If you're trying to find ways to improve your sprinting ability, you're already in on the secret. Sprinting is a great alternative exercise to burn calories and increase functional strength simultaneously. The faster you run, the more you'll get out of your sprinting workout. When it comes to the track, speed is all about finding the right balance between stride length and stride rate. If you feel as though you've got the proper stride length down, you need to concentrate on running mechanics and strength training to improve your stride rate in sprinting.
Maintain the correct posture when running at maximum speed. Your upper body should be almost completely erect with a slight forward lean. Your shoulders should be relaxed and back, while your chin is pressed down, head aligned with your spine.
Land on the balls of your feet, directly under your center of gravity. When your lead foot makes contact with the track, it should be flexed up toward your shin. This will put your shin at about a 45-degree angle when your foot makes contact with the ground, allowing you to spring forward better.
Bring your foot up and forward in a tight, controlled and cyclical motion right after you push off the ground to encourage a faster stride rate. Don't allow your foot to dangle behind you when you push off the track mid-stride.
Perform technique drills as a warm-up before hitting the track hard. Drills for increasing your stride rate include high knees, agility ladder runs, quick hops, jumping jacks and running on your toes.
Pump up your legs with strength training and plyometrics to increase explosive power. Box jumps, forward hops, vertical jumps and lunge jumps are just a few examples of plyometric drills for sprinters. Alternate between sets with two-legged jumps and one-legged jumps.
- It isn't a good idea to emphasize stride rate over stride length, as neither component of your running technique is more important than the other. You can pick up your feet as fast as possible, but if you're not driving forward, you're not really getting anywhere. Ideally, you want to increase both aspects of your stride simultaneously so you don't develop an imbalance.
- Avoid over-striding during sprint training. Over-striding will cause you to land with your heel first, which causes a slight braking force every time you touch down. This reduces your speed and puts more stress on your ankles, knees and hips. If you plan to do strength training to increase power, don't exceed two or three sessions per week. Give your muscles time to recover and rebuild between workouts.
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.