Speed Development for Athletes with Tips To Get Faster


In order to increase your speed, you must increase your length of stride and increase the frequency of each stride. The main purpose I’m typically concerned with is the increase of the athlete’s length of stride. This can be facilitated with an increase of leg strength. Leg strength can be increased by a series of weight workouts targeting the legs. Resistant type running includes exercises such as harness running with a weighted sled or towing a partner, uphill running, stadium steps and bounding drills.

An increase in length of a runner’s stride by one inch per stride will improve his 100m dash by .1 of a second!

Another factor in increasing stride length is to obtain a high knee action. This should be accomplished by stressing a powerful drive off the back foot. The greater the drive off the rear foot, the higher the knee will lift. The basis for this principle can be explained by Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states, “For every action, there will be an opposite reaction.” The knees must come straight up and then out. Too many runners try to bring the leg up stiff instead of bending the knee and hip joints. After the knee is brought up high in a flexed position, the foot is then “flicked” out in order to obtain a good fore-leg reach. There is no use getting the knee up high if you do not “flick” the foot out in order to take advantage of the high knee lift. In order for a runner to be able to obtain a good knee lift, they must have good hip flexibility which can be improved through a good flexibility program.

As the foot lands, we must strive to obtain a proper foot plant so the foot may be used as the most efficient lever possible. The foot should land on the ball of the foot positioned as straight as possible. If the foot is turned out, as many athletes do, then they are not taking full advantage of the full length of the lever because they are driving off the inside of the ball of the foot instead of through the big toe which would give them full advantage of the lever. The longer the lever, the more drive and force the foot has. As a result of driving through the big toe and not the inside of the ball of the foot, we will be able to increase the stride length.

speed-development-athletesIncreased frequency of stride can be obtained by regular sprinting while concentrating on staying relaxed. Downhill running and towing using surgical tubing are typically what you will see used for this purpose. When an athlete is running downhill or being towed, his frequency of stride is much faster and his length of stride is much longer than normal.

The hands should be cupped in such a manner that the tips of the fingers are slightly touching the heels of the hands. You should never clinch the fists because this will tense the arm muscles and thus restrict the movement of the arms. The wrist should turn in slightly so that the arm and hands are in a natural position that does not result in tightening up the muscles of the lower arm. The lower arm forms a 90 degree angle with the upper arm. Throughout the swing, this angle remains just about constant.

We want the hands to be brought up approximately even with the armpits and back down to the top off the pockets. The arms are driven both forward and backward with great force. However, there should be no tension in the hands, wrists, and muscles of the lower and upper arms. The arms should swing freely from the shoulder just like a pendulum.

The hands should come even with the midpoint of the chest when they swing out front but never cross the midplane of the chest and cause a negative action. You are looking for smooth, relaxed, rhythmic actions between the arms and legs.

Many runners have a tendency to run tense in the upper part of their body. Tension can be readily seen in the face, neck and arms. If there is tension in the upper body, then the legs cannot operate efficiently. Much of the tension in the upper body can be relieved by relaxing the jaw muscles so the cheeks and eyelids bounce when you run. This can be accomplished by letting the runner’s mouth relax slightly open. If a runner tightens up his face by gritting his teeth, then they tighten their shoulders and arms and generally clinch their fists. All of this is simply restricting upper body fluidity which slows down the legs and makes the athlete run slower.

Remember, not every athlete can be a world-class runner. However, every athlete can get faster. Especially, if you apply the things discussed in this article.

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About Author

Dusty DeStefano

Dusty DeStefano has over 20 years experience as a personal trainer and sports performance coach. He has combined his expertise with his personal dedication and philosophy of strength and conditioning, speed and agility development into a company concerned with getting results. See my profile page for more information!

1 Comment

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    There’s a saying in track and field. Arms propel the legs. Stride length will not make you faster but will cause drag if extended too far and that can be only a few millimeters. To go faster you move your arm swing quicker to produce a higher cadence. To gauge the correct stride length is governed by the runner’s fall and paw back. Running is all about correct technique, as humans are designed to walk maybe jog a little, cheetahs and gazelles are designed to run.

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