So you want to be faster?
Sprinting seems easy enough right? Just run as fast as you can.
Maybe you were blessed with awesome genes and you were born to run fast. Or maybe you just gave up on being fast because you feel like you weren't blessed in that category.
Well there is good news and bad news.
The bad news is that everyone has different genes and there is a gentic limit for everyone on how fast they can sprint.
The good news? Unless you are an Olympian, you probably are not any where near your genetic potential.
So continue reading and find out what methods you need to incorporate in your training to see improvement in your sprint speed.
Sprinting in essentially a series of strides that launches the body forward with every stride.
There are two main factors that determine running speed - stride frequency and stride length. Stride frequency refers to the amount strides that you are able to take in a given amount of time. Stride length refers to the distance from one contact point with the ground to the next point of contact (the distance between where your left foot hits the ground to the point in which your right foot hits the ground).
In order for someone to sprint to their fullest potential, one must achieve a high stride frequency and an optimal stride length, while maximizing the horizontal (forward) push and minimizing the height of each stride (how far the body comes of the ground vertically).
Now, literally entire books have been written just about the mechanics of sprinting. So rather than bore you with endless paragraphs about proper sprint form, I am going to inform you on what to focus on when training to increase speed.
Before I do this however, I want to make it clear that the single best way to get faster is to learn, develop, and practice proper sprinting form. By having sound technique from take off to finish, wasted motion is diminished and you are able to move more efficiently. Improving sprinting technique should be the primary method of improving one's speed as this can be a limiting factor.
The next method, which I consider to be the second best method (after fixing technique) is to improve one's maximal strength.
What is maximal strength?
Maximal strength is the greatest force that is able to be produced in a single maximum contraction.
Now, each time you take a stride and make contact with the ground, you then have to push off the ground to propel yourself forward.
In the simplest terms, the more forcefully you are able to push off the ground, the futher you will propel yourself forward and the longer your stride length will be.
What is the fastest way to increase the force one is able to put into the ground with each stride?
Increasing maximal strength. Get stronger.
Remember, stride length is one of the determining factors of how fast someone is able to run.
Rate of Force Development
The third method of developing speed is improving rate of force development. Rate of force development refers to how much force can be produced in the shortest time possible. As previously mentioned, producing a large amount of force is important to increasing stride length. This is only one piece of the puzzle though.
Having the ability to move weight - specifically your body weight in this case - as quickly as possible is just as important in sprinting to one's potential. Producing force more quickly will allow the body to accelerate the rate at which one is able to stride - increasing stride frequency.
What are the best ways to improve rate of force development?
Plyometrics, lifting submaximal weights as fast as possible, olympic lifts, and medicine ball training.
Sprint resistance is a method that can be used to increase maximal speed. Sprint resistance involves gravity-resisted or mechaically-resisted running to create an overload effect. Gravity-resisted running would include uphill sprints, while mechanically resisted running would include something such as a parachute or a sled. This type of training has a primary goal of increasing explosive strength and improving stride length.
Another similar type of training is the idea of sprint assistance. Sprint assistnace mainly includes gravity-assisted running, but other forms do exist.
Downhill running is gravity-assisted running. Keeping sprint technique while running on a slight downhill will create an overload effect in reference to running speed - meaning you will reach speeds faster than you could when running on flat ground. This overload effect in reference to speed will allow you to train with a faster stride frequency.
An important note - both sprint-resistance and sprint-assistance training methods should be used after you have spent time refining your sprint form. These methods require somewhat of a technical expertise in order to reap much benefit. Neither of these training methods should ever sacrifice sprint form in order to add more resistance or assistance.
The last method of training in order to increase speed is increasing mobility. During running, the hip and kneee joints need to work through somewhat of a large range of motion in order to produce the most force possible.
Most people do not have any knee mobilty issues, so mobility restrictions are typically found at the hip. Adequate hip flexion is needed to bring the leg up to the right degree during the stride, while adequate hip extension is needed to allow the leg to swing back to the proper degree during the stride.
Inadequate mobilty can result in a shortened stride length or the other end of the spectrum - overstriding. Overstriding causes longer contact time with the ground and actually act as a break and slow you down.
So there you have it - the top methods of what I consider to be the most important and beneficial to improving your sprint speed.
If you have any questions regarding anything in this post or would like me to expand on any of the methods, feel free to comment or email me.
Till next time,