Usain Bolt

100m and 200m Dash World Record Holder - Usain Bolt

Developing Speed for Sprinting – If you consider what the components for speed are, they include firing frequency and muscle fiber recruitment.  Contemporary training programs work on increasing firing frequency through foot or leg drills or through repetitive running for set distances.  Muscle fiber recruitment typically is done in the weight room with explosive lifts. However, explosive lifts require proper training and supervision to avoid injury. Immediate improvements in speed usually, come from neuromuscular adaptations. Neuromuscular adaptations enhance firing frequency and muscle requirements.  A safer method of recruiting muscle fibers for the development of speed includes the addition of more balance work and conditioning program.

If you look at most movement patterns of lower body, at one point during the movement the body must support itself on one leg. However, we do not ask athletes to condition that way. We usually get on a weight machine and use two limbs; thus, never really working on the weaker limb. Each time the weaker limb steps on the ground by itself, it slows you down because, for a split fraction of a second, it must adjust appropriately during the running stride.

Balance work takes advantage of proprioception, the ability of muscle to respond to abnormal positions and situations.  Proprioception provides a sense of joint position and movement.

Doing balance work in conjunction with explosive power movements in your sprint training provides an opportunity to recruit and train additional muscle fibers. If done properly, the end result is improved speed.  The following program will illustrate how to incorporate the right blend of balance and power into the sprinting program.

  • Single Leg Backbridge (Figure 1) – Lie with your back on the ball and with one leg firmly in contact with the ground. Make sure that the leg that is on the ground is at an angle greater than 90° and your foot is pointed straight ahead. Raise the other length off the ground and maintain this position for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds depending on the level of the leg imbalance.
  • Balance on Wobbly Board (Figure 2) – Balance on each leg on the wobbly board. Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds on each leg. Ultimately build 60 seconds on each leg for 3 to 4 sets.
  • Balance on Wobbly Board with Weighted Ball (Figure 3) – Once balance work on a wobbly board has been mastered, the next level of progression is to hold on to a weighted jelly ball or medicine ball.  Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 30 to 45 seconds on each leg.
  • Bulgarian Step Ups (Figure 4) – With a 35 pound universal bar on your back (trapezius), place the right foot on a box. Make certain that the effort is placed on the foot that is on the box to step up. Step up on the box with the trailing leg. Do 3 to 4 sets of six repetitions on each leg.
  • Jelly Ball Kickups (Figure 5) – Use a 3 to 4 pound jelly ball for beginning training programs to allow for safe progression to a heavier weighted jelly ball. Place the ball between the feet. Squeeze the ball with the feet and drive down during the preparation phase. Next, drive up while kicking the jelly ball up in the air. Repeat for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions.
  • Split Squat Jump (Figure 6) – Placed one leg in front of the other leg in a split position. Drive down with the legs and arms and explode up while maintaining the split squat position. Landing should be done in the same position as the drive phase. Do 3 to 4 sets of six jumps on each leg.
  • L Hops (Figure 7) – Place one leg on a table making the hip angle about 90° to the floor. Make sure that use have a soft landing mat or floor while performing these routines. Drive down on one leg and explosively drive up on the same late. Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
  • Box Step Ups (Figure 8 ) – Place 1 foot on a box and step up on that foot while driving the other leg up. Make sure to maintain the same arm action that you would in the running motion.  Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
  • Quick Foot Step Ups (Figure 9) – Place an aerobic step on a secure floor to prevent movement of the box. On command, the athlete will step up onto the box with the leg, foot, but they normally drive off with drive off with the blocks. The athlete will step on and off the box as fast as possible for 30 seconds. Make sure to maintain the proper sequence of movements in the running motion.
  • Stadium Hops (Figure 10) – Use aluminum stadium steps to do this exercise, as it will provide a much softer landing. Place the hands behind the head and squat, and then explosively drive up to the next step. Perform this for about 10 rows and walked down and repeat the same procedure 3 to 4 times.
  • Single Leg Hops (Figure 11) – Find an area that is soft and level if you are outside. Line up six cones and practiced jumping over one or two to line up the appropriate distance between comes.  Take a running start at the cones and then single leg hop over each one. Perform this drill 3 to 4 times on each leg.
  • Granny Throws (Figure 12) – Use a 16 pound jelly ball or medicine ball. Squat down and drive straight up while tossing the ball as explosively as you can. Perform this drill 6 to 8 times.
  • Incline Sprints – Find an incline area that is no more than 4 to 5 percent grade. The distance needed should be about 25 to 35m in length. On command sprint for a set distance of 25 to 30m. Perform the Sprint 6 to 8 times.

There are many ways to train for speed, such as tubing, parachutes, and shoulder harnesses. The isolated balance work and explosive routine done by each leg as depicted in this article will target those individual muscle fibers not normally conditioned by traditional sprint training. Incorporating balance and explosive movement patterns, as it relates to sprinting with develop the sprinter into a faster athlete. By following this program during the preseason, sprinter will have an excellent base of functional and explosive strength training as it relates to sprinting. The simplicity of this training program is that it does not require an extensive weight room to get results.

Figure . Single Leg - Backbridge Figure 2. - Balance on Wobble Board and Figure 3. Balance on Wobble Board with Weighted Ball


1.       Faccioni, A. Assisted and resisted methods for speed development; Part 2. Modern Athlete and Coach 32:8 – 12. 1994

2.       Jakalski, K.  Parachutes, tubing and towing. Track Coach 144:4285 – 4589. 1998

3.       Letzelter, M., G. Sauerwein, and Burger R.  Resistance runs in speed development.  Modern Athlete and Coach 33:7 – 12. 1996

  1. sweetopiagirl says:

    Reblogged this on Inspiredweightloss.

  2. D Runge says:

    Reblogged this on SportsMomia and commented:
    Great read on developing power and speed for sprinters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s