How to speed train

Running Aug 26, 2020

As the name suggests, speed training improves your running speed and explosive power. It is especially used by short distance runners, like sprinters, or for sports that focus on speed, such as soccer and rugby.

What speed training does:

In order to improve your speed, it is necessary to raise your lactate threshold so you can run longer before your body uses up lactate. Running in explosive, intense bursts uses up lactose faster than your body can produce it, and it becomes fatigued after the lactose runs out. Speed training increases your lactate threshold so you can run longer, faster sprints before you become fatigued.

Strength training:

Although speed training involves a lot of running, strength training and plyometrics are also important. Strength training, and especially plyometrics, are an effective way to build your explosive power and fast twitch muscles.

Common and useful plyometric exercises:

  • box jumps
  • single leg hops
  • standing long jumps
  • Step ups
  • squat jumps
  • and stairway hops
Source: Sergio Pedemonte/Unsplash

Besides plyometrics, strength training involves exercises with weights and dumbbells.

Exercises that improve leg strength:

  • Dumbbell squats
  • Barbell squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell squats
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Walking lunges

Running speed workouts:

Strides: Accelerate the straights along a track, or for 10-20 seconds if you’re not on a track. Then, walk or jog at a slower pace for a while or until you reach a straight again. Try to do this about eight times.

Fartleks: Similar to strides, fartleks involve running at varying speeds at certain time intervals. Like strides, they can be done off the track, and can even be done on treadmills. However, there is less emphasis on acceleration; the purpose of fartleks is to become used to running different speeds. As you get used to these different speeds, they will allow you to run faster over longer distances.

Ladder workouts:

This workout focuses on your finishing speed. It’s an intensive workout that is composed of incrementally raising and lowering the distances that you run (for example, running 100m, then 200m, then 300m, then back down to 200m etc). The distances are up to you, but the goal is to run each of them as fast as possible and taking a few minutes of rest in between.

Interval runs:

Interval runs are workouts where you run a certain distance at a certain pace several times. An example of this would be doing six 400 meter repeats done at a 1:10 pace.

Tempo runs:

Tempo runs are repetitions of a certain distance (e.g. a mile) at a pace that is below race pace but is still vigorous. An ideal pace would be 80 to 85 percent of your maximum effort for that distance.

Source: Mehul Patel/Unsplash

Improve your technique and form

  • Make sure your heel is not striking the ground. When sprinting, you should be landing on the ball of your foot (front part behind the toes).
  • When accelerating, start off with your point of ground contact behind your center of mass. If you’re accelerating from blocks, start off low to the ground before slowly becoming upright.
  • When running at full speed, stay upright.
  • Stay relaxed while sprinting. If you’re tense, you waste energy and slow down faster. In order to prevent being too tense, don’t try too hard to exert power or generate force. Generate as much as needed without slowing down your movements.
  • Work on increasing foot turnover as long as it doesn’t decrease the power of each stride
  • Recording video of your sprints is an effective and widely used technique to understand and improve your form. Even if you are aware of all aspects of proper form, it’s difficult to know if you’re still running properly if you don’t have a third person view of your sprints.

Fast twitch muscles increase sprint speed

In order to increase short distance speed and explosive power, you must work out and strengthen your fast twitch muscles. Sprinting, resistance training, plyometrics, and power lifting are the best ways to build these muscles.

  • For running exercises, run hill sprints, fartleks, and other intense sprint repeats.
  • Most plyometric exercises should work to build fast twitch muscles, but if you can only focus on a few exercises, box jumps and burpees would be a good choice.
  • For powerlifting, it’s ideal to lift heavier weights with fewer reps and more recovery time
  • Training with resistance bands is a simple and effective way to build your fast twitch muscles. Sprint accelerations with resistance bands is a common way to use them. You can also do typical muscle building exercises, such as lunges, squats, and push ups with resistance bands, or strengthen certain muscles by pulling them using a resistance band and holding the muscle in place for fifteen seconds or so.
Source: Andrew "Donovan" Valdivia/Unsplash

General speed training advice:

  • Perform dynamic warm ups and cool downs for at least five minutes each before you begin the workout.
  • Don’t overdo speed training. Make sure you recover and take easy days after hard workouts to minimize chance of injury and burning out.
  • Similarly, if you feel off, it’s better to stop than to keep going.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, & StayRunning!
❤️ The StayRunning Team

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.