How to be Faster at Sprinting: The 3 Biggest Tips
Sprinting is one of the most important athletic qualities. It's a huge part of dozens of major sports, and if you're not fast enough, your performance is always going to be lacking.
The problem is, when you're trying to find out how to be faster at sprinting, there's a tonne of conflicting and poor quality information that's going to waste a bunch of your time. This guide is written to cut through the noise, and give you the 3 'biggest bang for your buck' tips to get you sprinting faster. As a pro strength and conditioning coach, these are the three things I have my athletes do above everything else.
Let's get started, shall we?
Sprint Speed - Stating the obvious
I'm Assuming Good Technique and Regular Practice
First things first, if you're reading this article looking for ways to improve your sprint, but you never practice sprinting, or you're out on the track flailing around like a lunatic, then you've got your priorities all messed up (And you're violating the principle of specificity) There's no amount of exercises or assistance work I can give you that's going to make up for terrible sprinting technique or a lack of time actually spent sprinting. So I'm going to assume that you're regularly practising your sprint, and actively working to improve your technique. If you're sprinter, then you'll have a sprints coach. If you're a sports player, then I'm going to assume you're watching videos on sprint technique, reading articles on sprint technique, and doing your best to improve.
I'm Assuming Low Bodyfat
Once again, if you're reading this article trying to work out how to be faster at sprinting, but you're carrying around extra weight, then the answer is right in front of you. Getting leaner is going to improve your sprinting speeds more than almost anything else I can recommend.
In fact, a 2011 study on external load (Inacio et al.) found that even a 2% increase in weight made sprint times anything from 2-10% worse.
So by dropping body fat and bringing your weight down you can have a huge positive impact on sprint performance.
How to Be Faster at Sprinting Tip 1: Increase Leg Strength
Recent research has shown that one of, if not the biggest determining factor in how fast someone sprints is the amount of force they're able to drive into the ground with (Nagahara 2021)
More force produced means more ground reaction forces, which means you sprint faster. So how do you increase your leg strength for sprinting? You use weight room strength training, and you keep using it until your legs are ridiculously strong.
Sprint Faster With These Exercises for Leg Strength
Squats are arguably the simplest and most effective way to increase your leg strength. I've attached a back squat video below, but variations like front squats and goblet squats are great options too.
Typically 3-5 sets of 3 to 6 reps is great for leg strength and keeps the muscle that you add incredibly functional for fast sprinting.
Another simple and effective exercise for leg strength, this time one which really works your hamstrings and glutes, which will help you with powerful hip extension for sprinting faster. I'm also a big fan of variations such as RDL's and Nordic hamstring curls.
Since deadlifts (and variations) can be fairly fatiguing, something like 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps is what I usually recommend.
A great unilateral (one-sided) exercise that builds quad, glute and hamstring strength whilst forcing you to brace, balance and stabilise. I like to use these to prevent side to side muscular imbalances, and to improve strength carryover to sprinting.
Keep these lighter, and perform 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps.
Variations that I also like include split squats, rear foot elevated split squats, and reverse lunges, all of which are great options for improving your leg strength for sprinting speed.
How to Be Faster at Sprinting Tip 2: Increase Ankle Complex Stiffness
You can have all the leg strength in the world, but it still has to connect with the ground through your feet and ankles. If your ankle complex is too loose it won't transfer force effectively. We're aiming to make your ankles into stiff springs that can absorb and transmit force super effectively.
To do this, I like to use these three sprint specific exercises
Just as its name would suggest, ankling is a drill designed to target and improve your ankle stiffness. You perform the exercise by standing tall, with knees pretty much locked, and your ankle dorsiflexed (toes pointing up) moving forward using quick aggressive pushes of the balls of your feet into the floor. Here's an ankling video to show you what I mean...
Next up you've got skips. For more sprinting specific drills you can use A-Skips and B-Skips, but pretty much any form of skipping movement will work to improve ankle stiffness. You're looking for quick and aggressive foot contacts.
A really simple 2-footed ankle stiffness drill where you can focus on quick aggressive contacts. Aim to be quick off the floor with each hop so that the exercise has maximum carryover to how fast you sprint.
Sets and Reps for Ankle Stiffness Sprint Speed Exercises
All these ankle stiffness drills provide a surprisingly potent stimulus, so you really don't need to do loads of them. Typically I'll just have my athletes do 2 to 4 sets of one or two of the drills at the start of each workout or before sprints So it might look something like...
Strength training or Sprint practice
How To Be Faster At Sprinting Tip 3: Increase Core Strength
You can have the strongest legs and the stiffest ankles in the world, but they're not gonna maximise how fast you can sprint if your upper body is flailing around like an inflatable dummy.
We need you to have a solid, rigid core that allows you to maintain a great sprinting posture and minimise any wasted energy.
To do that, there are three core exercises that I recommend to sprint faster...
I love deadbugs because they're a core exercise that trains you to brace your core whilst your arms and legs are moving, which makes them carry over really well to sprinting. Typically I'll have my athletes do 2 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps per side.
One-sided carries challenge your lateral (side to side) stability whilst developing strength in your obliques and quadratus lumborum. They also teach you to brace whilst moving forwards, which provides great carryover to sprinting.
I recommend you perform 2 to 3 sets each side for a given amount of distance, I like around 20m. I also suggest you start fairly light, maintain a good upright posture and build up over time.
Another core exercise that I prescribe because it teaches you to brace whilst your arms and legs are moving, giving it great carryover to sprinting. This exercise also builds glute capacity and teaches you to control your back position.
My athletes usually perform 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps per side.
Sprint Faster Workout
Now, to help you put all of that together, here's a 'sprint faster' workout that combines everything we've talked about with my recommended sets and reps.
Warm-up properly with dynamic mobility exercises
Walking Lunges 3x12
Dead-bugs 2x10 each side
One-sided carries 2x20m each side
Bird-dogs 2x10 each side
Perform this workout 1-2 times per week (with your sprint practice done in separate sessions) and you should start to see some significant improvements in how fast you sprint.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Sprint Faster
Do squats improve sprint speed?
Absolutely yes. Squats increase leg strength which increases your ability to produce force and apply it into the ground and/or the starting blocks.
Do sprinters squat?
Yes, most elite sprinters squat, as well as doing a whole bunch of targeted strength and conditioning training as seen in this video.
How to sprint faster for football?
For footballers, it's all about repeated short sprints of about 33 metres on average. So sprinting faster for football is about a combination of acceleration and what we call anaerobic capacity (the ability to repeat maximal efforts in quick succession). To increase acceleration, follow the steps outlined above, with an extra focus on leg strength.
To increase anaerobic capacity, perform repeated effort sprints with short rests. (6x30m with 10s rests for example)
What exercises improve speed?
All the exercises in this guide, so squats, deadlifts, lunges, ankling, skips, bunny hops, deadbugs, one-sided carries and birddogs are all good places to start.
How to sprint faster in a week?
Alright, reality check time, as much as you might like to, you aren't going to be making any significant differences to how fast you sprint in a week. If it was that quick and that easy we'd be living a world of Usain Bolt's.
With that said, you might be pleasantly surprised how much difference a focused 8-12 week block of strength and plyometric training can make to your sprinting times.
Next Steps to Sprint Faster
Alright, that's enough reading for today, time for action...
1) Get in the gym and start going through the recommended workout. Get stronger, improve ankle stiffness and start sprinting faster.
2) If you want more training tips, workouts and programmes, feel free to join my mailing list.
3) And if you're looking for 1:1 strength and conditioning coaching to improve your sports performance, you can find more information about my services here.
'Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex's experience includes 7+ years within strength & conditioning, including supporting 2 major universities, 2 national talent pathways and a selection of international level athletes.
He is also a tutor and educator for British Weightlifting