How to Run Faster and Increase Speed on the Field
Training the body to run faster and training the body to run longer involve different sets of training principles. But both speed and endurance increases come from rapid oxygen delivery to muscle cells, glycogen stored in muscle tissue, and of course, training. But while endurance depends largely on the development and condition of the heart and lungs, speed increases happen fastest when athletes concentrate their training efforts on the strengthening the supporting muscle groups in the legs, including the hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors.
And while running drills alone can improve sprint speed and help athletes run faster, real speed improvement also requires indoor strength training work and plyometric exercises. In the video below, the Kbands trainers demonstrate a plyometric exercise superset designed to target the large muscle groups in the upper and lower legs, the back, and the supporting muscles in the core and hips that help bring rapid increases in sprint speed.
For athletes drills like these should be incorporated into a complete training program that emphasizes endurance and technique as well as sprint speed. But this simple exercise allows athletes to put breathing, heart rate, technique and other training elements aside for the moment and focus entirely on the muscle groups that drive the body forward. As these muscles gain condition, volume, and power, athletes will run faster on the field and concurrently gain the skill and endurance and that support better overall performance.
As with any program of strength training, sprint speed drills like these will bring athletes closer to their goals if they make use of added resistance. The Kbands place greater force on the muscles of the legs, which can raise the tension and challenge of the exercise and bring faster results. And unlike static weight lifting with a leg press, the Kbands actually tax the muscle groups and movements that are directly involved in high speed running. So before this exercise begins, athletes should attach the straps of the Kbands securely around the legs just above the knee. The resistance bands can then be easily clipped on and taken off as the sprint speed drill progresses.
Sprint Speed Drills: Resisted Sets
For the first portion of the sprint speed drill, athletes should clip the resistance bands to the straps of the Kbands around the legs. Then they should place their palms flat against a wall at about shoulder level and step back from the wall until the body is angled at about 45 degrees and the back and body line are flat and straight.
Athletes should then start running in place, driving the knees up toward the chest at each step. This running motion should be sustained for ten to twelve seconds at maximum speed. In order to train the body to run faster, the speed of the exercise should begin and end at 110 percent. Athletes should not slow down for even a single second during the entire sprint speed drill. Ideally, an athlete should be approaching the point of failure after this quick burst.
At ten to twelve seconds, the sprint speed drill should stop and the athlete should rest for thirty seconds before beginning the next resisted set. The entire sprint speed exercise should begin with three to four sets with the Kbands resistance bands in place.
Sprint Speed Drills: Unresisted Sets
After three to four resisted sets, athletes should unclip the bands from the leg straps and clip them on the sides of the legs so they don’t get lost or get in the way of the exercise. (Watch Justin clip the straps in the demonstration video and make sure the bands are in place and out of the way before beginning the next set.) Athletes should then step back to the wall and place their palms flat at shoulder level. They should then run in place at full speed for another ten to twelve seconds. Without the bands in place, this movement will be easier, but in order to maximize the results of the sprint speed drill, it’s important to maintain top speed for the entire set.
Much of the success of this sprint speed drill happens in the mind as well as the body. During the second, unresisted portion of the drill, athletes need to concentrate on maintaining full speed throughout the full range of motion. If the knees fail to come all the way up during the lift, or if the feet don’t return fully to the starting point at each step, the value of the drill will be diminished. In order to run faster and attain their speed goals, athletes also need to keep a straight, consistent angle in the body line and keep the back flat. A partner, coach, or mirror can help a runner maintain the proper body alignment.
The entire sprint speed exercise should involve about six total sets of ten to twelve seconds each: three to four with the resistance bands in place and two unresisted sets with the bands clipped to the sides. Keep the rest periods between each set to 30 seconds or fewer.
Sprint Speed Drills: Final Notes
Since technique and total commitment are an important part of these sprint speed drills, try to complete this exercise with a supportive partner or team. Repeat these drills several times per week and incorporate them into a well-rounded training program backed by a healthy lifestyle, adequate sleep and proper nutrition.