Sprinting seems like a straightforward action, but if you wish to achieve a top speed, knowing how to position your feet, legs, and body correctly and training like a sprinter will separate you from the rest.
For runners, sprinting improves your leg speed, while for those who want to lose weight, you can do it so much quicker using sprints than you’d achieve running and jogging. Fortunately, you can do a few things to perfect your strides and sprints.
This article will cover how to sprint faster like an athlete.
Focus on Your Form
How well your move your arms, body, and feet play a significant part in sprinting. Remember to keep your shoulders, neck, and jaw relaxed, and don’t forget to accelerate the arms. Avoid shrugging the shoulders, and not twisting your head because it locks the hip, lowering you down slightly.
You should bend the arms at 65-90 degrees while speeding them up with the range of motion. Another thing you shouldn’t do is lock the arms or move them across the body to avoid restricting the range of motion. Also, keep the fingers relaxed while the palms face up. Keep your eyes focused on your targeted distance.
Another tip is to maintain a straight line from the back of the ankle to the head. Ensure the body stays at 45 degrees to the ground without feeling forced to bend forward. Sticking your butt out when leaning forward can cause you to lose balance. In other words, stay relaxed and let your muscles drive forward without straining.
Additionally, learn how to land efficiently: try landing on the forefoot and control the force from your toes to propel forward and ensure you keep the feet flexed up towards the shin. As each heel strikes the ground, pull the heel towards the butt, resulting in a shorter leg arch. The benefit is you get back into position quicker and more efficiently.
We really love this video from Global Triathlon Network on running form, check it out if you’re unsure:
Shorten Your Stride
This sounds counterintuitive considering that you want to achieve top speed. But the truth is that shortening your stride gives you a faster turnover. Longer strides are energy wasters because you end up producing more vertical energy than forward motion. Shortening the strides give your feet more time on the ground, and you can move faster as a result.
It’s why you should try to hit the ground with the toes to allow yourself to work with your center of gravity. Avoid bouncing to stay in balance: keep the movement horizontal rather than vertical. Focus on speed rather than the distance you sprint—short, super quick strides.
Build Strength with Workouts
Strength training and weight lifting will improve your form and make you sprint faster, and avoid injuries. Weight lifting with dumbbells and barbels can help distance runners boost their power over longer distances while maintaining their form. Many weight training exercises will also build your core muscles, improve posture and allow you to generate more power while using less energy.
You also need plyometric exercises such as skipping and jumping as these boost muscle power. Your legs become quicker at the landing and push the ground, making you sprint. Experts also recommend toe taps, jumping lunges, bench jumps, high skips, and calf drives to build strength.
The Journal of Sports Medicine published a report that adding 2-3 strength training sessions per week has a strong and positive effect on sprinting performance. For short-distance runners, strength training can improve their performance by up to 5% and up to 44% for medium-distance runners.
Remember to start slow with the explosive exercises and build up momentum to keep a perfect form and steer off injuries. Train two or three times a week on non-consecutive days and wait for at least six hours after a run before weight training.
Give Hill Sprints a Go
Hill sprints, like heavy weight lifting, strengthen all the leg muscles. Because you are running up against gravity as fast as possible, hill sprints increase the pool of muscle fibers available so you can access them when you get tired in a race. Hill running also strengthens the glutes, core, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and upper body, which you need to run faster on flat areas.
Having hill sprints a day before a faster workout increases muscle stiffness, helping you feel stronger and springy the next day. Uphill running will also increase your VO2 max or the measure of how much oxygen you can utilize during an intense workout. The more oxygen the body utilizes, the more energy you will have and the longer and faster you can sprint.
However, you should keep the hill sprints short and avoid running on a gradient that’s too stiff to reduce injury risk. Also, run tall, don’t lean, and focus on powerful and quick strides. Some runners are comfortable with hill sprints twice a week, while a session a week is enough for others. If you are new to these, start with once per week and gradually introduce the second session, on non-consecutive days.
Incorporate Interval Training
Interval training consists of short, high-intense bursts of sprints followed by a brief recovery. The goal is to try and maintain the same speed on your first interval as your last. The Journal of Psychology published this study showing that running sprints enhances muscle building and aerobic endurance.
A different 2018 study, according to the Journal of Strength, assessed 16 trail runners who incorporated interval training into their routine.
After a training program consisting of two sessions over two weeks, they found this. All the runners could sprint an average of 3.5 more meters in 30 seconds. The study also concluded that each participant was able to move at least 6% faster in a 3000 M run.
Experts recommend sticking to 1 interval training per week for a start. After you get used to it, introduce another session and so on.
Here’s an example of internal training you can try.
Sprint 100 m on a straight track and jog lightly for 100 m curves. Repeat this four times, aiming to maintain the speed.
Run for two minutes at your top speed, then recover for 1 minute. Repeat the exercise four times.
Fartlek means speed play. Basically, you alternate between speed runs and recovery runs. Combining high-intensity training with a slower pace will stress your anaerobic and aerobic threshold.
The result is you build both speed and endurance. While fartleks sound like interval training, they take easier effort and can last more than 20 minutes. Competitive runners looking to add on speed can tap into speed places to learn how to pass a runner.
To start a fartlek workout, try introducing short bursts of speed into your normal training. Increase your pace for short time intervals such as 30 seconds or distances like 200 meters.
These intervals don’t have to be the same throughout the workout, and you can try using landmarks such as telephone poles, streetlights, and mailboxes to mark the segments.
Once you complete the segment, slow down to normal joggling until your heart rate slows before returning to your normal running pace, and then get back to fast intervals when you reach the next segment or time interval. You can use a stopwatch and see if you can beat your own time.
Here is an example of a fartlek workout:
- Warm-up for 10 minutes at an easy pace
- Sprint for 1 minute, go slow for 2 minutes, sprint for 2 minutes, 1 minute off.
- Repeat this workout for 3 or 4 times
- Slow down for 10 minutes at a normal pace
Again if you’re unsure, there’s another great video by GTN:
Add Tempo Runs
Want to control your speed and help the body handle stress? Tempo runs are a great option. They involve running for 10-45 minutes at a steady pace. Keep in mind that you should temple run at a controlled pace, meaning you must intentionally maintain the same pace throughout.
The middle of the run is the most uncomfortable, the reason why you should hold back a bit in the first few minutes when it feels easy.
Tempo runs enhance strength because they push you to increase your anaerobic threshold. You won’t burn out faster, so you can run longer and quicker. An athlete can perform the workout an hour or more with time, depending on the race you’re training for. Unlike hill runs, tempo runs are lower intensity and take longer.
There are three types of tempo runs.
Lactate threshold – where you will set a pace they could ideally hold for an hour.
Mathon pace – where an athlete should run at the pace they plan to achieve on the race day. It should be slower than your pace during the lactate threshold.
Progressive – you will gradually increase your speed during this run, so your last mile is the fastest.
Honestly, incorporating some sprint exercises into the weekly workout regimen is good for all athletes. Now that you are loaded with the technical details, you can sprint faster longer. Whether you are looking to boost your pace or just seeking extra boosts from your workout, the tips above should bump your speed.
If you’re new to running and not sure where to start, check out our ultimate guide on finding your first pair of running shoes and don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog.
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.