Speed Training

Image courtesy of lollylegs.com

Hey everybody!  As Todd stated to start his last post, this last week was absent of blog updates, but this coming week is going to turn that around.  I wanted to kick the week off on my end with a quick word about speed training…

I think it’s safe to say that every athlete wants to be faster, and there are so many schools of thought out there on speed training it could really make your head spin.  So let’s break it down and look at what you need to know…  Speed = stride length x stride frequency (or stride rate).  So really, if we increase the length of your stride and/or the rate at which your legs turn over, we increase speed.  Pretty simple right?  Right!  But which one can we most easily increase?  Well, you know us- we’re the strength guys… but hear me out!  My argument is that we train for strength/power, which transfers to greater force production through the feet propelling us further with each stride.  So if we’re going further with each stride and our legs are turning over at the same rate… we’re going to go faster!  That’s all there really is to it!

Now I know what you’re thinking… wait a minute Chris, but what about running form??  Don’t worry, I definitely believe that running form/mechanics are extremely important.  I also believe that there are way to many “speed coaches” out there taking their athletes to the track/field every day to work on mechanics and never addressing strength.  Think about it, if you or your child had perfect running mechanics but lacked strength/power, what do you really have?  A slow athlete with great form.

So next time you’re thinking about increasing speed, remember the formula (speed = stride length x stride frequency).  It’s a whole lot easier than a lot of the exercise/fitness world will make you believe.

Take care,


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Chris Merritt

Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA

2 Comments on Speed Training

  1. Hi Chris!

    i know this is an old one, but maybe somebody reads my question :) …and has time for a quick answer. when thinking strength for running speed (combined with the fact that i love high frequency training) what would you think are the exercises with the most carry over? i learned from bret contreras for example that it makes a difference, in which position an exercise has its highest power output (think emg). for example, deadlifts vs. hip thrust (or horizontal back extensions) in terms of glute activation. i’m trying to figure out a handfull of lower body exercises, that allow me to train them often and heavy, that give me some good carryover on the upright, “pulling” phase of the sprint (glutes under tension and shortened, hams under tension and pretty much extended). for the drive phase of a sprint, squats, single leg stuff with more knee flexion make sense to me. what do you think?

    thanks and sorry for the bad english, i’m german. so, if you wanna have fun reading this, imagine me speeking like that goldfish in american dad.


    • Greez,

      Thanks for reading such an old freaking post!! Great question… My thoughts on speed have developed quite a bit since writing this post, but I still agree with the general message here. As for exercises to get strong, don’t over think it. You said “heavy and often,” but I’d rather you think about what’s called effective minimum dose.

      Think, what’s the least amount I need to do to get as strong as possible to carry over to my sprinting?

      My recommendation at this point in my career would be to go through a Functional Movement Screen. Plug the holes in your movement patterns (mobility, stability, gross movement), follow a well-balanced program that’s been modified to, or even written for, your unique goals and current exercise competency, as well as appropriately progressive in nature.

      I know that’s not the most telling answer, but essentially I would write a strength program for sprinting different for most individuals.

      At the end of the day our goal is to squat, hinge, push, pull, train a rock solid core, rotate- probably lunge, hit single leg/arm work, and add/remove/modify things based on the FMS.

      Let me know if you have questions based off of that!



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