How to Sprint Faster: Technique Tips, Drills, & Strength Exercises
This is how to sprint faster: practice shorter sprints, incorporate resistance to your sprints, and train in the gym 2-3 times a week. When you do those three things, you will see your top maximum speed increase and your distance times drop.
We'll break down the anatomy of a sprint, starting from the crucial moments before the sprint begins, the explosive start, and the subsequent phases leading up to the finish line. We will discuss in-depth the mechanics involved in each of these phases, and the techniques for high intensity speed training
You’ll also get specific drills designed to improve your sprinting speed, focusing on different points of a sprint. This means finding drills that improve getting out of the blocks, developing the drive phase, and reaching maximum speed ASAP.
Alongside these drills, we'll introduce strength exercises, including variations of cleans, single leg squats, and nordic hamstring curls. These exercises are targeted at developing fast twitch muscle fibers, muscle strength, and core stability - all vital for a powerful sprint.
Whether you're looking to smash personal records, or outpace the competition on the playing field, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and techniques to get FAST AF!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Improve Sprinting Technique
Out of the Start
Launching your sprint effectively is a blend of balance, power, and technique. It all begins with the starting position: adopt a crouched stance, with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability. Position one foot slightly ahead of the other to align with your natural stride and balance.
Next, focus on loading your quads. Your quads are the powerhouse of your sprint start. Bending at the knees loads energy into these muscles, preparing them for the explosive launch. Think of your quads as a coiled spring, ready to uncoil and propel you forward.
Importantly, maintain a balanced position. This involves your entire body: your feet grounding you, your core engaged, and your upper body leaning slightly forward. This forward lean isn't just about balance; it’s about direction and momentum. A slight forward angle means gravity is on your side when you start your sprint, pulling you in the direction you want to go.
The moment of ignition is critical. In one swift, explosive movement, extend your legs and drive off the balls of your feet. Channel the energy you've stored in your quads, pushing the ground away from you as you launch yourself forward.
Perfecting your sprint start is about optimizing these mechanics. It's an intricate interplay between balance, strength, and momentum. Remember, speed isn't just about how fast you move your legs; it starts with how swiftly and efficiently you can transition from stillness to motion.
Your sprint should move smoothly from the explosive start into the crucial drive phase. This phase is all about building momentum, increasing stride length, and harnessing your full power to achieve maximum speed.
In the initial meters of the drive phase, take shorter, quicker steps. This high-frequency foot turnover helps you build speed and continue the forward momentum from your start.
Gradually, as your velocity increases, let your stride lengthen. But remember, the goal isn't long strides for their own sake, but efficient and powerful ones. Your feet should land directly beneath your body to maximize forward propulsion and prevent braking forces.
Keeping your core tight and engaged during this phase is key. It will maintain your balance, control your limbs, and direct your power forward, not side-to-side. A solid core is the platform on which efficient, powerful sprinting is built.
Your arms are not just bystanders in this performance. Pumping them strong and rhythmically in sync with your leg movement provides balance and contributes to your overall propulsion. Your arms should swing back and forth from the shoulders (not side to side) with elbows at about a 90-degree angle.
Ideally, the drive phase should last no longer than about 10 meters. Staying in this phase too long is inefficient, as it delays reaching your maximum speed. Understanding and refining these mechanics can lead to significant improvements in your speed and performance.
Obtaining Top Speed
Now, your transition from shorter, quicker steps to longer, powerful strides should be complete. Each stride now should cover more ground as you propel yourself forward with maximum force and velocity.
Your core remains vital in this phase. Keeping it braced and engaged maintains your balance and ensures efficient transfer of power from your torso to your limbs. This provides the stable platform necessary for your arms and legs to work in harmony, creating the momentum to maintain top speed.
Your gaze should be straight ahead, locking onto your finish line. The only time you should really worry about your surroundings is if you are in active play for football, soccer, or similar sport. This helps maintain your alignment and discourages any lateral movement that might detract from your forward momentum.
Do NOT slow down as you approach the finish line. Instead, aim to run through the finish, maintaining your top speed. Plan to decelerate only about 5 meters beyond the finish. This ensures that you’re maximizing your speed throughout the entirety of your sprint, rather than prematurely slowing down.
Top Drills for Sprinting
In the pursuit of greater sprinting speed, drills are an essential tool to fine-tune your technique and power. Using different drills with different levels of resistance will help with the different phases of your sprint progression.
One of the most effective exercises to kickstart your speed gains is the sled sprint.
Weighted sled sprints add resistance to your sprinting, pushing your muscles and neural drive to deliver higher power output. This drill particularly enhances the drive phase, aiding you in transitioning swiftly and smoothly into a full-on sprint.
Setting up is simple: load a sled with a weight of around 25-35 pounds. This strikes a good balance, providing substantial resistance while allowing you to maintain a sprinting motion. The aim is not to overload the sled, but to create a scenario where your body has to work harder to maintain speed and power.
Not everyone has a sled for sprints, so an easy way to add resistance into short sprints is using Powerlastic bands. You can put the band(s) across your stomach or waist while a partner holds the ends behind you.
Then you can easily incorporate resistance based speed training wherever you go because of how easy the bands are to transport.
If there's one drill that can revolutionize your sprinting start and drive phase, it's hill sprints. By sprinting uphill, you're naturally compelled to lean forward and position your feet correctly. It's a practical, intuitive way to develop the correct mechanics without even thinking about it.
Running up an incline encourages the proper foot landing - directly beneath your body. This is vital to generating forward propulsion and minimizing braking forces during your sprint.
Hill sprints simulate the start of the sprint, helping you refine your explosive start and transition into the drive phase. This form of training applies the principles of resistance training, making your body work harder during each stride. As a result, your explosive power and speed improve when you return to level ground.
You don't need a mountain for effective hill sprints; a slope of 10-25 meters is plenty. Why? Because the focus here is on the initial start and drive phase of your sprint. Repeating this short, intense effort drills into your muscle memory the explosive start and the swift transition into a full sprint.
10 and 15 Meter Sprints
Another drill for high intensity speed training to ramp up your sprinting speed is the 10 and 15 meter sprint. Short, yes, but it’s about the intensity here.
These sprints require maximum effort from the get-go, compelling you to reach top speed as quickly as possible. This makes them the perfect tool for developing both the drive and finishing phases of your sprint.
With 10 and 15 meter sprints, you're not only building your sprinting speed but also cultivating your sprinting endurance. Yes, each sprint is short, but the repetition of maximum effort trains your body to recover quickly, adapt to intense bursts of speed, and maintain this intensity over successive sprints.
For this drill, aim for a set of 5 to 10 sprints. Remember, each sprint is a maximum effort run; you're striving for top speed as swiftly as you can from the start.
10 and 15 meter sprints are a straightforward, effective drill for elevating your sprinting speed and technique. By pushing for maximum velocity in a short distance, you're honing your ability to explode into your sprint and maintain top speed - skills that will transform you into a more powerful and efficient sprinter.
Strength Exercises that Increase Sprinting Speed
A key part to increasing speed and sprinting faster is getting in the gym. You can only get so far with just running. The only way you’re going to increase your maximum speed potential is through incorporating strength training 2-3 times a week. Here are some exercises to include in your gym days.
The Clean, in its various forms, is exceptionally beneficial for developing explosive power and tightness, both of which are crucial for sprinting.
Incorporating these three Clean variations into your strength training regime can dramatically improve your sprinting speed. These exercises mirror the explosive movements required during a sprint, training your muscles and neural system to perform these movements more powerfully and efficiently. So, whether you're powering off the start line, accelerating into the drive phase, or maintaining speed and power during your sprint, Cleans are a valuable tool in your speed-building arsenal. Remember, a faster sprint is not just about moving your legs faster, but also about generating more power and efficiency with each stride.
One Box Clean
First, let's talk about one-box Cleans. This variation is an athlete's best friend if they're looking to improve acceleration through the drive phase.
One Box Cleans require a powerful extension of the hips and legs to lift the weight, mirroring the drive phase's forceful stride transitions. Regular practice can translate into more explosive, efficient acceleration when you're sprinting.
Two Box Clean
The next variation I recommend are two-box cleans. This variation is all about working on that explosive start.
It's a true test of instantaneous power production as the lifter has to rapidly engage the neural drive to create a substantial amount of power, tightness, and force. Just like exploding off the blocks at the start of a sprint, two-box Cleans train your body to generate maximum power in a flash.
Lastly, I recommend doing hang cleans. This variation emphasizes maintaining tightness through the drive phase.
The hang clean's triple extension - extending the hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously - mimics the powerful movements required during the drive phase of a sprint. This exercise helps build power in your core and quadriceps, enabling you to maximize force through the front of your foot during sprints.
Single Leg Squat
If there's a strength exercise that mirrors the balance, power, and coordination required for sprinting, it's the single leg squat. A prime unilateral movement, the single leg squat demands engagement of the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Single leg squats are essential for building fast twitch muscles in your legs. These muscle fibers are the key to explosive power and rapid acceleration - just what you need to blast off the starting line and maintain top speed.
Similar athletes like track cyclists will use single leg squat stands for their single leg squats to maximize the power output they can achieve from each leg.
When you perform single leg squats at a rapid pace with lighter weights, you specifically target these fast-twitch fibers, priming them for the speed and quickness required in sprinting.
Single leg squats are also phenomenal for developing overall muscle strength. By performing this exercise with heavier weights, you engage and challenge your muscles, promoting growth and strength. This contributes to a stronger push-off during each stride, leading to longer, more powerful strides and, ultimately, faster sprinting.
The unilateral movement mimics the one-legged nature of sprinting, making it a practical and effective strength exercise for sprinters. Whether you're looking to develop your fast-twitch muscle fibers or build powerful leg muscles, incorporating single leg squats into your strength training routine can be a game-changer for your sprinting speed.
One of our favorite exercises to enhance your sprinting speed is the nordic hamstring curl. Why?
This exercise provides a unique combination of core and hamstring strengthening in one dynamic movement. A stronger core and hamstrings result in a powerful stride, a necessity for faster sprinting.
Nordic hamstring curls are more than just a hamstring workout. This movement simultaneously works the core, teaching your body to maintain stability and control while exerting force.
Another benefit of nordic curls is their effectiveness in developing fast twitch muscle fibers, similar to the single leg squat. By incorporating this exercise into your training, you're conditioning these fibers to fire more quickly and powerfully, contributing to a faster start and more potent acceleration.
Recommended sets for nordic hamstring curls are generally in the range of 6-8 reps. This is a good range to stimulate some hypertrophy while allowing you to focus on contracting each rep.
Assisted Nordic curls, using powerlastic bands, are a great alternative that allow you to gradually build up your strength and control. This is for if you decide to up the volume of reps or have trouble with regular nordic curls.
Sports That Should Train for Sprinting
The significance of sprinting for track athletes is undeniable. Track sprinters need to master explosive speed to excel in events like 100m, 200m, and 400m. Every millisecond counts in these races, making sprint training vital for competitive edge.
Considering varied sprint distances are the key events for track, sprinters should user the exercises above.
Football and Rugby
For football and rugby players, sprinting is a game-changer. Whether it's a footballer sprinting down the field to catch a pass or a rugby player breaking away from a tackle, raw speed can create scoring opportunities and swing the momentum of a game.
Sprint training should be heavily emphasized for positions like running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and defensive backs.
In basketball, sprinting comes into play during fast breaks. The ability to quickly transition from defense to offense - and vice versa - can be the difference between scoring a critical basket or falling short.
All basketball players should be more than proficient with sprints and have it incorporated into their training almost every day.
Soccer, Field Hockey, and Lacrosse
Soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse also heavily rely on sprinting. These are sports with large playing fields, where athletes need to cover significant ground quickly, be it to score a goal, defend their territory, or simply keep up with the dynamic flow of the game.
These may require more endurance rather than sprinting, but sprint training is still a key element to these sports in order to make game-changing plays.
Baseball and Softball
Finally, baseball and softball players benefit greatly from sprint training. Think of a batter sprinting to make it to first base, or an outfielder running down a fly ball. The ability to sprint short distances quickly is going to be the key to many plays that affect any game.
Sprinting itself can yield great results, especially if you practice everyday. Although, if you want to reach your maximum potential, you need to incorporate resistance training and strength training into your week.
Focusing on lower body, core, and coordination movements are going to help you get the speed gains that you are looking for.
Finding strength programs for increasing speed is hard, because a lot of programs shy away from weight or lack speed training and focus only on weight. We designed Peak Strength to create strength programs specific to athletes like sprinters, football players, and field sports players to increase their performance.
Check out Peak Strength for a personalized program designed to make you faster, stronger, and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to head to head speed.
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