After you've mastered good sprinting form, you can start lowering your times by working on limb speed. Develop faster arms, legs and feet with the following three drills:
Practice a Perfect Arm Swing
Your arms play a surprisingly important role in maintaining momentum and rhythm in your sprints. Use these cues to practice your arm swing so you can maintain proper form during competition without thinking.
- Swing from the shoulders. Athletes often lock their upper arms in place while moving their forearms up and down. Speed coaches call this "beating the drum" and train their athletes to avoid it at all costs.
- Move your hands from your hips to your shoulders. This motion reinforces swinging from the shoulders and helps develop proper timing.
- Drive your arms back hard. Driving your arms back forcefully activates the stretch reflex in your shoulders and chest, causing your arms to swing forward on their own and giving you one less thing to worry about.
- Swing your arms straight forward and back. Avoid "running like a chicken" by crossing the midline of your body with your arm swing. Sideways arm motion causes you to twist while sprinting and interrupts your momentum.
Perform the Fast Leg Drill
Train your legs to move faster by incorporating the simple Fast Leg Drill into your warm-up. In this drill, you walk around the track, making every fourth step a "Fast Leg."
- Lift big toe while picking up foot
- Slide foot behind you until it reaches your hip, keeping your lower leg tight to your upper leg and hip
- Drive your foot back to the ground using your hip
Concentrate on performing the Fast Leg Drill as quickly as possible.
Sets/Duration: 2-3 per leg x 10-20 yards
Perform the Fast Feet Drill
Many times, a poor sprint time is due to slow, heavy feet. Improve your foot speed by working through the Fast Feet Drill two or three times during your warm-up.
Set up the drill with two staggered lines of four cones each. Space the cones five feet apart and the lines two and a half feet from each other.
- Stand next to start cone
- Run to first cone in second line (cone 2) and touch it
- Backpedal to second cone in first line (cone 3) and touch it
- Repeat pattern through course
Throughout the Fast Feet Drill, keep your weight on the balls of your feet. When stopping, drop your hips and cut your steps. When backpedaling, keep your hips low and pick up your feet.
John M. Cissik is the president of Human Performance Services, LLC, which helps athletics professionals solve their strength and conditioning problems. He has worked with all levels, produced four videos, written 10 books and more than 70 articles on strength and speed training. For more information, follow him on Twitter (@yourhpservices).
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