I hear from coaches about speed on almost a daily basis—training requests like "I want my kids to shoot down the field and catch guys from behind," "My kids need to be way faster for this league," and "Our team needs to learn how to sprint with better form."
Speed is so much fun to work with because you can dramatically improve it with some smart work.
There are two avenues for you to pick up speed: on-field speed (running, drills, sprints etc) and weight room speed. Which is better? Neither. You need both to become faster, but building weight room speed can lead to serious gains. Check out the video player above for a demonstration of the 5 exercises below.
The key factor for sprinting is the ability to drive a really strong force into the ground in a small amount of time. The bigger force you drive with your lower body, the more your entire body moves.
How do you develop that force?
1. Band Knee Pull
- Wrap a band around a pole or any stable anchor point.
- Get in push-up position and wrap the band around your shoelaces. Put some tension on the band.
- Drive your knee as fast as you can toward your chest, resisting the band.
- Hold it there for 2 seconds.
- Drive it back slowly.
- Hip flexor, anterior core, and knee drive.
- You will feel this work your whole body, especially your hips and abs.
- Great weight room speed.
- By training your muscles to drive your knee with your abs and hip flexor, you will train your body to add serious speed to your legs.
2. Forward Power Lunge
- Start with two dumbbells, one in each hand.
- Perform a slow Back Lunge.
- Using that same leg you sent back, drive it fast into a Forward Lunge.
- Simultaneously drive your hands up and clean the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
- Lower-body explosiveness, glutes and quads.
- Because you drive your knees forward fast, it's a great way to train your glutes to be explosive. The faster the dumbbells and feet move, the better. How do you drive them faster? Power!
3. Heavy Sled Push to Sprint
- Load heavy weight onto a sled, prowler or whatever you have access to.
- Drive the heavy sled forward 10 yards.
- At 10 yards, slide over to the side of the sled and sprint as fast as you can.
- Increase in Type II fibers, explosiveness and lower body strength.
- By driving a heavy sled for a short distance, you send signals from your brain to your muscles that "we need all the muscle we've got to push this sled." When you go right to a sprint without the weight, your brain still has that signal, and you are "tricking" your muscles to overload. It's awesome!
- In addition, you have an opportunity to work on sprint form.
4. Band Overhead Pull-Down with Knee Drive
- Wrap a band around a bar, rig or anything stable that's within reach overhead.
- Think of your running form (Opposite Knee Opposite Elbow).
- Standing back with the band in your hands, drive your elbow back as fast as you can while driving your opposite knee up as fast as you can.
- Repeat rapidly for 10-20 seconds
- Elbow and knee drive.
- A huge part of gaining speed comes from your arm action. The action of driving your elbow back causes a reaction of accelerating your body forward.
- By stimulating your brain and muscles to violently drive that elbow back, you train your muscles to move your elbow back in a straight line, which is huge for weight-room speed.
5. Weighted RFE Split Squat Jumps
- Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand.
- Place one foot on a bench behind you and get into the rear -foot-elevated squat stance.
- Drive the leg not on the bench into the ground as hard as you can, keeping your knee right over your foot.
- Jump as high as you can and land safely, controlling the negative.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- Glutes, quads, calves and force production with your legs.
- With the single-leg stance, this full-body, explosive exercise is a great teacher for force production and muscle fiber recruitment—skills that are needed for sprinting fast.
- Basically, you are teaching your legs to drive a huge force into the ground in a small amount of time.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock