Who isn't interested in learning how to become a faster runner?
Even if you are not an athlete and just enjoy looking and feeling better, adding speed training to your workout will help you target different muscle groups, burn more calories, and help you make significant changes in your physique.
But what is speed training? Contrary to popular belief, training for speed is more than just going out and running sprints. Rather it’s a dedication to the development of all areas that surround speed which include dynamic range of motion, static range of motion, and strength. I know those terms probably mean very little to you right now, but working on each can help you improve your speed in no time.
So what’s dynamic range of motion and why should you care? Dynamic range of motion is basically a measure of how flexible you are when you’re moving. Being able to squat below parallel, and catch the bar in a full squat position during Olympic lifts are examples of having superior dynamic range of motion. But why is it important? Because more range of motion means more speed, more power, and more agility. Oh and did I mention you’ll be able to recover quicker between workouts? Yeah, there’s that too.
Now what’s the best way to improve your dynamic range of motion? I primarily use hurdle mobility drills with my athletes and incorporate many exercises that involve walking over or ducking under hurdles. These drills place a direct emphasis on the range of motion at the hip and hamstring and are vital for making significant gains in leg strength.
As I’m sure you already know strength training is vital in the development of speed. At a very basic level strength must be created so that force can be applied to the ground. In the weight room, exercise selection should include Olympic lifts, squats, and lunges and emphasis should be placed on performing the downward portion of the movement in a fast, controlled fashion while exploding upward as quickly as possible. However if you really want to get faster you’ll need to improve your glute and hamstring strength with exercises like glute-ham raises, Good Mornings, and Romanian Deadlifts, or RDL's, as well.
Again, the emphasis should be placed on applying maximal force and not on a large set and rep scheme. Sets and reps should fall in the 3-8 sets by 3-6 reps and should be about 60-80% of your 1RM (rep max). Keep in mind the lighter the weight, the higher the volume (i.e. 8x3 at 60% of your 1RM), and the heavier the weight the lower the volume (i.e. 4x4 at 80% of your 1RM). It’s also important to note that the reps and overall volume will always be kept low in order to increase strength and power as opposed to body mass.
On the field, plyometric drills such as bounding, repeat broad jumping, and box jumps (up & down) all improve reactive ground force application. Each rep must be performed with strict attention to detail and maximal effort and should be performed on a flat surface or up a hill for added intensity. Reps should never be performed when you’re tired, but in this case, 2-4 sets of 3-6 reps should do the trick.
The other area of emphasis should be sprint mechanic drills, such as “A” skips, “B’ skips, etc. These unique drills fall under both categories: strength and dynamic range of motion. With these drills the emphasis should be placed on working through a full range of motion with proper posture while applying maximal force into the ground on each rep. The practice of using sprint mechanic drills over long distances with large volumes will improve strength endurance and the ability to maintain proper running form longer and later into competition. Keep in mind that this type of drill work is not the type of work used in a warm-up, but rather placed later in the workout after the sprint work is completed.
The final component to speed development is static range of motion or static stretching. When performed at the end of a workout it serves two purposes; as a buffer between the intense hard core nature of the workout and normal daily activity and as a means to increase the suppleness of the muscle. In order to be fluid through the movements discussed above, a soft supple muscle is needed and this is only achieved through stretching.
If you’re serious about getting faster, speed should be addressed in all areas of your training. Even if you’re not an athlete and could care less about speed, this type of training will target your fast twitch muscle fibers and help you make big time changes in your physique. So, what do you have to lose? Give it a shot and become faster, stronger and more lean.