Training For Speed - Methods, Progressions & Tips For Success

Training For Speed - Methods, Progressions & Tips For Success

Speed training is fundamentally the primary way to train in order to sprint faster. Social media influencers and coaches throw the term speed training around loosely, when in reality it is only through high quality sprinting that we can be certain that we are training to enhance sprinting speed.

In this article & the associated video, we will go over various sprint training methods for developing speed, some overarching principles for progressing training, and offer some tips that will help you be as successful as possible when it comes to training to sprint faster.

What This Article Will Cover

  • Forms of Speed Training
  • Training Progressions For Speed Training
  • Tips For Success When Training To Sprint Faster

Forms Of Speed Training

Acceleration Training

Nearly all major sports require acceleration, and all sprint events begin with a phase of fast acceleration.

The first form of speed training that should be introduced with athletes is acceleration training. Acceleration training allows athletes to begin developing speed qualities at a lower risk of injury early in the season.

Acceleration, due to its nature, exhibits lower limb velocities, horizontal velocities, and longer ground contact times than other forms of sprint training. This makes it a great choice for introducing speed development training after athletes have returned from a training break.

Acceleration Training Guidelines:

  • Distance Per Sprint: 10-40m depending on athlete abilities
  • Total Workout Volume: 90m to 300m
  • Intensity Level: 92-100%
  • Starting Styles: 2 point, 3 point, 4 point stance, block starts, drop-in accelerations

Example Workouts:

  • Short Acceleration: 3 x 10m, 3 x 20m
  • Medium Acceleration: 3 x 20m, 3 x 30m
  • Long Acceleration: 6 x 40m

Short Speed Training

Short speed training bridges the gap between acceleration and true speed development training, while also offering a great way to work on speed development with team sport athletes.

I think about short speed training in relative terms, meaning that it is speed work done early in the year that is performed to a short distance, but longer relative to the acceleration distances used in training. This helps athletes experience near-maximal velocities when it would be unsafe to reach their actual maximal velocity in practice.

speed training

By sprinting an extra 10-20 meters per sprint compared to the acceleration training being done at the same time of year, these workouts are biased more toward speed development. For example, if acceleration training is being performed to 20 meters, short speed work can be done between 30 and 40 meters.

Early in the year, short speed work should be done with dynamic starts (drop-ins, rolling starts, etc) to save energy, reduce wear & tear on the hips and adductors. As time goes on, short speed training can be done as flying sprints or as flat sprints from a static start.

It is important to ensure that when athletes perform short speed development work, that the distances used bring them close to maximal velocity, but do not allow them to reach it or go past the point of maximal velocity and begin decelerating.

Short Speed Training Guidelines:

  • Distance Per Sprint: 20-40m depending on athlete abilities
  • Total Workout Volume: 100m to 300m
  • Intensity Level: 92-100%
  • Starting Styles: 2 point, 3 point, 4 point stance, block starts, drop-in accelerations

Example Workouts:

  • Early Off-Season: 6 x 25m (15m Acceleration, 10m Flying Sprint)
  • Late Off-Season: 4-7 x 35m (25m Acceleration, 10m Flying Sprint)
  • Pre-Season: 6 x 40m (Flat sprint from a static start)

Flying Sprints

Flying sprints are a form of speed training where athletes sprint into a zone, within which they sprint at or near maximal velocity. The goal is to reach the desired velocity within the sprinting zone, to maintain technique, and to exhibit no deceleration within the flying zone.

Athletes should progress slowly from shorter acceleration and flying sprint distances to longer distances, based on their ability to accelerate, maintain speed and technique. For example, a high school sprinter should not be doing 30 meter flying sprints when they can only maintain technique and speed for 10 meters. Once an athlete has established their ability over a short flying sprint, the flying sprint distance can be progressed by 2-5 meters.

Acceleration for flying sprints should be fast but smooth, allowing the athlete to find the proper rhythm and postures required for maximal velocity sprinting. Flying sprint accelerations are typically done from a standing or dynamic start such as a drop-in.

Most athletes should not exceed 30 meter flying sprints (50-60m total sprint distance) if their goal is to develop speed, as going farther would be more akin to speed endurance training rather than speed development. Some elite athletes can go farther as they accelerate farther and can maintain their technique better, but these athletes are an exception and not the norm.

Flying Sprint Training Guidelines:

  • Distance Per Sprint: 25-80 meters depending on athlete abilities
  • Total Workout Volume: 100m to 300m
  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Starting Styles: Dynamic starts (rolling 2 point start, drop-in’s)

Example Workouts:

  • Beginner: 3-4 x 10m Fly (15-25m acceleration -> 10m flying sprint)
  • Intermediate: 2-5 x 20-30m Fly (20-30m acceleration -> 20-30m flying sprint)
  • Advanced: 3-5 x 30-50m Fly (20-30m acceleration -> 30-50m flying sprint)

Ins & Outs (a.k.a. Sprint - Float - Sprint or Speed Change Sprints)

Ins & Outs are a variation of flying sprints which exhibit a change in speed or intensity throughout multiple sprinting zones within the same sprint. Ins & Outs teach athletes the ability to change gears, manage relaxation, control their posture, widening their base of skills with regard to their ability to run fast. 

Whether it be to make adjustments mid-race or to have the most holistically built sprinting skills one is capable of, speed change reps help athletes master their ability to sprint. By changing speeds as they sprint, athletes will learn how to make the necessary adjustments in technique and rhythm to facilitate sprinting at different speeds.

speed development training

To perform Ins & Outs, athletes accelerate up to speed, subsequently alternating between sprinting at a relaxed, submaximal pace and sprinting at or near maximal velocity throughout the zones. Sprinting and relaxation zones will typically range from 10 to 20 meters per segment.

Athletes often find it challenging to return to maximal velocity after a relaxation zone, showing that these reps challenge their movement skills. Because of this, it is important to ensure that the athletes performing these workouts are trying as hard as they can to maintain proper technique throughout the zones.

Ins & Outs Guidelines:

  • Distance Per Sprint: 50-80 meters depending on athlete abilities
  • Total Workout Volume: 150m to 400m
  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Starting Styles: Dynamic or static starts

Example Workouts:

  • 50m Ins & Outs: Accelerate 20m -> Float 10m - Sprint 20m
  • 60m Ins & Outs - Accelerate 20m -> Float 10m - Sprint 10m - Float 10m - Sprint 10m
  • 80m Ins & Outs - Accelerate 30m -> Float 10m - Sprint 15m - Float 10m - Sprint 15m

Long Speed Training

Long speed training consists of flat out sprints performed up to or around the distance at which athletes reach maximal velocity. Elite sprinters may take up to 60 or 70 meters to reach Max V, while slower sprinters may top out at 40 or 50 meters. With this in mind, we can select distances to utilize long speed training.

Distances used should be based on the athlete’s ability, ensuring that they run as far as it takes to reach maximal velocity but not further. We do not want these workouts to challenge the athlete for speed endurance, as they are purely oriented toward enhancing speed itself.

Long speed training should be done from a static start in order to improve the likelihood of transfer to the competitive event. While we will initially use flying sprints to develop speed qualities themselves, we want to be as specific as possible when trying to transfer these qualities into a competitive perform.

Because of this, starting from blocks or another crouched stance is preferable when incorporating long speed training.

Long Speed Training Guidelines:

  • Distance Per Sprint: 30-70 meters depending on athlete abilities
  • Total Workout Volume: 120m to 350m
  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Starting Styles: Dynamic starts (rolling 2 point start, drop-in’s)

Example Workouts:

  • Beginner: 3-6 x 35-50m
  • Intermediate: 4-6 x 40-55m
  • Advanced: 3-5 x 50-70m

Short Speed Endurance Training

Short speed endurance is my favorite form of sprint training. This targets the ability to reach maximal velocity and sustain sprinting at or near this speed for a short distance beyond the point of maximal velocity.

Short speed endurance work is arguably the most specific form of sprint training for a short sprinter, as it incorporates all phases of the sprint and a large proportion of the sprint being performed at very high velocities. This comes with the added benefit of minimal deceleration, such that the majority of sprinting performed in a workout is as intense as one can sprint.

speed endurance training

This type of work is great for building the entire race pattern, enhancing speed, improving alactic and early lactic phases of speed endurance, to enhance elasticity, and to practice good technique and relaxation.

Distances used should limit the amount of deceleration exhibited, emphasizing reaching and maintaining speed before the repetition ends. Make sure that the distances used are appropriate for and specific to the needs of the individual athlete.

Short Speed Endurance Guidelines:

  • Distance Per Sprint: 50-110 meters depending on athlete abilities
  • Total Workout Volume: 120m to 350m
  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Starting Styles: Dynamic or static starts

Example Workouts:

  • Beginner: 2-4 x 50-60m
  • Intermediate: 3-4 x 60-80m
  • Advanced: 3-5 x 70-110m

Training Progressions Throughout The Year

Short Acceleration + Short Speed Work

Initially, short acceleration and short speed work is done in order to introduce athletes to sprinting while minimizing the risk of injury.

By keeping the sprint distances shorter early in the training year, velocities will be lower and athletes’ bodies can become accustomed to moving fast without moving maximally fast.

Starting stances in this period of training should focus on standing starts and dynamic starts.

Short & Medium Acceleration + Short Flying Sprints

After introducing sprinting into an athletes program, distances can increase in both acceleration and speed development workouts.

For example if an athlete was performing 10 and 20 meter accelerations initially, distances can increase to emphasize 15 to 30 meters for acceleration. Similarly, if short speed work was being performed up to 25 or 30 meters, short flying sprints can be added in with a 20 to 30 meter acceleration zone followed by a 10 meter flying sprint zone.

Most starts should be done from standing positions or dynamic starts, but 3 point starts can also be used.

Medium & Long Acceleration + Ins & Outs

Once the athlete has been exposed to short flying sprints and they show that they can maintain their technique and speed for 10 to 20 meter flying sprint zones, athletes can progress to performing ins & outs.

Emphasis should be placed on maintaining technique throughout the speed change repetitions while adjusting intensity as the athlete moves through the zones.

Acceleration distances can increase to emphasize 20 to 40 meters depending on athlete abilities, and crouched starts can begin to take up a larger proportion of starts in the program. Block starts can be introduced as well.

Long Acceleration + Long Flying Sprints

As athletes become competent with performing ins & outs and they exhibit quality technique throughout the entire sprint, speed work can begin to focus on longer flying sprints such as 20 to 30 meter flying sprints.

While the challenge during ins and outs was to maintain technique at different intensity levels, the goal during longer flys is to maintain both intensity and technique throughout the entire flying sprint zone.

Acceleration will continue to emphasize later stages of acceleration, while still incorporating shorter accelerations early in training sessions either as a warm up or as a bridge between the warm up and the longer accelerations of the workout. Acceleration zones in flying sprints can also increase, so long as the athlete does not decelerate once they’re in the flying sprint zones.

Long Acceleration + Long Speed Work

As the competitive season gets closer, more of the sprint work performed should be done as flat out sprints from a static start, both in long acceleration and long speed development training. The goal at this phase is to integrate the athlete’s speed abilities in flying sprints into the specific race pattern of the event.

Short sprinters can perform speed work from standing, crouched, or block starts on the straightaway and 200m or 400m athletes can incorporate some acceleration and speed training on the turn.

This period can be thought of as the initial period where our goal is to transfer physical abilities into the specific needs of the event, including from a physiological, technical, and race modeling perspective.

Long Speed Work + Short Speed Endurance Work

To build on the previous phase, short speed endurance training can be incorporated while long speed training can replace some of the acceleration training in the program.

Acceleration-only work will still be performed, both to emphasize acceleration and to lower the intensity of some sessions, albeit at a lower frequency than previous phases.

Since long speed work and short speed endurance work both feature maximal acceleration, these workouts will develop acceleration as well as speed and speed endurance qualities.

Because the intensities of sprinting are very high in this phase, it is imperative that sprinting volumes are managed closely, recovery is prioritized, and athletes only perform these sessions when they are in a good state of readiness to perform.

Tips For Speed Training Success

Start short and progress as your abilities allow.

A short to long approach will produce the best results when it comes to speed development training. Distances should increase gradually as the athletes become competent with sprinting over shorter distances.

Perform speed work only when you are healthy, uninjured, and fresh.

To stay healthy and maximize the adaptability of the athlete, speed development workouts should only be performed when athletes are healthy, uninjured, and in a state of minimal fatigue. Not only will this help them avoid injury, it will also maximize the probability that they adapt well to the training.

Finish the workout on your fastest reps, do not go until exhaustion.

In order to ensure our bodies adapt toward enhanced speed rather than work capacity or endurance, we need to ensure the volume of sprinting performed is reasonable, not maximal.

If an athlete sets a new personal best, or runs a rep that is much faster than the rest, it is wise to consider stopping the workout. We want to leave workouts feeling a sense of success, while also making sure the signals we send to our bodies are consistently oriented toward developing speed.

Avoid going overboard on the volume of your speed training sessions.

Microdose speed work early in the year with shorter distances, complexes.

During early phases of training, speed work can be introduced in microdoses, utilizing shorter distances or speed oriented sprints within a training complex. This ensures the athletes are exposed to speed work early in the year, without burning them out or doing too much when they are not prepared for high volumes of high velocity sprinting.

Gradually increase intensity, increase volume only as quality allows.

Speed training distances, volumes, and intensities should only be increased as the ability of the athlete allows. There is no use in running 30 meter flying sprints when the athlete cannot exhibit competence in a 10 meter flying sprint.

To avoid injury, excessive soreness, and burnout, loading parameters of speed work should progress gradually. Allow the athlete to become good at shorter variations of sprinting before progressing to longer sprints at maximal intensities.

Transition toward flat sprints closer to competition.

To ensure transfer of performance to the competitive event, sprints performed in practice should shift toward flat sprints the closer they are to competition. By flat sprints, I mean sprints performed from a static start, with maximal acceleration.

Avoid intense eccentric strength work prior to speed training.

Eccentric training can cause significant soreness and tight muscles, leading to poor performances in subsequent speed training sessions. Avoid performing large volumes of intense eccentric work in the days leading up to a speed development workout so that the athlete can stay injury free and perform quality speed training sessions.

Spend most of your time between 95-99% to ensure you are practicing good technique. Things can fall apart & injury risk goes up during true 100% efforts.

Most speed development repetitions performed by athletes should be ran at a very high intensity, but this must be balanced in order to facilitate proper technique and adequate levels of relaxation. If athletes only sprint at 100%, their technique may fall apart, they may run tense, and the risk of injury or excessive fatigue increases dramatically.

By varying the intensities and progressing them over time, athletes can develop good habits while still improving their speed. This will keep athletes healthier, more fresh, and allow them to master the technique of sprinting throughout the year.

Less is more when it comes to developing speed.

Above all, keep in mind that speed can be developed without doing massive volumes of sprinting. In fact, doing too much sprinting will cause stagnation in progress and sometimes lead to athletes getting slower.

Stimulate, but do not annihilate the athlete when training to develop speed.

Back to blog