Athletes, coaches, and fitness buffs are competitive by nature, so it’s no surprise that we are often asked “how can I get faster?”
Whether you’re simply looking to reach a personal goal or hoping to crush the competition, we have selected the best speed training drills to help you get faster…faster!
Get ready to feel the burn, because these speed training drills will enhance your sports performance training and work all of the muscles that are needed for speed.
Weightlifting to improve speed? This might sound hard to believe, but there is a specific style of weightlifting that is proven to make athletes of all abilities faster!
Olympic weightlifting is a specific type of lifting that is designed to not only make athletes stronger, but faster as well.
This is because Olympic weightlifting requires athletes to use a tremendous amount of force applied against the ground to lift the weight in a quick, vertical movement.
This powerful vertical movement will increase your vertical velocity, which is a mechanical feature that is critical to developing speed.
The power and vertical force used in Olympic weightlifting is also helpful for athletes who want to increase not only their jumping and foot speed, but their change-of-direction speed as well.
Here’s are a couple of simple Olympic weightlifting exercises that can help you get faster:
Hang Cleans are one of the most basic Olympic lifts that all athletes should add to their speed training programs.
A hang clean doesn’t just help your speed, it also improves your strength, power, and coordination.
These lifts also strengthen the major muscle groups involved in jumping and quick changes of direction, such as the:
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart
- Take a hook grip on the bar, with hands placed about a thumbs-distance from the hips
- Lower the bar to just above the knees
- Quickly thrust the bar to shoulder blade height while squatting
- Quickly move up back to standing position from the squat
Perform 1-3 reps per set at around 70-80% weight capacity.
One of the best benefits of the Split Jerk is that it can help athletes increase foot speed.
Your feet will have to move and stabilize quickly, and your stabilizer muscles in your core and leg will all get strengthened with this exercise.
An added bonus of the split jerk is that it boosts stability to help athletes prevent injuries such as ankle sprains, which are often caused by instability.
Here’s how to do it:
- Stand feet hip-width apart
- Make sure your grip width is just outside the shoulders
- Hold the bar across your collarbone
- Quickly press the bar up while jumping into a lunge
- Slowly come back up and lower the bar back to collar bone height
- Put the bar down and rest about 3 minutes before the next rep
Perform 4 sets of 3 reps at 60% your max weight capacity, resting 3 minutes between each rep.
Other popular Olympic weightlifting exercises to try are:
- Dumbbell Rows
- Back Squats
- Bench Press superset Barbell Row
The key in performing Olympic weightlifting exercises is extensive rest (usually at least 1.5-3 minutes between reps) so that you can lift at or near your maximum capacity.
The long rest combined with heavier weights will ensure that you are not “bulking up” and gaining mass, but instead gaining the lean muscle tone that is needed to get faster.
Plyometrics are a great way to increase your speed without the need for weights or special equipment. Many plyometric exercises are convenient enough to perform in your own home or backyard.
Using your own bodyweight, you can perform plyometric speed training drills such as various types of jumps. This will train your body to exert maximum force in a brief amount of time.
Plyometrics are especially helpful if you want to increase your stride length, first step speed, cadence (how many steps you take per leg each minute), and foot speed.
Some of the best plyometric exercises to perform include:
- Bounds – If your stride length is struggling, bounds will help lengthen it. These exercises are basically an exaggeration of a sprinting motion.
- Scissor Jumps – These exercises will increase your cadence, making quick movements such as sprints more efficient.
- Jump Rope – This is a great way to improve your foot speed and coordination.
- Towel Sprints – Do you ever feel like your “first step” is a little lagging? These exercises are designed to make that first step of any movement quicker.
- Standing Long Jump – Performing a few standing long jumps at maximum effort with about a minute between reps will increase your horizontal force production.
There are many types of strength training exercises that act double duty as speed training (Olympic lifting and plyometrics included).
To improve your speed with strength training, you’ll want to find strength training exercises that improve your maximum strength, explosive strength, and reactive strength.
Here’s what that means:
Strength training exercises that target maximum strength will prepare your muscle and connective tissues for the more explosive strength exercises that you will begin later in your training.
This type of strength training involves compound multi-joint exercises, which are exercises that strengthen multiple joints and muscles simultaneously.
You will perform maximum strength exercises at (you guessed it) maximum effort.
Examples of maximum strength exercises that athletes perform in the beginning of their seasons include:
- Back Squats
- Nordic Curls
Many sports require sudden bursts of movement such as jumps and sprints.
If you need to sprint, jump, or perform quick movements, explosive strength training exercises will help you do these movements faster.
Explosive strength training typically involves quick movements while using heavy weights. You will need to master the technique of squats and deadlifts before performing explosive strength exercises.
Ready to develop explosive strength for quicker bursts of speed? Here are a few exercises you can try:
- Squat Jump
- Box Jump
- Medicine Ball Toss
- Explosive Push Up
- Box Dip
Reactive strength training is designed to quicken your sprint speed.
This type of strength training will mimic the sprinting motion and help you exert maximum force in the least amount of time.
Some reactive strength drills (such as plyometrics) will involve just your body weight, while others may include sports equipment like weighted sleds, vests, and medicine balls.
Athletes perform reactive strength exercises later on in training to condition the body in preparation for these high-intensity exercises.
Here are some reactive strength exercises to help you become a speedier sprinter:
- Vest Sprints
- Sled Sprints
- Explosive Step Ups
- Box-to-Box Depth Jumps
Don’t Confuse Conditioning with Speed Training
A lot of people, including coaches, confuse conditioning with speed training. While conditioning is important, athletes generally do not get faster with conditioning alone.
The difference between conditioning and speed training is that conditioning trains the aerobic system, while speed training trains the anaerobic system.
You can think of conditioning as endurance training and speed training as sprint training.
While conditioning will help athletes maintain energy for longer periods of play (or longer races), speed training will provide the bursts of speed needed for quicker movements, sprints, and surges.
Unlike the short rest periods used between reps and sets in conditioning exercises, speed training will require a maximum recovery between reps and sets.
The complete recovery will ensure that you will give each speed training exercise your maximum (or near maximum) effort, just like you would when sprinting a short distance or using a quick burst of energy to jump into the end zone.
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