How Can An Athlete Increase Their Overall Speed For Short Distances?

How can an athlete increase their overall speed for short distances? Get the details and exercises on increasing hand speed, foot/leg speed and techniques to get the overall increase. Try them out!

TOPIC: How Can An Athlete Increase Their Overall Speed For Short Distances?

The Question:

Speed is of major importance to athletes. Depending on their sport, speed can be the most important skill of all.

What track or other sports event would be considered short distance?

How can an athlete increase their overall speed for the short distance event?

What are some good techniques for increasing speed for the short distance event? Please be as descriptive as possible.

How can an athlete increase their hand speed?

How can an athlete increase their foot/leg speed?

Bonus Question: Which professional athlete do you think has (or had) the most impressive overall speed for short distance events in track and/or other events?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

      1. ozcoltsfan

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      2. HBY18202

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      3. PolPow53

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      1st place - 75 in store credit.

1st Place - ozcoltsfan

Short Distance:
What track or other sports event would be considered short distance?

There are many sports that require running speed and explosiveness over short distances. A baseball player must sprint to first base, a wide receiver in football must run his route at full speed from a standing start and even a bobsledder must use explosive speed to gain momentum for the ride down the track.

In track and field events there is no more popular speed event than the 100 meter dash. The men's world record time is down to 9.77 seconds in what is an event that brings together some of the most incredible speed athletes in the world.

I believe that any sport or event that requires an athlete to accelerate to top speed in the shortest amount of time possible requires a short distance speed component in their training program.

Increasing Speed:
How can an athlete increase their overall speed for the short distance event?

Before launching into a short distance speed program an athlete must first evaluate their body composition. Any unnecessary body fat will slow an athlete down. The main cause of excess body fat is poor nutrition and this must be attended to for an athlete to perform to their maximum.


For linear speed an athlete will require flexibility in the hip extensors and flexors most importantly. The lower back, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, Achilles and rotator cuffs also play major roles in sprinting. Every athlete must have a solid flexibility program to perform at their best.

Poor flexibility will lead to injury and will contribute to flaws in sprinting technique. There are a variety of ways to improve flexibility. The main methods are static stretching, PNF stretching and Dynamic/Ballistic stretching. Static stretching is a good way to lengthen your muscles and is best performed during the cool down period of a training session.

PNF stretching is also useful during the cool down period, however for those who are chronically tight, it is useful during the warm-up period. The best warm-up method is dynamic stretching. The body must be warm prior to any high intensity speed training.

A dynamic warm-up elongates muscles actively and promotes blood flow and full range of motion. It is ideal for an athlete to gradually increase the body's core temperature to prepare for high intensity exercise. A solid dynamic warm-up for speed training can include, but is not limited to, the following exercises:

      • Slow Jog
      • Flying Eagles
      • Walking Arm Circles with High Knee
      • Speed Skips
      • Quick Feet

Following a dynamic warm-up an athlete can then continue to the high intensity part of their training session.

Training For Overall Speed:

There are many training methods that can be implemented to improve overall speed. An athlete must always remember that to become faster, you must run faster. Therefore a speed program should be designed around allowing for full recovery between repetitions.

If an athlete is not able to sprint at his fastest due to lack of recovery from the previous repetition, this is now considered endurance training and not speed training. There are a variety of methods out there to increase speed but the best is without a doubt sprinting itself!

The distances in which speed training should be completed should be relevant to the event in which the athlete competes in. An offensive lineman will rarely run 40 yards downfield so it is much more relevant to have him training within the ranges he will sprint on the field.

There is no need for a 100 meter sprinter to be doing a 400. In fact it would be wise to break down the 100 meter into an acceleration and top speed phase, or maybe broken down even further. Training for acceleration will be addressed later in this article.

Flying Sprints:

Top speed training is best achieved through what is called 'Flying Sprints.' Flying sprints require a roughly 30 yard run up in which the athlete gradually builds up speed until a maximum effort sprint of anywhere between 10 to 40 yards. So if the maximum effort sprint lasts for 20 yards, this would be called a flying 20. Remember each sprint requires full recovery in between repetitions.

Core Conditioning:

It is important to touch on the need to integrate into the training program some core conditioning work. The core is the muscular connection between the muscles of the upper and lower body. Having a stable mid section, strong abdominals and obliques, and a strong lower back are key to speed performance and balance.

Medicine ball work is valuable, as are stability ball exercises. It is important for an athlete training for speed, to mix up between core work with resistance for low repetitions and high repetition core work, such as crunches and leg raises.

What are some good techniques for increasing speed for the short-distance event? Please be as descriptive as possible.

The most important aspect of speed in the short distance event is the acceleration phase. To be fast and explosive as an athlete we must train our fast-twitch fibers. The best ways to do this to promote acceleration speed are:

Train Starting Speed:

Practice starts. Train exploding from a variety of stances, into a sprint. The best way to achieve this is practicing form starts and sprinting for 10 yards emphasizing technique. You want to remain horizontal for as long as possible out of your starting stance before becoming vertical.

It is important to respond to a verbal cue when you begin a form start to train reaction time. It is also important to allow for recovery time between form starts. There are a variety of ways to complete form starts, these include:

40 Yard Sprint Stance:

      • Standing Start
      • Falling Starts - fall forward as much as you can before you need to take your first step out to catch your balance
      • Falling Starts Off One Leg
      • Ground Starts - lay with your chest and legs on the ground
      • Push Up Start - start from a push up position
      • Push Up Start with one leg up - be ready to explode
      • Kneeling start - face sideways with one knee up
      • Push Up Start - face sideways in push up position, can also use leg up variation


Plyometric training teaches the body to explosively contract muscles in the quickest time possible. Lower body plyometric motions will aid starting speed due to the explosiveness and elastic responses of the hips and knees.

It is important to spend as little time contacting the ground as possible between reps and allow for full recovery between sets. Some good plyometric exercises for speed include:

      • Bounding
      • Broad Jumps
      • Depth Jumps

Strength Training:

To strength train for maximal speed we must use exercises and resistance that allow the weight to be moved as fast as possible and exercises that recruit the most number of muscle fibers.

This will help build starting strength for sprinting. Here is a list of explosive strength training exercises that will recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers and build strength in the muscles used for sprinting:

Unilateral exercises are important in speed training and must be included in any strength program emphasizing speed. These include:

Planning a strength program is out of the scope of this article but here are a few tips for implementing the above exercises into your program:

      • Always master form before increasing resistance - if the means beginning with the bar only, so be it.

      • For power movements try to keep repetitions low and lift explosively, allow for full recovery between sets.

      • Training your upper body will help you get faster, you must train the whole nervous system to become faster.

Resisted Sled Dragging:

The training method of dragging a sled around the waist will improve acceleration. Training with the resistance will recruit more muscle fibers and translate into improved speed performance. It is important to keep resistance under 10% of bodyweight so to not alter sprinting mechanics.

Hand Speed:
How can an athlete increase their hand speed?

Increasing hand speed for sprinting can be trained in different ways. Here are two popular methods:

Seated Striders:

A good way to train hand speed is to train arm strides. Sit on the ground with legs out straight with the eyes focused ahead and the torso with a slight forward lean. The athlete should then simulate the motion of the arms during running for 30-45 seconds.

A number of sets can be completed, picking up the intensity each time until the athlete is simulating a full sprint with the arms. It is important to keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle, driving them back as far as you can whilst relaxing the hands, not allowing the arms to cross over the body and keeping the eyes straight ahead so that the head is stabilized.

Foot/Leg Speed:
How can an athlete increase their foot/leg speed?

There are a number of ways that an athlete can improve foot and leg speed. I will outline below what I believe are the most important activities for an athlete to incorporate into their program to benefit their foot and leg speed which in turn will enhance athletic performance and speed over short distance.

Speed Ladder:

Speed ladders are an increasingly popular piece of equipment for sporting teams. Speed ladders improve body control, foot speed, rhythm, reflexes and overall co-ordination.

Dot Drills:

There are a variety of dot drills that will improve foot speed. If you don't have the dot drill mat, you can make your own also. There are many variations to the dot drill.

Jump Rope:

Jumping rope will always have its place in an athletic program for promoting quick feet. From simple two feet jumping to the more difficult side to side or cross step, jumping rope is a fun way to get in shape and improve your footwork.


Visualize yourself with quick feet. See it happen before it happens; having strong vision to see yourself with quick foot speed might be all you need to take your steps to the next level.

Bonus Question:
Which professional athlete do you think has (or had) the most impressive overall speed for short distance events in track and/or other events?

I believe the most impressive over speed by a short distance athlete is that of Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, now the New Orleans Saints running back. In high school Reggie Bush ran a 10.42 second 100 meter dash time but did not pursue track because it interfered with football.

Reggie Bush:
Reginald Alfred "Reggie" Bush II (born March 2, 1985 in San Diego, California), nicknamed "The President" after George W. Bush, is an American college football player who played for the University of Southern California (USC). He played running back/tailback, wide receiver and punt and kickoff returner for the team. He is widely recognized as one of the best, if not the best, running backs in USC's storied as well as college football's history. Bush is notable for his speed and evasiveness.

He has been timed at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash. It is his sheer acceleration that impresses me the most, the ability to go from slow to top speed in such a short amount of time all whilst focusing on his surroundings on the football field.

I believe Reggie Bush is the most explosive athlete I have seen in my time and I am certain that despite his gifted genetics, he has a top class speed and acceleration training program.

2nd Place - HBY18202

Speed is of major importance to athletes. Depending on their sport, speed can be the most important skill of all.

Short Distance:
What track or other sports event would be considered short distance?

The opinions of what is considered a "short distance event" are varied, and can change depending on who you ask. Some feel that the 400 meter dash is a sprinting event, although I don't feel that is the case.

I feel a short distance event is an event that pushes the athlete to be in a sprint for the majority if not the whole event. I feel that if the runner has to sit back and pace themselves for the sprint, then it isn't short distance.

In this theory, the 200 causes some controversy. The theory behind the 200 is to run 95% percent and lean into your turn for the first 100 yards, and then go all out for the last half. Is this considered long distance? I still feel that it is short distance, because it reveals every little flaw in an athlete's speed. I think that the event is so high paced, that it qualifies as a "sprint," which is part of the main criteria of my theory.

Increasing Speed:
How can an athlete increase their overall speed for the short distance event?

Once an athlete decides they want to become faster, they must realize it's a hard process, regardless of the sport. For a college scout to tell a football or baseball player that if they shave seconds off their 40 time, they can easily gain a scholarship is not uncommon.

After the athlete decides that they want to apply themselves to this, they learn quickly that it's not the easiest thing in the world. With everything else, everyone can look toward tools for help. Parachutes, weight vests and strength shoes are among the first that come to mind, and while all are beneficial, none are needed in order to increase speed. Just the same as anything else in life, hard work and dedication make clean gains.


The first thing I do is incorporate a much more detailed stretching routine, something most athletes look over. Have you ever noticed when you run a 40, that your second and third reps, surpass your first time in quickness? This is normally because you've stretched more during the first rep.

So it looks as easy as running one 40 would be the answer to your warm-up concerns, wouldn't it? Wrong. Actually, this can be downright dangerous. Without properly stretching beforehand, the chances of a pulled muscle are much greater. This can inhibit you training for a good amount of time, and time spent not training only sets you a step back in your goals.

One could go through many stretching exercises when creating a stretching routine, but the level of intensity is related mostly with the athletes needs. One mistake that is made very often is not holding stretches for a long enough time.

"Longer hold times during stretching of the hamstring muscles resulted in a greater rate of gains in range of motion (ROM) and a more sustained increase in ROM in elderly subjects."1

The stretches I would include in my routine would first consist of some standing stretches, in order to fully stretch the hamstrings.

After some standing stretches I would follow it would some seated stretches, in order to further stretch the hamstrings and loosen up the lower back.

Then after doing multiple stretches for each position, I would follow it up with a nice semi-long distance jog, probably about 400 yards at a medium pace.

What are some good techniques for increasing speed for the short distance event? Please be as descriptive as possible.

I feel that in addition to long distance training, that weightlifting plays a huge role in running, especially in short distance events.

Explosive Speed:

For short events like the 40, one needs explosive speed. Some exercises that would directly help this would include:

Box Squats:

If you do these correctly, by exploding on the way up, then the muscles that are used to propel you forward are greatly strengthened, especially if they've never been worked on before.

Paused Jump Squat:

By doing these exercises and pausing and the bottom, it forces you to use the same muscles you would be using if you were pushing off a block.

Leg Strength:

For help in sustaining speed, which would be more important in events like the 200 and 400, the athlete would need a more complete leg workout. For exercises that would greatly strengthen the entire leg, I would suggest:

Full Squat:

This shouldn't even have to be said. It seems old fashioned, but no other exercise builds and strengthens the hamstrings as well as the full squat, hands down.


With deadlifts, one must lift with all of their legs in order to push the weight off the ground. This exercise can reap great benefits if done correctly, but must be done with correct form. Failure to do so can cause some serious injury to the back. Head up, and back down and flat is the correct way to perform this exercise to prevent injury.

All of these exercises can benefit speed increase, along with many others not mentioned. With all the benefits found in weightlifting today, it has become a monumental part of every single sport.

Every sport from baseball and football, to tennis and golf have fixed routines that help the athletes gain the maximum edge. With everyone else training hard as well, why don't you train to gain the edge as best as you can?

"Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win."
-Tom Fleming

Hand Speed:
How can an athlete increase their hand speed?

Hand speed is often neglected in running. While the majority of running is in the legs, the whole body must work as one in order to create the most efficient moving mechanics. When everything moves in sync, fluently, then the quickest and most drastic gains are achieved.

Hand coordination is a hard thing to strengthen. With many hours of practice, one can begin to build a rhythm. I feel that one of the best exercises that will improve hand-eye coordination is a speed bag. Boxers have been using it for years, and it has been shown to improve relaxation and hand rhythm over a long period of time.

Once one pattern has been covered, there are others that can be learned, making the speed bag something that can be used for long periods of time without becoming repetitive.

The solo wall bounce has also been shown to improve hand quickness. All you need is a solid wall and a bouncy ball, golf ball, etc ... Start at a reasonable distance back, about 10 feet. Throw the ball against the wall and catch it. When you feel confident at that level, take a step forward, and keep doing so until you get to the point that your hands can't meet the ball.

Track your progress, from when you start, and after a few weeks of practicing so that you can see the gains that you make over the weeks.

With your hands come your arms. A huge mistake with even experienced runners is bad arm form. A runner wants to keep their shoulders relaxed and low, but not to the point that they're limp. The arms should be at an approximate 90-degree angle as well. The elbows should be straight back and you arms should never cross the center of your body. Last but not least, never clench your fist. Your hands should be relaxed at all times.

Foot/Leg Speed:
How can an athlete increase their foot/leg speed?

Foot speed is something that is extremely important in running. It's something that all good runners have, and that everyone trying to be a good runner is looking for. Just like everything else, it comes with practice. Training in foot speed can be done through a few different ways; these are just a few of my favorites.

Dot Drills:

This drill is something that is done and requires a mat with 5 dots spaced apart. The dots are jumped upon in a pattern. Every time I have done them, there are 5 patterns that are used, ranging in different motions that require you to move your feet in different movements.

Each of the 5 patterns requires you to do that particular pattern 5 times, so in total your doing 25 movements. In our program, in order to make a certain pound club, you could add your dot drill time (we have a conversion chart, that turns dot time into pounds) in order to add a few pounds in a lift that you were lacking.

So we focused a lot on the dot drill, which is exactly what the coach wanted, because we all gained faster legs and feet in training to cheat the pound club. (My personal best is 52 seconds)

Speed Ladder:

Another great drill to increase foot and leg speed would have to be the speed ladder. The speed ladder requires you to move through the spaces in a pattern. There are tons of patterns you can use with this drill, each of which require you to learn a new movement in order to move quicker.

Bonus Question:
Which professional athlete do you think has (or had) the most impressive overall speed for short distance events in track and/or other events?

The most impressive overall short distance speed record in my opinion was Justin Gatlin's 100m sprint. Powell broke the record a year ago with a 9.77, and many thought that would be near impossible to break. Gatlin proceeded to beat Powell's record with a time of 9.76.

Only one-hundredth of a second was all it took for Gatlin to become a new world champion. With this record only being a few days old, some of the shock may be the reason it was influenced as my top pick, but as a record I thought wouldn't be broken for quite some time, I feel it was quite an accomplishment.

After Gatlin was done thanking God and his parents, he went on record to say,

"The timings could be further improved this year,
probably in Europe."

One can only believe that it can happen, now that he has the motivation and the will power of knowing that he's already done it once. So with a time of 9.76, I feel that Gatlin's 100m is most impressive short distance speed record.

3rd Place - PolPow53

Athletes of all sports, levels, and experience often seek speed. Naturally, various forms of speed exist. But the one type of speed that has fascinated us as long as man has been on earth, is short distance speed.

Initially, short distance speed was useful in day-to-day tasks involving survival, nowadays it has turned into a spectacle of human performance. The deal with extremely short distance speed gains is that they are hard to come by. It is not as simple as running a long distance race over and over and blocking out the pain and eventually getting in better shape to sustain more running.

For many people, no matter how fast they try to move their limbs, they don't seem to get any faster! I will show you what to do to make yourself glide over the ground, and lose that feeling of running in deep sand and being helpless about it.

Short Distance:
What track or other sports event would be considered short distance?

I personally consider only events under 100m to be short-distance events. Even the 100m dash, according to some is not a purely short distance event because of the deceleration involved in the latter part of the race, the runners usually reach their top speed well before the finish line, and are actually slower coming into the finish.

The 60m dash, the 40-yard dash, and other shorter distance straight line races are much more legitimate in the category of short distance in my eyes. I feel that to be truly considered short distance, fatigue or endurance should not play a factor, and the prime role should be left up to the top speed achieved, and not sustained or saved up for any part of the event.

Increasing Speed:
How can an athlete increase their overall speed for the short distance event?

The ultimate thing an athlete can do to increase their speed for a short distance event is to GET STRONGER. No amount of stretching, plyometrics or even running itself can be as beneficial as a well-planned strength training routine. I must warn however, that this strength gain should be seen more as a relative strength gain. Let me explain:

Have you ever applied pressure to something, such as lifting a weight?

You probably noticed that the more strength needed to move that object the slower you moved it. Attempting a max bench press will be much slower than warming up with just the bar! The lighter the weight is for you, the faster you can move it.

The body works in a similar fashion. The muscles in our body exert force to propel the weight (our bodyweight) forward while running. Therefore, to maximize short distance speed gains, one must either make their muscles stronger to move the body easier, lose weight to make the load easier, or a combination of both!

And while a variety of other methods may be helpful for more advanced athletes, relative strength should always be looked at first when trying to gain speed. For the beginner, putting on some poundage on the basic compound lifts will do wonders, as will losing some body fat. Most people tend to drop tenths off their 100m or 40-yard dash immediately after they see body fat reduction.

When it comes to short-distance races, it is usually the person with the least steps taken that is the fastest. Therefore, it is important to increase stride length as well as frequency, when running short distances.

Strengthening will help with that as well, since many people with longer legs lose their advantage since they are too weak to move the legs with any power and speed, thereby minimizing the stride length advantage.

Once the body's proportion of strength to weight has been vastly improved, the athlete can look at some more advanced techniques such as analyzing and improving running form, applying plyometrics and other training to increase explosiveness out of the start, and stretching to prevent injury and increase performance by helping stride length.

What are some good techniques for increasing speed for the short distance event? Please be as descriptive as possible.

Once again, the major factor is strength, a comprehensive workout program must be designed to promote strength and muscle gain, while increasing metabolism and helping control body fat %.

I would recommend a program centered around the core movements, specifically targeting the posterior chain. A sample workout would include 3 days in the gym, each with a full body workout:


    • Squat 3x3
    • Glute Ham Raise 3x8
    • Upper Body Lifts in a traditional fashion, aimed at promoting strength and muscle gain. Example:
      Bench Press
      Bicep Curls
      Shoulder Press

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Monday.


    • Stiff-legged Deadlift 5x5
    • Leg Press 4x10
    • Upper Body Auxiliary Lifts

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Wednesday.


    • Power Clean 3x2
    • Hyperextension 4x4
    • Upper Body Lifts

print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Friday.

This is designed as a basic program to increase the beginners leg strength, focusing on the posterior chain, while allowing for solid upper body gains as well.

Good nutritional workouts have to be followed to make this a success, since gaining strength along with massive amounts of fat will negate the purpose. I would recommend CEE as a supplement for those looking to increase speed as the lack of bloating is beneficial to keeping the athlete in top condition, as well as the strength gains from the supplement can help fuel the athlete outside the weight room.

Hand Speed:
How can an athlete increase their hand speed?

Hand speed, like sprint speed, revolves around strength as well. The stronger the muscles that control the upper body are, the easier/faster the hands can move. Balance is a key component to designing an approach to increase hand speed.

Muscle groups to focus on:

  • Pectorals
  • Lats
  • Biceps/Triceps
  • Forearms
  • Shoulders (ESPECIALLY the often ignored rear delts!!)

After general gains have been made in upper body strength, athletes would benefit from some coordination training such as a speed bag, playing slaps or other creative ways to put the icing on the cake of the hand strength they have developed.

Foot/Leg Speed:
How can an athlete increase their foot/leg speed?

Foot speed is essential to many sports and the ways to train it are endless. A surefire way to increase agility is to use many of the great classic methods ranging from ladders, tires, dot drills, to vipers. All of these are good ways to implement the feet in a way as to make them more responsive and explosive for athletic movements such as cutting and turning.

They are good sources of aerobic conditioning as well as foot coordination, since more than just speed is required in most sports.

Plyometrics can also be a good method for increasing foot speed. However, the controversial debate over how beneficial/dangerous the use of them is for the beginners makes me question their need for someone just getting into athletic training.

A good supplemental exercise to this would be foot/calf exercises. One such method is picking up marbles with one's toes, or walking on the heels. Calves can be trained in a variety of different ways in and out of the gym though too broad to explain fully here, many articles can be found on strengthening the lower legs on

Bonus Question:
Which professional athlete do you think has (or had) the most impressive overall speed for short distance events in track and/or other events?

In my opinion the infamous Canadian "Big Ben" Johnson was the most impressive. Though his tainted record of 9.79 has been bested by .03 seconds almost 2 decades later, the man still had the best starting speed out of anyone ever alive, and has been rumored to have many more incredible splits in training, to the point where many experts put his 40-yard dash well under 3 seconds!!!

Review Of Other Articles
Or "Why Wasn't Mine Picked?"



  • Appropriate amount of content for an e-zine article.


    • Sentence and paragraph structure are not up to any reasonable standard. The outline was not strictly followed.

Comments: This example of sentence formation alone would send any competent English teacher past grade four into convulsions. To wit:

"The most important factor in your ability to produce fast movement is your technique or better worded your mechanics. poor technique will cause inefficient and slower movements, for example if you lean forward to hard you will consistently be recovering and not be able to use your muscles to push your body, your forward leg will end up acting like a brake."

Sadly, this unfortunate occurrence did not befall the reader as an isolated instance.

Paragraph formation is another matter that need not be addressed until coherent sentences are in evidence.

This writer has plenty to say. Here in this venue it must be presented in something approaching a workmanlike manner to be considered.