How to Run Faster: 5 Running Drills to Improve Speed

Run Faster: Using Simple Speed Drills To Get Faster

If you’re a runner, or really any type of athlete, there’s a pretty good chance that you want to get faster. It really doesn’t matter whether you focus your time on marathons, 5Ks or playing basketball. Speed is key. Most of the time, though, when an athlete decides that they want to run faster, they take a pretty simplistic approach; they run faster. As logical as it seems, this strategy just isn’t going to work. Sorry. Instead, you need to include specific speed drills in your regular schedule – workouts that are designed to improve your speed and power. So, to get you started, here are five speed drills to help you shave precious seconds off your time.

Why Running Speed Drills?

Before we get into the speed drills themselves, though, there’s some basic information you need to have. First and foremost: why should you do speed drills? After all, these workouts do represent a deviation from your regular workout routine – which can be a scary venture.

These particular drills, however, are intended to complement your larger routine by developing your muscles’ ability to contract quickly. Even the runner’s typical “speed days,” which usually involve high intensity interval training (HIIT), don’t emphasize this type of dynamic power as much. Why?

Because HIIT – while absolutely effective – is a very general workout. These speed drills, though, are designed to target specific muscle groups and movements. This focused approach, then, allows for faster and more dramatic improvements in the involved muscles.

Put simply, each muscle is forced to do more work and therefore make more rapid progress. Which is what we want.

A little more subtly, speed drills also greatly improve your running form. These drills essentially deconstruct the larger, more complex movement of running into small, exaggerated exercises – like the high knees drill. You (hopefully) lift your knees when you run. But that lift is quick and relatively minor. Plus, it’s down while your doing several other movements and you likely don’t give it a ton of thought.

When you do high knees, though, that lift is your world. All you’re doing is lifting your knees, allowing you to think solely about this one, tiny element of your running form.

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How To Use Them

By their very nature, speed drills are intense. To see steady improvements in your performance, then, you need to make wise use of this training tool. Do not overdo it.

So, how can you use speed drills properly without exhausting or – even worse – hurting your muscles and joints?

You have some options. First, you can take these drills onto the end of your long, slow running days. You should not, however, go through them after your speed or HIIT runs. This approach might be a challenge for some people, though. Not only are you likely to be tired at the end of those long runs, but it’s also going to make your workouts pretty lengthy.

Or, you can make these speed drills their own workout. To do this, you’re going to perform the drills in a way that pretty closely resembles a strength training circuit. Each drill will be performed for a set amount of reps or time before moving on to the next. The entire workout should then be repeated two or three times.

Either way, your speed drills should be done twice a week with two recovery days between them. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything on those recovery days, though. Just don’t do HIIT or speed drills.

Warm Up!

Although it’s often neglected, a proper warm up is an absolutely crucial part of any workout. And speed drills are no exception. If you decided to include your speed drills with your slow runs, that run will be your warm up. You get to skip this step.

But, if you’re just doing drills for their own sake, spend about 10 minutes getting your muscles primed for the workout to come. Start with an easy 5 minute jog. For the remaining 5 minutes, perform dynamic stretches that cover all of the muscles to be worked – including your back and core.

Despite everything you’ve ever heard, though, do not do static stretches before your speed drills unless you’ve already warmed up. Static stretches, which involved holding a pose for 20 seconds or more, could actually decrease your performance during your actually your workout. And that would be sad.

As mentioned, though, there’s nothing wrong with static stretches after you’re all warmed up. Since they don’t offer any immediate benefits – and for the sake of time, it’s generally better to just save them for your post-workout cooldown.


The Speed Drills

Now, lets we can talk about the speed drills themselves. Each one would ideally be done over a distance of about 50 yards.

High Knees – Start by standing upright with your arm at your sides and your feet about shoulder-width apart. With a slight forward lean in your ankles, quickly lift your right knee toward your chest. Without pausing, place your right foot back on the ground and lift your left knee. The movement should like you’re jumping from leg to leg.

Butt Kicks – As their oh-so-descriptive name suggests, butt kicks require you to… well, kick your own butt. To do this, stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. While keeping your thighs locked in a neutral position run forward. Unlike a normal run, though, lift your heels up until they contact your glutes with each stride.

Grapevines – Also known as Karaoke, this drill is pretty complicated and might take you some time to get right. Which is good, considering that the goal here is to improve your coordination and footwork. Start by standing upright, facing forward. Step your right foot out to the right and quickly bring your left foot over, placing it on the ground directly behind your right. Immediately step your right foot out again. This time, place your left foot in front of your right. Continue this pattern, alternating your left foot in front of and behind your right. Then switch sides.

Straight-leg Shuffle – You will feel ridiculous doing this drill. Just a heads-up. Start standing upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your ankles flexed toward your shins and your legs straight, run forward without bending your knees.

Split Jump Squats – Start in a lunge position with your right foot in front of you and your left knee bent so that your shin is roughly parallel to the ground. Quickly push into the ground to propel your body up and switch your legs. You should land in a lunge position with your left leg forward.


Putting It Together

As mentioned, these speed drills could be chained together to make a workout that’s performed either before or at the end of an easy run or an independent workout. The only difference would be how many times you repeat the circuit. If using this workout after a run, you’ll likely only go through it once or twice. On it’s own, though, this sequence should be done two or (ideally) three times.

  • High Knees – 30 seconds
  • Butt Kicks – 30 seconds
  • Grapevines – 30 seconds, each side
  • Straight-leg Shuffle – 30 seconds
  • Split Jump Squat – 30 seconds
  • Rest 2 minutes, then repeat

With the warm-up (which you should not skip!), this workout will usually take about 20 minutes.

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Run Faster With These Simple Speed Drills


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