How to Increase Your Speed: The Basics

Speed is king. Speed is what everyone compares each other with to determine the better athlete in most cases. Football coaches and fans love looking at 40yd dash times or, if you’re a track & field fan, watching Usain Bolt win the 100 and 200 meters. Speed is everything in sports and, therefore, many coaches and trainers focus a lot of time and effort trying to improve it. However, I see many “Speed experts” or “Speed Coaches” online and see the most ridiculous training I’ve ever seen. Ladder drills, running in sand, or anything that doesn’t actually involve sprinting is NOT how to increase your speed. There is no science behind any of it, and you are wasting your time and money. I want to do my part to clarify misinformation about what athletes need to do to increase their speed in whatever speed test is important to them (40yd, 20yd, 10m fly, 100m, 200m, etc.) What I’m about to tell isn’t just directly from me, this is an accumulation of information from coaches I respect, have read their work, asked them questions, and applied their methods to my training and my athletes. Here is my educated opinion, through research and experience, on the basics to make you faster.  

Establish Technique

In order to be fast, you must be able sprint with good technique. If your elbows are flaying up high, have bad posture, using your elbows instead of your shoulders to move your arms, and contacting the ground in front of the body instead of underneath it, you will not be fast. Keep the elbows in close to your body, use your shoulders to get your hands to move “cheek-to-cheek”, keep your body upright with good posture (at max velocity), run loose, and push the ground away from you. Keep in mind that these are just some of the basics and everyone’s technique work may be different based on each individual. To improve these factors, it’s as simple as two things: Technical drills and sprinting. The only way to get better at something is to practice it! There will be another post at a later time where we will go over some technical drills that I deem useful. If you’re a visual learner, here is a video of the technical breakdown of Usain Bolt’s world record 100m sprint:

Get Stronger

Being able to sprint means that you are able to put force into the ground with your legs to move the ground away from you. If you cannot produce force, you will not be fast. There are multiple ways to strengthen your legs, but a couple of examples are split-squats, rear elevated split-squats, deadlifts, hex bar deadlifts, RDL’s, single leg RDL’s, safety bar squats, front squats, and the back squat. For reference, most strength coaches deem athletes “strong enough” between 1.7-2.0x their body weight in the barbell back squat. Get in the weight room and get after it.

Get Explosive

Once you reach “strong enough,” the next logical step is to teach your body how to use your newfound strength and use it in an explosive, powerful manner. Being strong is great, but you now need to teach your body how to contract those muscles quickly. Types of exercises you’ll need will be plyometrics or explosive exercises in nature. You can use hang cleans, hang snatches, hex bar jumps, dumbbell squat jumps, barbell squat jumps, or even a simple body weight squat jump. The goal is to be explosive so the weight should be light to moderate at the heaviest, it is NOT about the weight! Weight should be moving with maximal intent like your exploding out of the blocks. If you can’t make the weights rattle, you have too much weight on.

Get bouncy

The next step is to get bouncy. You’ll use quick type plyometrics to get you on your toes and spend as little time on the ground as possible. Exercise examples are mini-hurdle hops with both legs or on one leg, plyo step-ups, bounds or striders, wicket drills, high knees, and b-skips. Ladder drills do not count, they are a waste of time and will not make you faster. The best thing I ever got out of ladder drills is they can be used as a warm-up to get the nervous system woken up.


This one is simple. Sprint. Sprint 2-3x a week with full recovery between sprints. If you are looking for a guideline, a simple one to remember is for every 10m or 10yds you sprint, rest for 1-min. For example, if you sprint 40 meters (or yards), rest for at least 4-min before you sprint again. After you fall below 90% of your best time in whatever distance of sprinting you are doing, your speed session is over. This means you will need to record each sprint to keep track of how you are doing. Because if you keep sprinting below 90% of your best, you are no longer sprinting and your session has now turned into a conditioning session, which is going to slow you down.

What I have laid out for you is the basics of what athletes can do to improve their speed. If you can follow these guidelines, you will be on the right path. Remember that everyone’s needs will be different so how much time you spend on training technique, strength, power, and speed is completely dependent on multiple factors like age, injury history, and experience in sprinting and weight training. Good luck and get fast.

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