5 Ways to Get your Speed UP!
Updated: Jul 20, 2019
Author: Andrew Hyde
Occupation: Sports scientist and Strength & Conditioning Coach
Andrew and the Aesthetic Athletes are great friends with us at Next Step Therapy and are highly skilled practitioners who are driven to maximise performance in athletes and the general public alike.
Speed Kills. And for that reason, I don’t know many athletes or fitness enthusiasts who don’t want to be faster. Whether you’re playing professional rugby, taking part in a charity event or running to catch a train, being fast helps. With an industry full of gimmicks and easy to trust ‘trainers’ that can unknowingly steer you in the wrong direction, we’re going to share five concrete, simple and feasible ways you can get your running speed up!
Key Words: Speed, Sprinting, Strength, Power, Athlete, Sport
When it comes to the physical development of athletes, there is usually always one quality mentioned, and it is of course speed. Look at the Olympics all the way down to sports days, what event do we wait for? The 100m, closely followed by the 200m and the 4x100m relay. What is the most prestigious test in the NFL Combine? The 40-yard dash! It’s the most exciting, explosive action we perform as humans, and it is definitely the most athletic.
Sprinting makes you feel quite free and it is very liberating, especially if you’re competitively beating someone right behind you! It is the ultimate form of human locomotion. And it is definitely important in many, many track and team sports. For example, 45% of all goals in Premier League football are preceded by a sprint (Faude et al., 2012). If your looking to really excel and make a difference in your sport or in any competitive event (even if you’re your own competition) is it going to make life easier being as fast your body will allow you to be?
5 Tips to Get Quicker
This one may seem obvious, but it is definitely the most important. Imagine wanting to get better at baking cakes. So, you watch videos of Gordon Ramsay baking cakes, take some tips. You read a Jamie Oliver book on how to bake cakes, you take more tips! You even order some top of the range baking equipment off Amazon Prime, fantastic. Finally, your practice making your icing just to really top it all off (no pun intended).
But… there’s one thing you haven’t done and is that actually bake! Everything you’ve done may definitely help but there is nothing more specific than doing what it is you want to get better at, and that applies to sprinting. Sprinting is the most specific thing to sprinting. The muscles and joints you use, the range of motion they work through and the speed of the movement are all specific. To continue, the speed the working muscles contract at and the way they contract (eccentric, isometric, concentric) are all specific. Sprinting is the also the fastest movement we can perform as humans and nothing requires more motor unit activation. Get your central nervous used to doing it. Sprint more, and hands down you will get better at it!
2. Get Stronger
The more force you can put into the ground the better and therefore, getting stronger is important to a certain extent. If your accelerating, putting force into ground to push yourself forward is great, and when you get to your top speed, putting force down into the ground to propel yourself up slightly and forwards is also great. Look at Usain Bolt, at top speed he has an average step length of 2.44m!
Strength training which is heavy and brief whereby you move load with intent would be useful! Master the basics, squatting, lunging and eventually lunging with your rear foot raised. A stronger squat is correlated with increases in top speed and once you have this down, you can begin to transfer this into unilateral movements (which sprinting is). Get your Quads, Glutes and Hamstrings prepared to sprint!
You should also prepare your hamstrings for this as at the end of each stride before your foot makes contact with the floor. Your hamstring is at a long length and may be working either eccentrically or isometrically, or maybe even a bit of both (research has made good arguments for both sides). Therefore, working from slow, long length hamstring positions in the gym towards fast ones over time will just protect but improve the function of your hamstrings in many regards, not just sprinting!
It is important to note that a 300kg squat probably isn’t going to do you any favours. So, how strong should you get?
3. Get Lighter
Well, to continue… Ideally, you should be not just be strong, but be stronger relative to your bodyweight. Being able to squat anywhere from 1.5 to 2x your bodyweight would certainly help you in reaching higher top speeds. Some sprinters may not actually pay too much attention to getting stronger in the gym at all. However, we likely do not have the ratio of fast twitch muscle fibres that they do.
If your carrying unnecessary body fat that is really not doing anything except slowing you down, focus on steadily getting stronger whilst dropping some body fat. This is harder than doing one of these things alone, but it is far from impossible to do both. All of these tips are subjective to you. Therefore, it is up to you decide if you should work on them or not!
4. Improve your Mechanics
Now this is one is up there with tip 1, become more efficient at sprinting! These are those supplementary drills that compliment the fact that you are sprinting by helping you do it right. If you work hard to study for an exam but use a poor strategy or revise the wrong contact the what is the hard work for?
The same remains here. And there are many resources (including our Instagram) which can help in teaching you how to sprint properly. We have both an acceleration and top speed series on our Instagram page which introduce you to some basic drills that can help you improve your sprinting mechanics so that you are more efficient with your movement.
The important thing here is that, as mentioned, even if you begin to sprint as part of your training, you may not be doing it correctly. In addition, being able to put a lot of force into the ground can go out the window, as it is how technically apply the force in the ground which is very, very important and strongly correlates with success in sprinting over 10m or 100m.
5. Tailored Variety
We are all different. Taking into consideration the points above, it may be that your already very strong relative to your body weight. So… what do you do?
Well, it may be that your force dominant and struggle to move your limbs at a high velocity. Therefore, it may be that in addition to your strength training, you could incorporate some fast-plyometric training. Or, on the other hand if your lean and have great mechanics but your struggling with your force production, add some load to your sprints and use a resistance band, a sled or a weighted vest. This is not something which can be prescribed to you over an article and as such, it is up to you to judge this sometimes! If you feel like you are unsure, feel free to message us on contact us to discuss the matter further.
Depending on your sport or any event you may take part in, you could find yourself sprint from various positions. From stationary? Side-on? Facing the wrong way? Already upright and jogging? Within your sprint training, start from different stances, positions and speeds. Using a partner and approaching it from a games-based perspective to add in some competition and stimulus can also be fantastic!
Something to take home
So, do you feel like you’ve learnt some basic tips and principles that leave with you no excuse in getting up and working hard in the right way to get faster? Rather than summarize the points I have already raised. I will provide you with some further guidance as a template for you to form your own program. And as I have already mentioned, feel free to follow and message us on any social media for further support!
1. One session a week dedicated to sprinting is more than enough… or, at least a portion of your session.
2. Sprint first. Do your sprinting work at the start of your session to ensure your fresh and your mechanics are not compromised. It also wouldn’t be very wise to sprint after hamstring work, or you may be visiting Next Step Therapy for some treatment!
3. Sprint at the start of the week. Sprint when you are fresh at the start of the week, or away from your games and events to ensure there’s minimal acute fatigue.
4. Rest between sets. If you want to get faster, do not repeat another sprint if you’re still recovering. This may just turn into a conditioning session rather than a speed session. Go when you feel ready!
5. Tone it down in-season. If you’re already training and competing a lot as part of your sport in-season, then tone it down and pick it up again in preseason!
6. Start off slow and think rhythm, timing and relaxation with your sprinting before you go fast. By all means hit it hard in your sprinting sessions but when your learning to sprint, focus on moving forwards fast. Thinking rhythm and start slow.
7. Finally, it may be wise to precede your sprints with your mechanics work and then look at directly applying this into your maximal effort sprints after before hitting the gym to get stronger!