiff and powerful.
Think about how you would tighten up if someone was going to punch you in the stomach. Hold that tension and start breathing. That is the brace that we are looking for.
It cannot be so tight that you can’t breathe but it also needs to be there to create stiffness.
9. Lean Forward
You should be slightly leaning forward when you sprint. Sprinting too upright will reduce your speed.
Stand up, start falling forward, and catch yourself with the foot that is going to prevent you from falling on your face. Be careful not to flex at the hip when trying to perfect the lean.
10. Get a Rest Period
When training for speed you must perform a an all out effort followed by a break. A 3s sprint should get 30-60 seconds of rest before performing the next one. That is a huge ratio.
Too short of rest periods will not give us maximal speed benefits. The benefits would shift more towards conditioning. Worse of all, the efforts would be run at less than all out effort which breaks rule #1.