Sprint Drills

Burst and Relax

Learning speed with relaxation is critical in allowing sprinters to reach top speed.

Setup – You can set this drill up for 20 meter intervals (early season), or 30 meter intervals, and you can mark these distances off for runners, to enable easy identification.

Procedure – This is a basic sprint and rest exercise. At the start of the season, to build a conditioning foundation, you should run this drill at 20 meter intervals. It would look something like this:

20 meters fill speed and acceleration + 20 meters of easy running (good form) + 20 meters of hard sprint = 60 meters total drill length.

Later in the season, you can run the same drill with the intervals at 30m. This means that you would sprint for 30, easy run for 30 and then sprint again for 30.

Relaxation is important when running, and this drill promotes the relaxation by allowing an easy run in the middle of the sprint. Tight and tense muscles are not as pliant as loose and relaxed muscles, and therefore do not allow a sprinter to reach their top potential speed.

Ground Bounds

Building explosion through plyometric exercises is excellent for sprint runners

Setup – An open area for runner to bound across the field

Procedure – The runner should begin in the starting position (with or without blocks), then they should burst half-speed out of the block without lifting their upper body.

Instead of running, the player should bound. This involves leaping – and emphasizing each of the elements of the bound, in order to train all of the muscles in the leg and the core to explode. The runner should leap forward using the momentum of their lead leg, and then explode off their toes to finish the leap.

Improved explosion coming from the end of each stride is going to help the overall sprint

Heel Kick

This is another form-improving drill that is quite common for warm ups and for early season track conditioning.

Setup – The sprinters should have a clear track or grass area of about 50 to 60m in length.

Procedure – The runner begins this drill at half speed, focusing on getting the heels back near the buttocks with each exaggerated stride. Speed is not important in this drill – form and execution of the heel kick is what the sprinter should focus on.

The sprinter needs to focus on creating a rhythmic motion – not one that is wild and unpredictable. Energy that is expended during a sprint needs to be focused – and this drill helps the runner work on form and rhythm during their sprint.

Half speed strides with the heels coming back should go for 50m. The runner should rest and repeat… rest and repeat.

The sprinter will build rhythm in his or her stride making the energy expended in the stride efficient and effective

Increase Acceleration

Sprinters need to condition themselves to accelerate all of the way down the track – especially in the 100m

Setup – Depending on which event the runner is training for, you need to mark off every 50m (for the 100m sprint) and 150m for the 200m training.

Procedure – Training for the 100m event, this drill is run with the runner knowing they must increase their acceleration at the 50m mark. At first, coaches should only time the last 50m of this drill. Emphasize to the runner that they must accelerate AFTER the 50m mark.

The 200m sprinter is timed once they reach the 150m mark. This forces the runner to increase their acceleration throughout the run and ultimately once they reach the 150m mark.

Increasing acceleration is essential for successful sprinters. As you move forward with this drill, increase the timing interval to 60, 70 and eventually 90m – teaching the runner to continue with their acceleration.

Block Start Intervals

Exploding from a block start and increasing acceleration is essential for sprinters.

Setup – A set of starting block for each sprinter, or alternate according to number of starting blocks.

Procedure – This is a standard drill that helps sprinters achieve two things: proper angle out of the blocks, and then accelerating through the first interval.

At first, you can set this drill up for 10m – then 30, then 60. With the runner in the blocks, coaches can use a starter pistol or a spoken command to start the runner. The runner will keep the low lean right from the start and then continue driving through the first 10m.

Prevent runners from rising to run straight up and down when they start. They lose all acceleration if they do this. Work on this drill to combine good starts with body lean and acceleration. In between the 30 and 60m intervals, the runner should then be in a nearly upright position.

Speed Endurance

Being able to maintain top speed through the full sprint is essential.

Setup – Just a free track for this drill.

Procedure – This is a circuit drill that helps sprinters build their speed endurance. This means that they will be able to maintain their speed through the full sprint, rather than losing top speed near the end of the drill.

Start off early in the season with a 2 x 80, 2 x 100, and then 2 x 150m set. Do this at about 75% of full speed. Make sure the runner is relaxed. Increase these to 3x at mid-season, eliminating the lower end 80m run. At this point they can run between 80 and 90% of full speed.

Working at this at least 2 times per week will help your runners develop their overall speed.

3 Event Running (400m training)

The 400m runner learns the strategy of running with this drill

Setup – A clear track for the 400m runners.

Procedure – At the start of the season, this drill can be run at 300 to start. Then, when combined with strength and endurance training, this drill can be run at 450m.

The object of the drill is to help the runner understand the different facets of a race. To start, in the first 50m, the runner should sprint as hard as they can out of the blocks (or from a standing start). For the next 150m, the runner should settle into a fluid and strong stride – but maintain relaxation. For the final 100m, the runner should be running as hard as they can again.

For the 450m version, you can alter the training intervals to go as follows: sprint for 100m; strong fluid stride for 200m, then sprint for last 100m.

This drill helps the 400m runner learn and understand the different elements of their race. Although considered a sprint, it does have enough time to break the race down into parts.

Stick Drill

Increasing the number of strides and reducing the contact with the ground will help improve the overall speed – once combined with power.

Setup – Depending on the number of runners you are training, you are going to need several sticks that are about 4 inches wide and 18 inches long.

Procedure – Coaches will lay out the sticks about 4 feet apart for youths (increase to 5 feet between sticks for older runners) over about 20 meters. From a standing start (and about a 5m rolling start), the sprinter has to run over the sticks and not touch any of them. This should be done three to five times per week for a month of training. Then, coaches should increase the distance between the sticks by about 6 inches at a time.

The focus should not be on trying to stride long enough to leap over the sticks, but rather to increase the numbers of strides in between the sticks. The stride length will naturally increase with this drill when the distance between the sticks increases. The sprinter should not ever have to reach out with their stride in order to cross over the sticks.

This drill will help the sprinters learn to increase stride number and length, while decreasing time-sapping ground contact.

Flying Bears (400m)

This is a series of sprints and jogs that helps to maintain speed development during the season.

Setup – A clear track for runners – mark off the track at 50m intervals visible enough for runners to see while running.

Procedure – This drill starts with the runners running at 75% for the first 100m, then jogging for 50m, then sprinting for another 100m, then jogging for 50m, then sprinting for a final 100m finish at 100%.

The key with this drill is to make sure that the same sprinting fundamentals are kept with each 100m run, including:

• Acceleration

• Stride length

• Stride frequency

During the 50m jogs, the runner needs to maintain a relaxed posture with a consistent stride. It is not meant for the runner to ‘take some time off’ while they are running. They still need to try and maintain good running technique, and to maintain their focus during the rest of the run.

These types of drill help a runner in several ways. They build endurance for the 400m runner and they also keep the runner focused on their technique throughout the entire race. This is crucial for 400m runners as they have a race that straddles the border between a sprint and a longer distance run.

Lean Acceleration

Runners need to understand this principle: The greater the lean, the greater the acceleration

Setup – Clear track, and if you want to you can set up a tape across the lanes of the track for runners to make sure they are leaning under.

Procedure – When a runner bursts from the blocks, they need to keep their body angled forward – but they must keep their body down. This drill is designed to make sure that a runner keeps the lean and continues to accelerate.

Once the runner bursts from the blocks, the shoulders need to be kept low while the legs drive forward and the arms drive the body forward. The tape can be set up at different intervals to help train the runner to stay as low, and incrementally raise their body to an upright position.

The runner is going to build their acceleration by learning the correct technique.

Incline Run

Resistance training of this sort builds stride strength and power for sprints

Setup – This drill is best run if you have a minimum of 100m stretch of incline at about 20 to 30 degrees. It can be altered to build stride strength by pulling a 5 or 10 lb weight behind the runner (harness required).

Procedure – This drill should be run regularly at the start of the season and less during mid-season. Building the strength at the start of the season and then maintaining that strength while building speed is the key.

The runner need not run this drill at full speed. Instead, it is more important that the sprinter work on their form. Training the muscles to react in the proper sprint fashion is more valuable that generating speed in this drill. Half speed is all the sprinter needs for training. Run it once, the rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Rest and repeat again.

90 Knee Bend

Proper form is important to maximize speed and power in the sprinter’s stride.

Setup – This drill can be run anywhere on the track, or even on grass, and should be run over a 50 to 60m area.

Procedure – In an effort to improve stride length and the consistency of the stride, this drill works on bringing the knees up towards the chest (in exaggerated form) to 90 degrees (so the thigh is parallel with the ground) as the runner is striding half speed down the track or grass.

Running half speed the sprinter works their way down the track focusing on the proper form of their stride over the course of 50m. Once they reach the 50m mark, the runner can stop, and turn back the other way, once again exaggerating their stride in a walking fashion for 10m. Then they can walk back to the start again and repeat the drill.

By training at half speed, the body learns to adapt to the proper form. The knee drive is important in developing stride length and power.