Speed is not entirely genetic! While I do suppose that accumulating months and years in front of a TV or computer and eating Cheetoes have much to do to with this "genetic" slow footedness, there are a few things that an athlete can do to specifically increase their top running speed. I'm not talking about running a 5K time under 18 minutes. What I care about is powerful, fast-breaking, third-base-stealing, wide receiver smothering SPRINTS.
What should a comprehensive sprint program incorporate?
1. Strength Training
Not sitting on machines...but traditional, functional resistance exercise that increases trunk stability and the ability to generate force off the ground through the arms and legs. Squat and dead lift variations are far underrated for developing jaw dropping speed. Strength training is also where you work on correcting muscle imbalance and dialing in proper movement patterns. It's where you do one better than merely working on "leg flexibility." Controlled mobility incorporates both strength and flexibility that will actually carry over to the task at hand.
2. Quick feet
You can do some timing and foot contact/coordination type drills. While agility ladder (and the like) drills have some merit, it is my opinion that a lot of time with these is uncalled for.
|THE standard for generations. You can just tell he was no endurance athlete.|
Develop peak power through the entire "kinetic chain" through Olympic Lifting and/or Plyometric Training. HERE is a little more on why I highly prefer plyometrics over olympic lifting for athletes whose primary interest is not the sport of weigth lifting. Either work well though.
Many athletes who complain of being slow naturally run in a biomechanically inefficient manner or they start flailing around when attempting to go full tilt. Neglect of steps 1 through 4 above often have a lot to do with this. But there is benefit from doing some deliberate practice in the components of sprinting. Slow down. Hit up the Googles for running form drills. Talk to a trainer or PT type person who knows what to look for, has actually sprinted in their life, and knows the beauty and worth of a nice open hill.
Here's the primary point of this essay. If you want to run faster, you must think of sprinting as a neurological event! Of course every human movement is a neurological event. But put in those terms, what are you teaching your brain with your exercise program?
What I frequently witness are many athletes and coaches over-killing long(ish) distance submaximal running, low rest "sprint" intervals, and Cross Fit Type Circuits. This type of training is by no means easy on effort. But in a sense they all teach the brain to go easy (less than full intensity at any one given moment) to merely survive the punishment.
What you absolutely, positively need to do is SPRINT FULL SPEED. Don't pace yourself. Don't try to go 400 meters balls-out. Even with more appropriate (short) distances, don't get exhausted to the point that you can hardly stand. SPRINT FULL SPEED, rest for a while, and SPRINT FULL SPEED again. I'd rather an athlete do 6 or 8 full bore sprints than 15 or 20 at 80 or 90% effort. As you are flying, think about powerfully generating force off the ground, quick leg turnover, and staying strong and solid with the upper body (no flailing).
Lame common sense disclaimer: If you're not accustomed to sprints or your physical conditioning is such that you can't sprint relatively short distances at full speed and repeat it without becoming exhausted, then yes, you should run (or even walk) longer distances at less than full effort. You should very gradually increase the strain and impact demands that sprinting places on the body.
Interval "sprints" at 85% with 10 seconds of rest in between teach the brain how to deal with misery, but they won't make you much faster. Drifting along at 110% of your impressive cross country race pace will not help you sprint much faster. Jumping rope, running bleachers, protein shakes, NONE of it will take you very far past your current sprinting capacity if you don't compliment it with full effort sprints. Having also given attention to number 4, when form starts falling apart, the sprint is done.
Like this writing.