Ways to Improve Speed

People are constantly talking about improving their speed. Typically, the advice given is “Do this drill, and I guarantee you will get faster” or “I’m fast and these are the things I did to be fast.” While some of these have some anecdotal backing to them, we need to dive deeper into how to actually improve speed.

First, let’s address why the comments above are not acceptable solutions for improving speed.

  • There is no one drill that will make you faster. This is typically a gimmick from individuals trying to sell a product or program.
  • Every individual is different, so just because one person saw success with a certain program doesn’t mean you will. There are too many factors that go into why they might have had success. For instance, they could be a naturally gifted athlete and they improved despite the program, not because of it.

Factors of an individual’s speed:

  1. Thirty percent of potential is from genetic factors
    • Muscle-fiber make up
    • Anthropometric measurements
  2. Seventy percent of potential is from training and lifestyle
    • Diet
    • Performance training
    • Practice / Competition
    • Daily living

This 70 % is what we are going to discuss. To be clear, our definition of speed is the rate at which an object covers distance. In this case, we are examining the rate a person can cover any given distance. Therefore, the goal is to improve the following:

  • Running efficiency and economy
  • Stride length
  • Stride frequency

To ensure we improve those areas, we need to develop the following actions for running:

  • Posture – strengthen hip and trunk exercises
  • Knee drive action – hip flexors through specific exercises
  • Paw back action – hamstring and glutes
  • Push-off action – calves specifically gastrocnemius

Now that we have a decent understanding of some of the factors for speed, let’s discuss the key points to remember when trying to improve speed.

  1. Sprint to get faster – the quality of effort and movement
    • There’s no magic pill to make you faster. You must practice the same habits of fast athletes. Successful people leave clues for reaching their level, so look at the fastest people in the world. They are often Track athletes. What do Track athletes do a lot of? Sprinting.
  2. Strength is the lowest hanging fruit. The stronger someone gets, the faster they get, to an extent (i.e. how strong is too strong which would be another blog post).
    • One has to be able to generate force into the ground to propel themselves down the track, court, or field. That is why strength relative to body weight is one of the biggest contributors to speed.
  3. Quality over quantity to ensure maximal velocity of sprinting.
    • Remember if you want to get faster you must sprint at higher speeds. Make sure that you are fully prepared to do so. This doesn’t happen when you are fatigued. Train smart!
  4. Body composition
    • Having more lean muscle and less fat will be critical in developing speed. If you can produce the same amount of force at a lower bodyweight, then you will move faster. If the majority of your mass – made up of lean muscle tissue – is helping you move, you will move faster.

Speed is a popular topic because everyone wants to get faster, but we must remember that it takes consistent, quality effort over time to improve speed. Anybody can get faster, but are they maximizing their capabilities? That is what we are looking for.