Below you’ll find Adam’s Top 10 Speed Drills. He narrowed down his list to the top 10 he would have an athlete focus on to improve their speed.
1 Leg Horizontal Jumps
Essentially, these are like doing a triple jump, except you never hop on the other leg. This drill is for a more mature athlete because of the demand that is placed on the leg. Running is a technique of single leg explosions, so that is why this is on my list. I usually have my athlete jump 4 times (jumping and landing on the same leg), making sure they stick the landing with a nice knee and hip flexion and soft landing on the ball of the foot. I will then do some rapid fire jumps as well.
High Knee Jump Ropes
I love this drill. This could have been my number one. It develops speed, hand/eye coordination, plus it puts your legs in very similar positions you will find when you are sprinting. The athlete jumps rope alternating feet with a high knee action. I usually start them off jumping rope on one leg to develop the strength, then do a simple alternating style, then try the high knee. It really develops those fast twitch fibers.
One of the big mechanical issues I see with runners is a slow frequency rate (or the leg turnover quick). Sometimes due to lack of strength, hurdle jumps helps that out. I start at a conservative height and set four of them up. The athlete has to jump over all four without hitting the hurdles and do it quickly. Those knees go up and the heel fires up to the butt, just like trying to run fast. The speed and leg turnover is improved with this drill.
This is a great drill to do with younger runners. It develops core strength, coordination between the opposite arm and leg, strength, and balance with the legs. You step forward with one leg and lunge down so the back knee almost touches the ground. Keep your opposite arm in a good L shape and in running position. When the knee almost touches you explode up and step forward with that back leg while switching arms (keeping that opposite arm/leg action you have when you run). Keep the torso nice and tight, don’t lean forward. Doing that will help you develop good core strength.
TRX Sprinting In Place
Obviously, you need access to a TRX suspension unit, but this is a very similar drill to the jump ropes. You lean forward holding the TRX in your hands with the straps under your arms. Your feet are behind you and your body is at a 75 degree angle. If you let go, you would fall down. Start running in place (high knees) as fast as you can, staying upright, and keeping that angle. Great for the body to feel that acceleration phase and the rapid fire foot contacts.
I just purchased one of these and am liking it more than my sprint cords. I can adjust the weight I put on in relation with the athlete using it. Thus some of my younger athletes can use it, with little added weight, but good enough for them, and they feel they are doing something cool. I have the athletes run 20 or 30 yards and watch the mechanics. As soon as the running mechanics start to breakdown, I take a little weight off and keep the athlete there for awhile. Great for developing speed and power.
This is ‘old reliable’ of the speed drills. One of the best drills to work on arm placement, opposite arm and foot movement, dorsiflexion, and skipping on the balls of the feet. These are short quick skips and I focus on keeping the arms in L shapes and making sure they are quickly skipping on the balls of the feet. I want their foot to pop off the ground in a dorsiflexed position (toes pulling towards the shins) and the upper thigh to get just about parallel. You can never do too much of these to work on running form.
Another great drill to work on the lower body mechanics. I have my athletes put their arms straight out in front of them. They then swing one leg out in front just a little bit and paw the ground with the ball of their foot. After pawing the ground, the foot leaves the ground behind them shooting the heel straight up like it is kicking your own butt, then whipping the dorsiflexed foot in front of your body with thigh parallel to the ground. Place it down, step up to that foot, and proceed with the other leg. Great to work on that leg turnover.
I always want to maximize my athletes’ running stride. I want to make sure they are covering the most ground possible for their running form. I have them run 20-30 yards at 75% speed, with as long as stride possible. This is almost like bounding, but really trying to maintain their running form, land on the balls of the feet, and get as long as stride possible.
I like this drill for developing speed with my older or more mature athletes. I use a sprint cord, but you can use a small decline (like 10 degree angle). You just want to run 20-30 yards at a speed faster than what you normally can do whether it is on that decline or being pulled by a sprint cord. Once again, the key is running mechanics. Run as fast as you can, but if your mechanics are shotty, then you are being pulled too fast or the decline is too great and you’re not getting out of it what you really need.