There is something definitely primal about running fast, nearly everybody has known naturally how to run fast from a young age without being shown but we gradually lose touch with our natural instincts over time. Since we no longer need to sprint down to the kitchen to collect our plate of food.
Even flailing your arms and legs around on a treadmill, being able to run really fast or faster than normal is directly linked with increased strength and power throughout the body, the faster you can run, the more power and strength you have. Plus sprints really help rid you of fat.
Running speed is greatly influenced by genetics, body type and structure but can still be improved further with proper planning, a program and diligent training, here are six tips to consider when running like the wind.
Having plenty of power and strength can get you far, you still need to work on the technical aspects of your sprinting form.
Olympic level track athletes are a good example, nearly all the runners look similar as they dash towards the finish line, the possess a good forward lean and pumping arms whilst keeping the head down during acceleration then gradually transition into an upright stance.
Emphasizing short ground contact times and quick turnover with minimal hip sway in their form as they finish out the race, notice a relaxed jaw with cheeks comically flopping about during a slow-motion replay.
Using energy precisely and transferring power ensures that all the effort goes into propelling themselves forward faster.
What To Do:
Don’t waste any energy when you sprint, pump your arms forwards and in tandem with your legs, keep your hips steady, chin tucked up and don’t stride longer than you need too. Lean forward a little bit and land on your midfoot, (you may feel like you are falling forward a bit but momentum will keep you up), finally focus on forward propulsion rather than driving the knees upward.
Static stretching whereby you hold a stretch for a period of time has been shown to actually impede power and performance. This affects more high-level competitors, where the difference between a loss and a win can be a slither, exploit every advantage you can get to be faster yourself, there are better ways to warm up for a sprint than just simple static stretching.
Dynamic Hip Stretches
The ‘spiderman’ stretch is particularly good at hitting these three areas, especially when adding in some upper-body rotation. To do it, lunge forward keeping one elbow close to the knee in front and touch the ground. Twist your upperbody toward the front leg and push your leg out slightly to open up your hip.
Next extend your free arm straight up. Your adducters should be feeling the stretch as well as your hip flexors, upper back and chest. Hold for a few seconds and twist again facing away from the front leg this time. Repeat this on the other side.
You can also perform what is known in the running community as ‘form drills’. Examples of this include A’s, B’s, C’s, high knees (running on the spot but raising your knees to waist height) and strides (sub-maximal sprints).
The better prepared you are for sprinting the faster you will be and leas likely to pull a muscle.
According to the SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demand) you have to practice sprinting to get better at it.
Sprint workouts can be done 2-4 times per week dependent on the season and sport. Research has shown that training programs longer than 8 weeks can improve speed development when compared with shorter programs.
What To Do
Perform 20-60 yard max sprints with plenty of rest in between sets. This will improve conditioning. Be sure to continue refining your sprint mechanics to improve run speed, coordination and form further.
If doing a field sport you can perform acceleration and deceleration drills as well as change of direction exercises (pivot drills) in the same session to improve foot work and field agility, implementing better running form during scrimmages will also provide opportunities to practice accelerating where it counts.
As level ground becomes easy it is time to move on to resistance sprints, when it comes to strength in sprints, a resisted sprint will increase your sprint performance on a flat surface. Hill sprints, sled drags (running dragging a sled behind you) and parachute (air-resisted) sprints come into play for this.
What To Do
Find a bit of a sloped hill and perform hill repeats, run as fast as possible up that hill for several reps then get a shower.
Sample Hill Sprint Workout
The gym doesn’t just build better bodies, it builds faster ones as well, you can’t run fast if you aren’t strong.
Combining resistance training has shown to be a great method of improving speed compared to performing training methods individually.
What To Do
Incorporate a progressive strength training program that focuses on workouts like deep squats, deadlifts, power cleans and lunges, nothing fancy here. These exercises transfer over to the tarmac and improve your ability to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers for fast movement. Implement these 2-3 times a week to improve relative and absolute strength levels.
A sample strength and power workout:
Sqaut jump with barbell on back
3 Sets of 5 reps – 2 min rest in-between sets.
Single-Leg depth jump
3 Sets of 8 reps per leg, 30 secs rest between legs and sets.
1 Rep is a hop onto the box, hopping off, landing and then doing another rep straight away.
3 Sets of 5 reps (2 mins rest).
Rear-foot elevated split squat
3 Sets of 6 reps per leg (2 mins rest)
Note: Stand as fast as you can for each rep. Use a straight weight for all sets.
This will add more pep to your step,
Explosive plyometric training like squat jumps, hurdle hops and bounding has shown to help increase speed by increasing stride frequency and lowering ground contact times. So with the correct amount of plyometric training, your lower body can become a blur of pistons, this will also improve tendon stiffness as well as muscle stiffness so energy is used more efficiently with each stride and makes you geared towards powerful speed.
What To Do
Incorporate plyometric training during the same sprint session, after your sprints. Things like jump squats, box jumps and bounding drills after sprints can work.
Using these 6 easy steps you should be able to run faster in no time at all and see how much better your form and technique are.
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