The Best Speed Drills to Run Faster

The Best Speed Drills to Run Faster

Three speed exercises you can do anytime, anywhere, to get faster and increase your explosiveness.

Speed kills. It’s extremely difficult to develop and highly sought after by all athletes. Shaving tenths of seconds from your dash time could be the difference between starting, starring, or sitting. Which is exactly why you should be looking for any edge you can get when it comes to getting faster. Coach Craig Sowers, Head Strength Coach at Akron, put together a great article on running form while he was at UCLA, which is key to increasing speed for every athlete (even the elite), but I’d like to take it one step further.

What follows are a few more exercises that will increase your acceleration and top end speed. All of these speed drills were chosen because they can be done without equipment or a partner, so enough with the excuses. Use these and give yourself the total package of speed, power, and explosiveness.

Marching A’s/ A Skips

This should be used as a warm-up, and will train your body for proper alignment when you’re in full-on sprint mode. During this exercise you’re going to march for 15 yards before switching to a skipping motion for the next 15 yards (30 yards total for all of my buddies stuck in pre-calc). In the second half of the drill, you should concentrate on driving force down into the ground, as well was driving your elbows back (which will in turn drive the opposite knee up). It’s a very strict movement but should be done in a relaxed manner to maximize benefits. Perform two sets of 30 yards and you’ll be good to go.

TIPS: As you march/skip make sure your eyes are 3-4 yards ahead. Additionally, your hand should move from your chin to your butt during the movement, and your raised leg should have the foot pointed upward and be held tightly to the opposite knee.

Prone Acceleration Sprints

Great speed requires being fast out of the gate, taking no backward (“false”) steps, and making sure that your feet are constantly moving. The best way to work on this is by doing prone acceleration sprints.

To perform this exercise, you’ll start face down on your stomach, 20 yards away from the end line. Quickly stand up and sprint from the starting point to the end line as fast as you can; that’s it. I use a whistle to start the drill to add a degree of quick response with my athletes, but if you don’t have a partner, don’t sweat it. Start with this speed drill after your dynamic warm-up, and perform 5-8 reps depending on your running volume that day.

TIPS: While lying on the ground, keep your legs straight behind you at hip distance, and place your hands right on the outside of your chest. In order to maintain proper alignment, stay low when accelerating from the ground into your sprint.

High Knee Overspeed Drill

In order to run faster one of two things has to happen: increased stride frequency or increased stride length. I advise against increasing stride length because it overstretches muscles (which ends up causing decreased speed or injury). In increasing stride frequency you’ll increase the number you take, in turn increasing the amount of force you’re able to put into the ground.

Many overspeed drills require a partner to help, but the high knee overspeed drill is one that you can do alone. All you need is 30 yards of distance. To begin, place one cone every five yards from the endzone to the 20 yard. Then perform 20 high knees (10 per leg) at a rapid pace from the endzone to 5 yard line. Walk between the 5 to 10 yard line and then repeat 20 high knees between the 10 to 15 yard line before sprinting from the 15 to 20 yard line. Perform this 4 times before your sprints/conditioning for the day.

TIPS: When performing the rapid high knees from the 10-15 yard line make sure that when you get to the 18th high knee that you are leaning slightly forward, ready to sprint.

These speed training drills can really enhance and refine your running form and technique. However, one major way to increase your speed not listed above is to LIFT WEIGHTS. The stronger your body gets the more force it will produce. So incorporate the exercises above into your training program, lift hard, and you’ll see a dramatic increase in your speed.

To increase your lower body strength and run faster, 1R would recommend the following supplements:

  1. Optimum Nutrition Threshold Beta-Alanine - Will help increase your workout capacity which will improve performance and strength during high intensity training
  2. Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after workouts
  3. Optimum Nutrition BCAA 5000 Powder – Adding this product to your pre or post-workout routine will help build lean muscle mass, increase protein synthesis, and improve energy levels
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About the Author

Nate Hemphill is an assistant strength & conditioning coach at the University of California-Davis where he oversees the training protocols for Men’s Soccer, Field Hockey, Women's Lacrosse, Golf, Tennis, and Women's Water Polo while assisting with Football. Prior to joining UC Davis in 2011, he was a graduate assistant strength & conditioning coach at Seattle University from 2009-2011. A 2005 graduate in Exercise and Movement Science from Missouri State University (MO), Nate worked with numerous sports at MSU as well as working with the St. Louis Cardinals in their Minor League affiliates (Rookie, AA). Nate is currently a certified CSCS from the NSCA. He is working to finish his Master’s Degree in Sports Administration and Leadership from Seattle University.