Speed Training and Drills

Author: Craig Coghlin

Speed Training and Drills Background

By definition, speed is an anaerobic (without oxygen) activity. Thus if an athlete is attempting to improve their speed, sending them on a low intensity jog will be useless. Speed is a product of stride length (distance between foot strikes) and stride frequency (how many times the foot strikes the ground in a certain time frame). To improve an athlete's speed, as a coach you must strive to improve both aspects of the activity. Also, be sure to make any drills you use as specific to the sport you coach as possible.

Warming Up
As with any physical activity, it is absolutely essential to make sure your athletes are properly warmed up. This involves taking them through progressive activities to increase their heart rate, core temperature, and improve proprioceptive connections. Below is an example of a basic comprehensive warm up for a sprint work out.

*5 minute jog
*Dynamic stretching of all major joints in body
*2 X 100m strides
*2 X 100m sprint at 75%
*Fast, high knees for 20 seconds
*"Butt kicks" for 20 seconds
*"Pawing" for 20 seconds (knee high, to leg extension, swinging ball of foot to paw at ground)

**Please note the following drills require a certain level of muscle conditioning and flexibility to avoid injury to the athlete

Downhill Sprints (Overspeed Training)
Find a hill of approximately 15 degrees incline. Start with your athletes properly warmed up at the top of the hill. Have the athlete sprint down the hill (avoid backward lean to break oneself) for 50 metres to reach a speed beyond their limit and maintain this elevated speed for 30 metres beyond the bottom of the hill. Have the athlete rest for 1-2 minutes before repeating for a total of 5 sets. Note that there are inherent risks with this drill and it should be used with caution and

d only with athletes in good condition. It is best to use a grass-covered hill for cushioning purposes.

Stadium Stairs Running
The focus of this drill is to power through the sprinting motion with the rear propulsive leg. Maintain proper form and full range of motion with your athletes. Arm swing should be with elbows at 90 degrees and driving directly forward, not across the body. The athlete should complete 30-40 steps, walking back down these steps to repeat the cycle again for a total of 5 sets.

Wind Sprints
The purpose of a wind sprint is to add resistance to the athlete's efforts. This improves the strength of their strides and subsequently speed of movement. Similar drills are completed using parachutes attached to the runner or a trailing runner braking them with a harness. Have the athlete sprint at top speed directly into a strong wind for 15 to 30 seconds, followed by a rest period of approximately 1-2 minutes. A total of 4-5 sets should be performed.

This follows the principle of specificity that says "if you want to be a faster sprinter, sprint!" Have your athlete perform a 50-60 metre sprint followed immediately by fast lunges (10 per leg) and calf raises (10 per leg). Rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat 4-5 times. Fast lunges are performed by standing in the typical lunge position (front leg bent at 90 degrees, rear leg for balance) and quickly switching leg positions while remaining in the same spot. Calf Raises are performed by standing on one's toes and holding for 3 seconds (these should be performed with a certain level of explosiveness).

As previously stressed, these exercises can be dangerous if the athlete is out of condition or poorly flexible. Ensure a proper and comprehensive warm up before attempting any of these drills. Following these drills, the athlete must perform a cool down, and stretching program.