Foot Speed and Reaction Time on the Track is Key
Track athletes, track coaches, trainers, and biomechanics experts are immersed in an ongoing search for ways to make the body do one simple thing: run faster. Leg strength is one part of the complex blend of factors that contribute to running speed. Core strength is another. A third element comes from overall agility. A fourth seems to come from sharpened reflexes, coordination, and the ability of a muscle to snap quickly from one motion into another.
No matter how explosive our hamstrings may be, how well balanced the hamstrings are with the quads, or how powerful and controlled we are in the core, we still aren’t maximizing our running speed if we neglect foot speed. To run faster and make the most of their potential, track athletes need to spend some time in the gym working on foot speed and dot drill exercises that bring reaction time into the overall equation. And to get the most out of dot drill exercises and foot speed workouts, it’s a good idea to add an element of unnatural resistance. Foot speed workouts with resistance bands can give track athletes the feeling of flight and light-footedness that blast them down the track once the bands are removed.
Foot Speed: How The Kbands Contribute to Muscle Activation
During foot speed workouts and dot drills like those in the video below, the Kbands should be strapped securely to the upper leg, just above the knee. The short resistance band should be attached in the back and the long band in the front. When the bands are in place, the simple act of lifting the thigh or rotating it to the side generates strong additional pressure on the glutes and hip flexors. And when the knee is kept straight and the entire leg is lifted, pushed forward or back, or moved to the side, the forces at work become acutely concentrated in the hips and lower core.
The dot drills and foot speed exercises demonstrated here may not seem intense, and may not involve large and obvious muscle motion, but they’re very taxing to the muscles of the upper leg and lower torso. And when the Kbands are in place, they become even more so. These moves place a high level of challenge not just on the large hip flexor muscles, but also on the countless smaller muscle groups that play a supporting role in the motion and contribute elements like balance, coordination, and snap reflexes.
To complete these dot drill moves and foot speed exercises, athletes need only a few minutes, the resistance bands, and a small area of floor space. But as our track athlete demonstrator can attest, the moves are more difficult than they look. As they complete these dot drills, track athletes should stay controlled and focus on technique as well as speed.
Simple Dot Drills
With the Kbands attached, track athletes should stand with feet shoulder width apart and find a dot or crack on the floor between the feet. The dot or crack will provide visual direction and help the track athlete center his movements. When ready, the athlete will jump forward with the feet spread apart, back to the original position over the dot, then backward with the feet spread apart. Follow the motion of the athlete in the video as he completes the first dot drill.
For the second dot drill, track athletes should bring both feet together and hop back and forth from one side of the dot or crack to the other. (While the crack provides a visual starting point, there’s no need to stare at the floor constantly during the foot speed exercise—Just don’t start hopping randomly with no sense of direction or control.) After moving from side to side, the track athlete can stand just behind the dot and hop over it from front to back.
The last of these foot speed drills is a simple toe tap, in which the athlete places the dot between his feet and completes an alternating hop, moving each foot forward and back. As he executes this last foot speed drill in the series, note how he keeps his running stance wide and natural. He doesn’t let the resistance bands draw his legs too close together and detract from the value of the move.
Run Faster: Foot Speed and Dot Drills
To bring explosivity and sharp reflexes to his hips and core, the track athlete now takes the dot drill moves to the next level. The foot movements in his second set are the same as those in the first, but his foot speed is greatly increased. Note how the difficulty of the move increases with elevated speed, as does the pressure on the glutes, hip flexors, and core.
The track athlete starts with the first dot drill, moving his feet forward and apart, then back to center, then backward and apart. Then he moves to the next foot speed exercise, keeping his feet together and bringing them from side to side over the dot. During the third dot drill he crosses the dot from front to back, and finally during the last foot speed drill he alternates each foot forward and back across the dot.
To get the most out of these dot drill moves and run faster on the track, track athletes should run faster during the moves. Put effort and explosive energy into each burst of motion over the dot, and cover as much ground with the feet as possible, especially during the final toe taps.
Once track athletes complete these moves with the resistance bands in place, they can try them again with the bands removed to experience a sensation of increased light-footedness and agility. Over time, frequent repetition of this move will increase power and responsiveness in the hips and core and bring this fast feeling onto the track.
In the meantime, check in with KbandsTraining.com for more information on how to run faster and more video workouts customized to meet the needs of track athletes.
Track Training Equipment