99.99% of athletes that walk into my facility tell me that they want to get faster. I usually follow up their goal by asking them why they want to get faster. Most usually say to get better at their sport. Again, I ask why this will help them and usually get them to the answer I want to hear. I search for an answer that holds more inherit value, a measurable answer that relates directly to that athlete and their specific needs. I like to hear to beat out the other kid that's going for my position or to get better at running my post pattern. This specific goal will be the fuel that keeps my athletes motivated, and gives me (their strength and conditioning coach) more tools to work with.
Now, how do you get faster?
Well, there are many ways. I am going to give you my personal opinion on what I think are the 3 best ways to improve your speed.
1. General Strength
It is important to build foundational strength of an athlete, and that is what is meant by “general strength”. It is the concrete foundation of a house, without it, the body is weak. Starting here will help prepare an athlete for many different stimuli. Building general strength is simple(I said simple, not easy) and is also something that can be done with a very small list of exercises. When talking about sprinting, legs are clearly the most used body parts. Two simple exercises to start with are the squat and deadlift. For a beginner, starting off with the goblet squat and RDL using a kettlebell is the smartest way to go.
2. Technique Work
For the most part, sprinting is a motion that the body naturally can just do.There is very little teaching that must be done in order to get an athlete to run as fast as their body can. With that said, there are small fixes you can do for someone that can improve somebody's ability to sprint. Two faults I commonly find are faulty arm and hip motion. To counter two drills I commonly employ to help correct these are high knees while holding a ring over head and skips. The high knees help get the hips in a better position, although it is an exaggeration, it can carry over to increased hip flexion while sprinting. Skips also promote better hip flexion, but I usually am more concerned with the arm motion. I want to see arms locked at 90 degrees and a “cheek to cheek” motion with the arms as the athlete sprints. Both also put the athlete’s torso in an upright position which can help lead to better hip flexion as well.
3. Resistance Running
When the foundation is built and the technique is improving, added resistance while sprinting maybe incorporated to further progress. Overloading the athlete while performing the desired exercise can lead to adaptations that benefit the athlete during their sport. I like to use two forms of resistance: prowler and pull sled. There are a plethora of exercises you can do using the prowler. I mostly use it as a front pushing exercise. It is easy to load and brutal when dosed properly (no pain, no gain). The pull sled is my favorite of the two because it incorporates the motion of running. You can work on technique and the strength of the movement together. This is also easy to load and brutal when dosed properly.
Go ahead and try these exercises/drills out. I am sure they will help you with your speed needs and the best aspect of them is how dynamic they are in terms of fulfilling the needs of a vast array of athletes.
Feel free to comment below, would love to hear how others think about this!