Improve Your Sprint Performance With Speed Drill Training

Female athlete sprinting
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Are you trying to train for a long-distance race like a marathon while also improving your speed through sprints? If so, you may be wondering how you can train for sprints when much of your training focuses on endurance. Speed training through speed drills is one way to improve your sprint performance, as it will help further strengthen your cardiovascular system and help your muscles become more adept at using the oxygenated blood pushing through your body.

The Importance of Sprint and Speed Training

Almost any sport can benefit from a combination of speed and endurance work, but most athletes spend the bulk of their training time focused on endurance. With that in mind, speed drills are a great way to kick your performance up a notch. But there is a caveat.

Sprint and speed training drills should be used only after a general level of fitness has been achieved. Your current fitness level should allow you to run steadily for 20 to 30 minutes at a time and you should have at least a three-month base of consistent athletic activity prior to adding speed drills.

Speed drills, like the one discussed here, can be part of an interval training regimen and should be performed no more than twice a week, with at least two recovery days between workouts. You can also add in a day of hill sprints to continue to build muscle power, reduce the impact on your legs, and eventually run smoothly and more efficiently on flat surfaces.

Sample Speed Training Drill

Let's take a look at a sample speed training drill beginning with a thorough warm-up, and ending with a proper cool down.

Start With a Thorough Warm-Up

Begin by jogging for 10 minutes at an easy slow pace. This is followed by some simple range of motion stretches for your shoulders, hips, ankles, neck, trunk, and head. Move slowly and breathe deeply.

Maintain Proper Form 

Good form is essential to get results and avoid added stress to your body during the drills. Good form means maintaining proper posture while focusing on how you move not just how fast you move. To ensure proper form, you should not be fatigued when you start drills. If you are feeling fatigued, it's best to wait and do your drills at another time when you are feeling refreshed and well-rested. Your form is the first thing to suffer when you are tired. Drills should be done wearing trainers and not spikes.

To maintain proper form:

  • Avoid bending forward at the waist
  • Push from the balls of your feet (not your toes)
  • Focus your vision to the end of the course
  • Keep smooth forward/backward arm swings (not across the body)
  • Hands pump from shoulder height to hips (men) and from chest height to hips (women)
  • Elbows should be at 90 degrees at all times
  • Maintain relaxed arms, shoulders, and hands
  • Avoid head bobbing or twisting
  • Keep momentum forward and not side to side

20-Meter Drills

Perform the following drills 2-3 times each session.

  • High-Step Walking: Lifting knees up to hip level
  • High-Step Jogging: Lifting knees up to hip level
  • Skipping
  • Crossovers: Jog sideways while crossing your right leg over your left leg, and then your left leg over your right leg
  • Heel Kicks: While jogging kick heels to buttocks with each step
  • Ladder Drills: One-foot contact per square
  • Plyometrics: Single leg hopping, bounding, bunny hops, tuck jumps, jumping obstacles

30-Meter Drills

Perform the following drills 2-3 times each session.

  • Double Leg Hops: Jump forward over cones or another marker
  • Zig-Zag Hops: Jump forward in a zig-zag pattern
  • One-Leg Lateral Bounding: Jump sideways one leg, then the other

Speed Drills

  • 5 reps /80 meters at 70% effort (full out from a 4-point start) walk back. Take a 5-minute rest break between each set.
  • 5 reps /90 meters at 70% effort (full out from a 3-point start).
  • 5 reps /100 meters at 70% effort (full out from a 3-point start).
  • 2-3 reps of flying 50-meter sprints at 80% effort for acceleration (built up over 30 meters and then run at 80% for 20 meters).

Cool Down

To cool down you can jog for 10 minutes at a slow, steady pace, and finish with gentle whole body stretching.

A Word From Verywell

While most sports depend on a combination of speed and endurance, most workouts focus on endurance. Yet performing your best, especially when sprinting is required, workouts that focus on speed are important.

The sample speed drill discussed can help you perform at your best, but should only be done when you are already in good physical condition, have been working out steadily for at least three months, and can easily run for 20 to 30 minutes. Even if you are in good physical condition, speed drills should be avoided if you are feeling fatigued. Make sure you maintain good form, have a thorough warm-up before, and allow for an adequate cool down after your drills.

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