How To Improve Your Running Speed


As an individual who has personally analyzed the techniques of over 300 athletes, I have identified several significant mistakes that hinder their sprinting performance. In this article, I will discuss six common errors that I have observed and provide insights into how they can be corrected to improve speed and efficiency.

Mistake #1: Overextending

Overextending occurs when an athlete maintains an upright position for too long during their stride. This mistake negatively impacts speed as the foot takes longer to recover and places excessive stress on the hips, leading to joint and muscle pain. There are three key issues associated with overextension:

  1. The foot spends too much time on the ground.
  2. The foot remains behind the hips for an extended period.
  3. The weight is loaded on one leg while the knee lags behind the body.

Overextension can stem from two main reasons: a focus on full knee extension or poor tendon development. Sprinters should aim for a slight knee bend, allowing for faster leg recovery. Adequately trained tendons act as powerful springs, storing and releasing energy, resulting in shorter ground contact times. Incorporating specific drills, such as wicked drills, can help address and rectify overextension.

Mistake #2: Tapping on the Ground

Tapping on the ground refers to lifting the foot off the ground too early, compromising stride length and wasting time in the air. This mistake occurs when athletes attempt to keep their knees up excessively, preventing the necessary force to increase stride length. Two primary issues arise when an individual taps the ground:

  1. The front foot makes contact as the rear foot lifts off, reducing the time spent in the air and hindering forward travel between strides.
  2. Inadequate arm movement limits stride length.

Insufficient power and poor mobility are common reasons for tapping. Developing lower body strength and mobility in areas such as the hips, quads, and shoulders is crucial for achieving optimal stride length. Shifting the focus from knee elevation to generating more force into the ground helps establish a sprinting flywheel effect, facilitating harder foot strikes and maintaining momentum.

Mistake #3: Popping Up Too Fast

Many athletes make the mistake of transitioning too quickly to an upright position during acceleration. This premature shift limits their ability to apply horizontal forces effectively, impeding acceleration. Two primary factors contribute to difficulties in transitioning smoothly:

  1. Insufficient power to sustain a low position. Attempts to compensate, such as tucking the head or bending at the waist, are ineffective compared to proper foot and leg mechanics.
  2. Inadequate technique to maintain a low position. Transitioning effectively requires precision and control.

A mindful adjustment athletes can make involves gradually shifting their line of sight from a downward gaze to progressively looking further ahead, training the body to maintain a lower position during acceleration. Developing the necessary technique demands practice and precision.

Mistake #4: Cycling Out of the Start

Cycling out of the start refers to leg movements resembling a bicycle pedaling motion. This inefficient leg action occurs during the initial steps and results in prolonged foot airtime, hindering efficient speed development. Instead, the legs should stab into the ground during the initial acceleration. Stabbing the ground improves speed by reducing foot airtime and allows for better stride length and frequency.

Training the legs to stab the ground effectively is a critical aspect of sprinting. Athletes can practice this by using tape markers as cues for proper foot strikes. By emulating the leg action of the fastest starters, athletes can enhance their acceleration.

Mistake #5: Neglecting the Force-Velocity Curve

Understanding the force-velocity curve and its application to sprinting is vital for targeted training. The force-velocity curve illustrates the relationship between strength and speed, encompassing various components like maximum strength, strength-speed, power-speed, and max speed. Different training points along the curve have specific impacts on acceleration and maximum speed.

For example, to improve the start, athletes should focus on developing maximum horizontal strength, while enhancing top speed necessitates training at higher velocities. A comprehensive understanding of the force-velocity curve simplifies training approaches, enabling athletes to target specific areas for improvement.

Mistake #6: Lack of Eccentric Training

Eccentric training, involving the lengthening of muscles while under load, plays a crucial role in sprinting strength and injury prevention. Research indicates that injuries often occur during the late swing phase, where the hamstring rapidly lengthens to control leg movement. Eccentric training significantly reduces the risk of such injuries and improves overall sprinting strength.

One popular eccentric exercise is the Nordic curl, which targets hamstring strength. Additionally, eccentric Bulgarian lunges with the heels off the ground mimic the stress experienced during early acceleration. Incorporating eccentric training into the training regimen enhances strength and reduces the likelihood of injuries.


Identifying and rectifying common sprinting mistakes is essential for athletes looking to improve their performance. By addressing overextension, tapping, premature popping up, cycling out of the start, neglecting the force-velocity curve, and incorporating eccentric training, athletes can enhance their sprint technique, maximize speed, and reduce the risk of injuries. Implementing appropriate drills and training methods tailored to specific areas of improvement will pave the way for success on the track.

As a writer, I have a passion for exploring a variety of topics. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family. As a husband and father, I understand the importance of balance and finding time for the things I love. Whether I'm delving into new subjects or spending quality time with my loved ones.


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