Everyone wants to go fast, and with good reason: speed never takes a day off and is always in style. Coaches and trainers often act as if the formula for speed development is super-secret and requires all types of fancy drills and complicated programs, but in reality we have known the exact formula for speed for years and it is really, really simple.

Speed = Stride length X Stride frequency

If you want to go faster which I'm assuming is true, you must either cover more ground in every stride you take, take more strides, or some combination of the two. Without one or both of these changing to some degree you will never get faster.

Research has shown us that developing stride length and frequency is best developed by improving three specific measurables.

  • Your ability to produce force
  • Your posture and joint alignment
  • Your body composition

In part one of this three part series we will examine how force production directly relates to running faster.

Newton's 2nd Law of Motion states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is absolutely essential to understand if we want to maximize our ability to go fast. When we step or stride during running the ground pushes back at us with the exact amount of force as we apply to it. Therefore the harder and faster we push into the ground the harder the ground pushes back and the farther and faster we go.

To go fast you must be able to produce huge amounts of force and if you don't have the strength it makes no difference how good your technique may be. Research studies have repeatedly shown there is a strong relationship between relative strength and absolute speed, meaning those who are able to produce the most force are the fastest.

Therefore, it is very important to get strong and real strong if you want to go real fast. To best achieve this an athlete needs to focus on getting strong utilizing multi-joint or compound exercises which work multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time as this is how our bodies interact and coordinate in real life. So step away from the machines and exercises that claim to isolate certain muscle groups and step towards the tried and true potential of the barbell. If you could do only one thing in your training program I would highly recommend becoming highly adept and skilled at performing the barbell lifts. These exercises are trainable for a lifetime, meaning you can continue to build strength using only a few movements for years and years. This is not the case with "isolation" or machine exercises. Below is a list of barbell movements you should strongly consider learning and using forever:

  • Back squat
  • Front Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Overhead Press
  • Bent-over rows

Once you have built a respectable strength base it is time to start converting that absolute strength to more explosive type exercises, once again the barbell is a great place to start:

  • Olympic Lifts and variations
  • Basic barbell lifts with speed emphasis

The final phase in transferring our strength to blazing speed is to program high velocity movements into your training. This is where jump training or plyometrics can really shine through. These movement speeds are closer to those of sprinting and therefore are most specific to sprinting.

  • Jumping
  • Hopping
  • Bounding
  • Medicine ball throws
  • Skipping

Whatever the task, it is imperative you master the ability to generate maximal force as fast as possible. This means whether you are performing a near maximal back squat which takes nearly 4 seconds to complete or a box jump which requires a small fraction of the time your intent is the same; move as fast and forcefully as possible.

Stay tuned for part two as we will examine the importance of posture and speed.

Take home message

  • Speed requires strength and explosiveness, train for both
  • The more forceful you are the faster you can go
  • Never stop getting stronger
  • No matter the task the intent is always to accelerate