If you’re looking to develop speed and tips on how to sprint faster, ensuring good running technique, warming up well beforehand, breathing correctly, and improving your cardio are all major pieces of the puzzle.
Whether it’s your coach, teammate, opponent, or game announcer, everyone will tell you that speed kills.
Even with the strongest cardiovascular system and the biggest muscles, the ability to run at high speeds gives you a significant advantage in almost every sport.
But while most people are under the impression that you can’t teach speed, you can.
Although there is a ceiling based on genetics, nothing says that the cards you were dealt with are all you have.
If you want to hit Usain Bolt levels, maximize your speed, and learn how to sprint faster, this article is for you.
We’ll walk you through what influences speed and give you our best tips for sprinting faster.
What Influences Sprinting Speed?
If you’re a runner looking for faster speeds—or someone just looking to improve overall speed—there are a few factors you’ll want to pay attention to.
While you may think running speed is about how fast your legs can move, there’s more to it.
Here are five factors that influence your running and sprinting speed:
If you want to improve your running speed, proper form is imperative, as it is with lifting. And much of your running form is due to your entire body’s posture.
Because your core muscles are heavily involved in your running pace, poor posture can interfere with speed. However, practicing good posture means a more effective form and a lower risk of injury or strain.
You want to maintain a neutral head and neck position and keep your eyes looking forward; avoid looking at the ground, which can cause excess strain on your neck and spine.
However, keep your chin tucked and lean forward slightly. Your shoulders should be relaxed.
Many people maintain a slight forward lean by over-flexing at the hips, and while a slight lean is recommended, leaning too far forward will slow you down and adversely affect your sprinting mechanics.
This one should be a given, but the more strides you push out (i.e., the higher frequency of strides you take), the more ground you can cover, which allows you to sprint faster and achieve max speeds.
Two runners can take 50 strides, but the stride length differentiates how far they go - the runner with the long strides should run further. It significantly contributes to how quickly you can spring off the ground as you sprint.
Shorter strides offer more control over the pace at which you hit the ground and push off, meaning shorter and more frequent strides can enhance your sprint performance and speed.
But why shorter strides? Shouldn’t longer strides make a faster sprinter?
You’d think, but over-striding generates less power during ground contact, increasing the rate at which you decelerate, increasing strain on your hamstrings, and increasing the risk of injury.
When sprinting, you want to keep your knees parallel to the ground and your feet dorsiflexed towards your shins.
Stronger muscles equate to a quicker and stronger push off the ground, but you want to avoid being too ‘bulky’ if you’re looking for speed.
On the other hand, you also want to avoid too much fat mass. The more fat and weight you carry on your frame, the slower your sprint pace will be.
Fat doesn’t contribute to muscular force or power, so it doesn’t help generate high forces contributing to top sprinting speeds. Ideally, you want more muscle mass than fat, but also be mindful that too much muscle mass may slow you down.
For faster speeds and more force, it’s all about finding a balance.
This one should be a given—proper recovery. If you’ve performed a big lift the day before or a long set of sprints, your body needs adequate time to recover fully.
If you’re hitting the track before your body is ready, you likely won’t be able to sprint as fast as you could if you allowed for a full recovery.
Finish every workout (regardless of the type) with a proper cool-down and post-workout exercise to ensure a good recovery.
5 Steps to Improve Your Sprinting Technique and Sprint Faster
So, you want to sprint faster? Get your mind and body into optimal performance shape and increase speed with these tips and tricks!
Maintain the proper sprint technique
If you want to sprint at top speed and with maximum efficiency, proper sprint mechanics are a must.
Maintain good posture in the upper body (a straight spine with a slight forward lean), keep your chin tucked, and relax your neck and shoulders.
Avoid tensing any areas of your body, as poor for and tension will slow you down and increase injury risk.
But keep in mind that sprint posture is different from acceleration posture. When sprinting, we want to be erect through the trunk, head level, hips high, foot contact slightly ahead of the center of mass, and a big range of motions through the limbs.
An upright, tall posture allows for greater freedom of movement, more elastic energy production, maximal power production and output, better relaxation, and greater efficiency.
It should go without saying that a proper warm-up is critical before any exercise, but especially before high-intensity work like sprinting.
An adequate warmup helps to increase blood circulation to active muscle tissue, improve range of motion, improve overall running performance, and reduces the risk of injury 1, 2.
But what kind of warmup? Exercise-specific movements are some of the best things you can do to prepare your body to perform, but dynamic stretches can also help loosen your muscles for intense movements.
Although running is a full-body exercise, you want to focus on warming up your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Assess your arm movements
The speed at which your legs move has a lot to do with how fast you can run, but it’s also about arm movements—they dictate the range of motion and tempo of your running stride.
Coaching both the hands and arms during sprinting is beneficial for a few reasons:
- Stride length is not as trainable as stride frequency
- The hands control what the feet are doing during the flight phase (both feet off the ground)
- The hands are essential for creating a better stride frequency, as well as controlling foot strike on the ground to create a better impact
For sprinters, proper arm movement is essential for generating force, especially during the acceleration phase.
During maximal-speed sprinting, the arms are also an integral component of balance by countering the body’s rotation triggered by the pelvis.
But they may also be involved in increasing stride rates and generating ground reaction forces.
Proper arm movement during sprinting is something like this:
Your front arm should be between 60-90 degrees at the elbow, while the back arm angle should be between 90-120 degrees at the elbow.
Arm angles outside this range can negatively affect running mechanics—i.e., you’ll lose speed, and fatigue will set in faster.
You also want to be mindful to avoid any cross-body motions when sprinting.
Some of the most common arm action errors include:
- Excessive crossing of the body’s the midline
- Arms too square to the shoulder line
- Swinging too passively on the downward stroke
- Lack of swinging with excessive bending
- Excessive rigidity and not allowing enough unfolding
- Arms not symmetrically balanced in all planes of motion
Focus on your breathing
Sprinting and running have a lot to do with your running mechanics, but they also have a lot to do with how you breathe.
Just as you focus on proper breathing technique during maximal lifts, you must also practice it during sprints. And if you’re doing it right, it can significantly impact your performance.
Deep breathing recruits your deep inspiratory muscles to draw air in and out of your lungs and oxygenate active muscle tissues—and this is super important for sprinting. Deep inhales cause your thorax and ribcage to expand, putting your thoracic spine in a better position to rotate freely with every step.
Why is this important?
When sprinting, your thoracic spine must be able to rotate from side to side uninhibited. This allows for efficient energy transfer from arm strides (we discussed the importance of arm swing for power generation) through your torso and into your legs, increasing power output.
You want to focus on breathing deeply through your mouth and timing your breath in accordance with your running distance.
With high-intensity sprint training, try a 2:2 technique: actively breathe in for two steps and then proceed to breathe out for the next two steps. With this technique, you’ll be sprinting faster in no time.
Strengthen your posterior chain for max speed
Your posterior chain muscles are the powerhouse of faster sprinting; they are the turbocharged engine that will help you reach top speeds.
And if you want to sprint faster, you need to actively strengthen the muscles on the back of the body: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the hamstring complex.
While quad strength is important, your posterior chain muscles are responsible for producing the power and force that come with top-end running speeds—and there’s a fair bit of research to support this 3-6.
If you want to strengthen your p-chain muscles for maximum sprint speeds, you need to activate and strengthen them. Some of the best moves to target your posterior chain muscles include:
- Deadlifts (straight leg deadlifts or conventional)
- Hip thrusts
- Back squat (and variations)
- Glute/ham machine
- Back extensions
- Kettlebell swings
- Reverse hypers
You must also ensure your strength training program hits all aspects of the force-velocity curve.
Lifting heavy to build maximum strength isn’t going to cut it here—you need to train all aspects that impact your speed: power, force development, strength, speed, coordination, and mobility.
Sprinting at top speeds takes a lot of work—look at how long Olympic athletes train to compete in short-duration sprints.
But while it may seem complicated, it is possible with the right set of knowledge and the right supplements to support performance. Now that you know how to work on building speed, what can you use to support it?
Pre Lab Pro—the cleanest and most potent pre-workout formula on the market designed to maximize nitric oxide levels and fight fatigue, helping you train harder for longer.
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- Comfort P, Haigh A, Matthews MJ. Are changes in maximal squat strength during preseason training reflected in changes in sprint performance in rugby league players?. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(3):772-776.
- Tsimahidis K, Galazoulas C, Skoufas D, et al. The effect of sprinting after each set of heavy resistance training on the running speed and jumping performance of young basketball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(8):2102-2108.
- Slawinski J, Bonnefoy A, Levêque JM, et al. Kinematic and kinetic comparisons of elite and well-trained sprinters during sprint start. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(4):896-905.