Speed Training Tips: The Drills

This is part 2 of the series on Speed Training Tips.  Part 1 discussed choosing to train your strength or weakness.  Truth be told, you need to work on acceleration development at some point, and not 10×200 hard until butt-lock.

Here are some examples of the drills we do.  Feel free to copy them and implement them in your workout.  If your kid beats mine at the next track meet, so be it, I am not afraid.

The goal is to prove you don’t need fancy equipment to get faster, and I’ll explain the how’s and why’s we do these speed drills.

So here are 7 of my drills and workouts for speed training that we incorporate in our routine.

1. Different start positions

Without getting into stride length, stride frequency and ground contact times, the next big thing to watch out for is shin angles.  I’ll skip the lecture on shin angles for another post, though I think I covered it in a previous post? Anyways, here are 10 different starting methods when doing short sprint work like 20 or 30 meters:

  1. Horizontal on the ground in a Push-up ‘Up’ position
  2. Horizontal on the ground in a Push-up ‘Down’ position (called the prone position)
  3. Laying on back (must flip before running)
  4. Laying on back in a bridge position (feet and hands only contact, also called the “crab” position)
  5. 2 point rolling start or falling start
  6. 2 point 800 meter start
  7. 3 point position (like 40 yard dash)
  8. 4 point position (track start, no blocks)
  9. 2, 3,or 4  point position, position specific (baseball outfielder, soccer stance, etc)
  10. Seated (facing forward and backwards)

2. Different start positions with med ball

When doing starts for speed training, you might as well add power to the workout component.

So you hold a medicine ball with your arms, either (1) standing or (2) on your knees, then explosively push the ball forward, then run 20m.

The purpose of this is drill is your starting position will be in a lean because your arms are stretched out from the ball throw.  Try to drive out with powerful steps (not pitter-patter baby steps) and to teach your runners to ‘feel their feet behind them” from the leaning action.

3. The Rocky Balboa “Chicken” Drill (with tennis ball!)

Who remembers the original Rocky move?  The scene where he’s chasing a chicken?  That has some merit to it, and we use a similar simple drill for our beginner athletes using a tennis ball. 

I stand about 3 meters from the start line, and hold a tennis ball with my arm stretched out parallel to the ground.  When I release the ball, the athlete starts to run.  The ball will bounce once, and the goal is to catch the ball before it bounces again.   As they get better, you add the distance between you and the runner.

This drill is good for reaction time, too.

Think reaction time isn’t important?

If Yohan Blake had a better reaction time on his 19.26 200m (it was 0.269 where his 100m reaction time was 0.174 in Daegu), he would have broken the world record with a 19.17 WR.  Here is a detailed read on how to practice reaction times,

Kids love this drill, whereas adults find it silly.

4. The Clyde Hart “H” drill

The Clyde Hart “H” drill uses a waist harness and rope, and it’s also called  the Partner Assisted Powerspeed drills)  Here is a 30 min video that I recorded back in 2007 at the USATF NPEP.  It mimics the sporting mechanics with the forward lean that ordinary Powerspeed drills cannot do.  If you think these are easy, look at the video watch how tired the volunteer gets when he demonstrates it.

It’s the same as the Powerspeed drill, but you hold back the athlete by use of a harness, and YOU control the forward motion speed.  A side view resembles the small letter “H” in triple extension: 90 degree angle with hips, knees, and ankle.

5. The Bud Winter Speed Drill #7 (he had 8)

Bud Winter had 8 drills that he did daily, and number 7 was the Run Tall Wall drill.  You can read So You Want to be a Sprinter and get the full details for all 8 drills

You stand with their hands against a wall with the arms parallel to the ground.  Ideally, you lean 45 degree angle to the ground.  From the side view, you can draw an imaginary straight line (at a 45 degree angle) line from heel to head.  Start with 60 degree angles at first, then slowly get down to 45.  There’s nothing worse than doing bad drills.

Basically, the drill calls for a knee raise marching action with the ankle is beneath the hips, and the feet are dorsiflexed.  Watch that the hips don’t “drop”, and if you do, you’ll lose the power.

6. Short Hills (10x20m) 

Don’t laugh (or cry) when your outdoor track is covered in snow in October.  So what do you do? 


I usually let my 100m specialist and football players do 10x20m whereas my 200/400 guys 10x30m.  Why?  Because psychologically the long sprinters complain they don’t feel like they worked out enough.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

The beauty of hills is two fold.  One, for increased power and better use of arms, and two, better forward lean and hence shin angles.  Also, sometimes the athlete gets stale at the track and a change of scenery helps.

7. Stadium stairs

Back in my McGill days, we did stadium stairs, both double legged hops and runs, all timed .  This gives you a good idea on power and speed turnover.  Occasionally, we would break the wooden benches!  That’s why we donate to McGill, post graduation, right?

Hopefully you have access to a stadium, and not suffer some of my current headaches with facilities here in Italy.

Again, if you want to measure improvement, the Freelap Timing System is the way to go to show accurate improvements.

So there you have it.  7 drills and workouts for speed training.  Give them a try and report back on the findings.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee