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How to Increase Sprint Speed

Updated on April 20, 2015

The Sprinters Engine

A sprinters body will consist mainly of "white" fast twitch fibers which are for explosive, powerful movement for a short period - thus 100 or 200 meters. A body with majority "Red" muscle fibers would be more suited to slower movements over a long period like a distance runner who would typical have a less muscular build than a sprinter.

Most people naturally have a combination of both but with the correct speed workout the body can be geared to one or the other.

How to run faster

When most people do sprint training, there is often a rapid improvement for the first six months to one year or so but then we come to a plateau where the improving stops and a lot of people quit the sport, many reasons because the coach may not know a way to push that individual to their full potential.

Let's look a some ways of over coming this plateau and how to improve with a decent speed workout. Your ethnicity can also make a difference in your natural red to white muscle fiber ratio.

Usain Bolt World 100m and 200m record holder
Usain Bolt World 100m and 200m record holder

Weight training for sprinters

The summer season is the main racing season and a lot of people make the mistake of doing frequent heavy weights session in between competitions. This can cause of lot a lactic acid (stiffness) and the muscles will not be able to move in their full range, thus hindering your performance.

The winter is the best season for weight training for sprinters and should be limited to the muscle group for sprinting only. i.e. Bicep curls may have an impressive result but can be necessary for sprinting. Your biceps will natural grow to accommodate the movement of other body parts. The main weights necessary to run faster are:

1. Bench Press - Chest and shoulders drive the arms

2. Squats - Your quads need power to gain momentum from the blocks

3. A combination of snatches, cleans and jerks - for total body explosiveness, works a number of muscle groups simultaneously.

4. Stomach strength exercises - The twisting motion in your stomach is very important to compliment your arm and leg movement.

Remember, big biceps may look impressive however this is not essential for running faster.

If you need to do weights in the summer, 2-3 reps of power lifting maybe a good idea. Too many reps at a lower weight can stiffen the muscles.

Sprinting workouts - Staggerd starts

I have seen the most improvement for people in the past using the following sprinting workouts. I believe it is very important for people of different level to run together and enjoy it.

A good way of achieving this is to do roughly 60m where the athletes are staggered. i.e. the fastest people at the back and the slowest at the front. Everyone puts 101% in it because the people at the back are trying to chase down the slower people, and the people at the front are doing their hardest not to be overtaken by the faster runners. This is a very enjoyable type of training for all ages and levels.

The athletes may cross the line at different times so it up to the coach to adjust the starting positions so the everybody crosses the finish line around about the same time. It's best to use starting blocks for the faster athletes at the back. This will definitely encourage you to run faster.


People assume that such a short distance requires no stamina. That is quite incorrect. If you watch world class sprinters such as Usain Bolt, Linford Christie, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, it seems they speed up towards the end of the race, leaving their competitors behind. This is not true, everybody slows down to some extent, the human body cannot work 100% for even 100 meters, Usain Bolt's deceleration rate is a lot slower then other sprinter which gives the appearance of him speeding up when watching the race as a spectator.

This is why endurance and stamina training is essential for sprinters too. Distance work should be incorporated into training sessions especially in the winter. Training sessions such as 300m x 1 set, 200 x 1, 100 x 2, 80 x 3, 60 x 4 - at around 70-80% pace should definitely be part of your session in order to reduce that deceleration zone and get that edge over your competitors over the final 30-40 meters. Road work is also important for sprinters (e.g. 3-5 km runs).

Muscles used in sprinting

Basically the whole body gets a workout in a sprint however the main muscle group to focus on are the hamstrings and quadriceps or (quads). The quadriceps are what pull your needs up and you hamstrings are what pull your legs back so they need to work in harmony with each other. One mistake many people do in training is not not achieve a good balance in leg muscles, by doing too many squats and nothing else. The hamstrings need to be as strong as the quads, not only for speed but to avoid injury. Painful injury can occur if muscle are too unbalanced. Therefore include hamstring curls in your weight routine or any other exercise that works those muscle groups.

Sprinting workouts - Resistance Training

These are very good speed workouts for getting faster at the acceleration phase and reaching your peak speed in the shortest amount of time.

  • Bungee running - The lead runner runs ahead until the bungee rope gets taunt, at this point the rear persons gets propelled forward with a faster than normal leg rotation. Be careful to maintain balance and not fall forward onto your face.
  • Tyre running - A weightlifting belt attach to a rope a tractor tyre, to be done an a grassy surface for the perfect friction.
  • Uphill running - Doing sprints 70-80% pace on an incline for power. This is best done in the winter season in combination with long distance running.
  • Downhill running - Very good for developing leg speed and power since muscle control is necessary. Make sure that an even surface is used to avoid extra stress to the knees or possible ankle injury.
  • Sprint Drills - Such as walking high up on your toes to strengthen the lower leg muscles, Butt kicks, or bum flicks, high knee lifts and lounges.

Sprint drills must be done before any sprint session to reduce injury and increase muscle movement range.

Training partners for improving speed.

It can be very difficult to improve your speed training by yourself and also difficult to give yourself motivation too. There are many people who prefer to go to the track to train alone but I strongly recommend training with a group for many reasons. Look how much Yohan Blake improved by training with Usain Bolt, he even beat Bolt one time this season.

  1. Your team mates can give you advice and positive criticism on your performance.
  2. Training with other people people helps to pull you along, giving you a target every time.
  3. Training with other people slower then you, may help you perform under pressure while trying to keep ahead.
  4. Helps you maintain a rhythm when running.

Training with a much taller partner will force to maintain your top speed for longer, since they may have more advantage in that area.

Training with a much short partner will encourage your acceleration from the below, since shorter sprinters with a short leg leverage with typically reach their peak speed early.

Training session ideas

When the track season is coming to an end but there are still a few big races left, keep your legs injury and stress free using a technique called "Rolling starts". This allows you to build up your acceleration gradually by having everyone jog to a designated point or line and then accelerate into a sprint.

March, April is a good time for warm weather training. Many athletes travel to warm areas or countries to prepare themselves for the summer season.

Make sure you do lots of stamina work and circuit training during the winter.

What do you think is the best way to improve acceleration?

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What is the best way to train to maintain your peek speed.

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