Every athlete in sports that involve sprinting want to know how to sprint faster, but nobody wants to actually train for pure speed.
The main problem is that most athletes are following programs on and off the track that will not increase their top-end, linear speed. After using these ill-fated programs they end up with the same speed or they end up inheriting the speed of a sloth due to the abysmal nature of the training, nutrition, and recovery.
Most “speed” training is completely misguided. Training for pure speed is not high-volume running, bodybuilding, speed ladder drills, or powerlifting. Training for speed puts the top priority on speed.
In this new series we are going to examine the top 5 ways to increase your sprinting speed. By applying these tips to your training program, you will be able to see real PR’s when you hit the track.
The first 2 ways you can sprint faster are:
How To Sprint Faster Through Better Sleep
When an athlete is having a lousy performance at the track or at my performance training center, the first question that I always ask is “How did you sleep last night?”
When the answer is anything less than 7 deep hours, then we have figured out why the athlete has a performance comparable to the Sixers during the early stages of the Process.
The most important factor when it comes to maximizing your performance on the track is sleep. Deep sleep has restorative powers not rivaled by any food or supplement in this world.
Sprinting is a neural exercise which means that your performance on the track is directly connected to how fresh and recovered your central nervous system (CNS) is. While having a deflated CNS is not good for any discipline, it will literally end your sprint session before you even get to the start line especially if your only goal is training for speed development.
If your CNS is drained your reaction time and the amount of force you can put into the ground with each step will both be reduced. A sprinter who cannot get out of the blocks or generate more force during the race cannot be an effective sprinter.
Any sprinting done at 90 percent of your maximum speed and above will drain your CNS. That is the nature of any high intensity exercises like sprinting, jumping, or heavy deadlifts and squats.
The difference between the athletes who get faster and the ones who remain stuck in quicksand is recovery. Whoever lets their CNS recover properly by prioritizing sleep will have the better long term gains in speed.
The athletes who cannot bring their times down are the ones who are not letting their CNS recover through restful sleep. There are two distinct things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep and allow yourself to make progress on the track:
1) Change your sleep environment
You will be losing the battle for great sleep if you are being externally stimulated by light or noise.
If you are currently sleeping in a room that has a lot of external light or noise, then your sleep quality is not being maximized. Having your laptop, TV, and cell phone all shoot blue light into your eyes does not help either.
Recent observations (Gunnars, 2019) have shown that the blue light that is emitted from these devices can suppress your melatonin production. I have personally experienced this and having lower melatonin levels at night will make it harder for you to fall asleep.
One of the best things I did to reduce the amount of blue light my eyes receive at night was to purchase some blue-light glasses and an eyemask.
The blue-light glasses allow me to use those devices at night without additional stimulation. I don’t wear glasses so I feel extra studious when I put them on as well.
When I was young I used to think an eyemask was for the sadity folks but they were actually onto something. The darkness that the eyemask provides will improve your sleep quality and the result has been a few years of the best sleep I have had since my teenage years.
Your curtains can affect the quality of your sleep too. Lighter colored curtains will let more light into your room and once the sun hits your eyes, your body begins to naturally wake up.
If you begin to wake up before your body was fully recharged, it will directly affect your performance on the track. I suggest if you do not have an eyemask to invest in blackout curtains for your room.
Noise can also be a hindrance to a great night of sleep. If you have noise coming in from vehicles or loud neighbors who have no couth, then it will also be tough for you to nod off into Dreamland.
We used to live on a main road in Philly and for a few years my sleep quality was lousy just like a typical meathead workout program. Every night a combination of buses, cars, people talking/fighting, cops, or the ambulance would make it difficult to fall asleep. Over time we moved to a quieter neighborhood and falling asleep is dramatically easier.
Sleeping in a dark, quiet room is your best bet to get consistent sleep. By changing your current sleep environment, you can recharge your CNS and improve your speed on the track.
How To Sprint Faster Through True Speed Training
If you want to get better at something, then you consistently have to do that thing.
It is a flat-out joke in the sprint game when athletes spend far too much time doing everything except sprinting. Lifting is great and should be a part of a sprinter’s program, but just because you are a beast in the gym does not mean you will dominate on the track.
I moved a 669.5lb barbell hip thrust at the end of 2015 while weighing about 165lbs. When I showed up for the first outdoor track meet in June 2016 at age 32, my opening 100 meter dash time was a horrendous 12.64 after opening at 11.91 in 2015.
Even though I had glutes that were stronger than vibranium at this point, I was not performing pure speed training at this time. The end result was a lousy time in the 100 meters.
The only way to sprint faster is to get your body used to moving faster and that requires you to consistently sprint at over 90 percent of your maximum. Weight room strength is not the biggest part of the puzzle.
I’ve known coaches and athletes who talk about building speed, but then they run workouts like 10x100m at 60-70 percent of their maximum speed. This formula does not equate to developing high level speed.
Would a powerlifter train to build maximal strength by working with light weights? No, you would work your main movements in rep ranges of 1-3 and the weight would be relatively heavy.
Sprinters and powerlifters are brothers from different mothers. The principles in the training systems are very similar with the emphasis being on high intensity work with full recoveries.
Sprinters come from Mother Speed and powerlifters come from Mother Strength, but they both have the same daddy named Father CNS. The 2 guidelines for maximum speed training are:
1) Perform your sprints at over 90 percent of your maximum speed
You will gain nothing speed wise if you do not get after it when you hit the track. Sprinting is the most explosive movement in the fitness game and you need to perform your reps with a focused intensity.
Getting out to the track and moving like a sloth will have you going nowhere fast. After you perform a proper sprinter warm-up, it is time to go hard. You are not going to jog, or run at 70 percent as all of the action that creates speed will happen at 90 percent.
If you are truly training for speed development you will need a coach to time you or you will need electronic timing like the Freelap Timing System in order to track your times yourself.
A stopwatch will also work but you just have to get used to timing yourself. If you are training just to add sprinting to your lifting workouts then that 90 percent will be measured in effort instead of a recorded time.
A sample true speed workout that focused on acceleration and maximum velocity would look like this:
-3 sets (3×1) of 30 meter sprints from a standing or ground start (3 or 4 point start)
-3 sets (3×1) of flying 30 meter sprints with a 30 meter run-in
-if you are a beginner rest 3-5 minutes between sets
-if you are advanced, rest about 5-8 minutes between sets
The goal of each repetition is quality.
2) Take adequate rest between reps
Traditional high-intensity conditioning training like The Punisher Workout are well-known for being hard to do because of the lack of rest.
Anytime you reduce the rest periods in training you will increase the difficulty but there is a caveat; you will sacrifice your top-end performance in terms of top-end speed or strength. Let me explain.
In the sprint game if you are training to get faster, you cannot expect to run a hard 60 meter sprint and then rest only 15 seconds before doing set 2.
Because your recovery was so short, your speed will take a precipitous drop. Once you lose speed, you are no longer training for pure speed and your workout becomes another conditioning workout.
A good rule of thumb in sprinting is to rest 1 minute for every 10 meters you sprint. For example a max effort, 60 meter sprint would require a 6 minute rest.
There is a time and place for shorter rest periods but not when the goal is maximum speed. As I applied all these methods to my training in 2016 and 2017 I was able to hit 11.57 in the 100m and 23.78 in the 200m at age 33.
Sprinting is a young athlete’s game but proper training can allow you to still have speed as you get older. I was faster at age 33 than I was at ages 31 and 32 but there is no magic in why. By applying these methods to your training program, you will also get faster.
It also feels great to cross the finish line before men (mostly high school and college athletes) who are ages 18-30 years old and who are closer to their prime than I. The elite guys at these meets still smoke me though!
Bonus: How To Get Faster By Reading Use Speed To Get Lean
You can learn about my new eBook, Use Speed To Get Lean by watching the video below. This is the first book in the fitness game to combine the power of sprinting and lifting.
Stay tuned for part II of this series.
Gunnars, Kris BSc. (2019) Blue Light and Sleep: What’s The Connection? Retrived from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/block-blue-light-to-sleep-better
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