Running Drills

Running drills give us an opportunity to teach cues while speed traininig. These drills are used to break down certain aspects or parts of the whole body of sprinting. Cues such as: ‘step over and drive down’ during a speed drill in practice are used to give an athlete a frame of reference to use to make adjustments to their form while sprinting.

Every time you sprint you should be working on technique. You want your athletes to have proper running technique ingrained in their heads so when it is time to sprint, they can feel when everything is happening smoothly.

Speed training drills are needed to reinforce running mechanics and help technique while also helping your athletes become faster, moer powerful and even stronger.

Acceleration Training Speed Drills

Short Hill Work

This is a great speed drill when you have large groups and you do not need any expensive equipment. Hills can naturally help athletes with their stride frequency and also help promote quick arm action. Also, athletes that tend to rotate a lot at the hips and cross over with a side-to-side running action will have to quickly re-evaluate their flawed running mechanics when doing hill work. If they are running side-to-side, they will not be going anywhere, and will have trouble getting up the hill. Therefore, this short hill work will help improve their straight ahead running.

Hill work is perfect for acceleration development as it puts the athlete in proper acceleration mechanics naturally without any tools or cues. You are bringing the ground up to them as they will be driving out and running in the 45 degree angle to the ground.

Sample Hill Workout

8 x 20 meter hills at 15 degree gradient. Walk back down with a 2 minute rest between each repetition.


If you have a nice set of bleachers or stadium stairs in your area, I suggest you take advantage of them. When performing stadiums for acceleration work, make sure that your athletes are skipping a step so they are running every other step. Running every other step on the bleachers mimics acceleration mechanics similar to short hill work. It is putting the athletes at that 45 degree body angle while they are running the stairs.

If you run up every step and do not skip one in between, your body will be up taller in more of an upright maximum velocity position. Skipping steps is important because maximum velocity work is not the goal of this drill.

Wall Drill

The Wall Drill was covered in detail in last month’s Speed Training Report but here is an overview. Standing parallel to the wall, have the athlete lean forward so they are now at a 45 degree and angle with their hands now supporting them by holding onto the wall (arms now parallel to the ground). The feet should be behind the hips and the athlete should be at, approximately, a 45 degree angle to the ground. The torso should be erect, hips forward, stomach and lower back tight so that one could draw a straight (45 degree) line from the head, through the hips to the ankles.

From this position we implement a marching action. Have the athlete raise the right leg so that the ankle is beneath the hips, toe dorsiflexed. On your command, the athlete will march, alternating legs, for a given number of repetitions. They will finish with their leg in the original starting position.

Partner Assisted – March

Exactly like the Wall Drill except a partner is in the place of the wall.

Have the two partners face each other. The first person leans in the proper acceleration position (45 degree angle), while their partner is holding them in this position at the shoulders. Your athletes toe should be cocked up toward the shin, the ankle is kept up benind the knee, and the right knee is up. Also known on for front side mechanics as triple extension: the position your athlete would be in during acceleration. On the support leg (left leg), have your athlete in triple extension. The left leg will be in a straight line with the hips, spine and head.

The athlete’s partner will be resisting slightly, keeping the working athlete at the desired 45 degree angle. The athlete is going to be marching for 10 steps, forcefully driving the front-side leg down and back. The forward movement will be short in distance with the focus on the driving motion. You want your athlete to be able to feel their feet behind them during these drills so it seems natural when it comes time to accelerate during games.

Face and Chase

This drill is pretty much an extension of the Partner Assisted March drill. This time the ‘marcher’ is running instead of marching, and the partner is providing more resistance. The focus is still on providing force application into the ground.

While slowly moving backwards for about 5 meters, your partner is resisting the movement forward. At this point the partner lets go and releases. The partner that was resisting and now released, will turn and run and try to beat the person they were resisting to a cone at 15 meters.

We have extended these distances out and also turned them into a tag game (Face, Chase and Race).

Various Starting Positions

Instead of bringing the ground up to the athlete to create the 45 degree angle as we did with the hill work, we are now going to bring the athlete down to the ground. Starting with the athlete on the ground, have them perform these drills in different positions. Naturally, your body tries to move as quickly as possible, wanting to get up fast. The best way to do that is to drive out in proper acceleration mechanics without having the athlete think too much about it.

Weaker athletes have an extremely tough time accelerating from a standing or 2 point position but are successful creating the acceleration form from a ground based position. Essentially, we work from the ground up. As our athletes get stronger and better mechanically, we use the more vertical stances for our acceleration work. You would still use the distance parameters of 10-30 meters per run for your sprint workouts when you perform this drill.

Here are some examples of the various starting positions you can use:

– Laying on back
– Push-up ‘Up’ position
– Push-up ‘Down’ position
– On 1 knee (always switch)
– Seated (facing forward)
– Seated (facing Backwards)
– 3 point position
– 4 point position
– Falling start
– Position specific

Med Ball Starts

The athlete starts with both feet shoulder width apart, holding a medicine ball at their chest. Have your athlete provide an explosive chest pass, trying to propel the medicine ball as far as possible. This will cause the athlete to use their legs and drive out. Once the ball is released, your athlete will try and grab the ball and then continue to sprint by the ball for another 15 yards. This is a good exercise for athletes that don’t seem to be going any where their first couple of steps of acceleration and need to become more explosive.

Ball Drop

You can start this drill having the athletes use the various starting positions as described above. The coach stands 10 feet away (this distance can be moved up or back depending on the level of athlete) with a tennis ball in his or her hand. The coach’s arm is at shoulder level held out to the side. The coach then drops the ball and once the athlete sees the ball released, he/she must catch the ball before it bounces twice.

This is a great drill to work on not only acceleration mechanics but also reaction time: an extremely important characteristic in all sports.

Use the speed drills provided for acceleration and make sure that your athletes are getting the most out of them by not sacrificing form in any of the drills.

Patrick Beith is the co-owner of Athletes Acceleration the leader in sports performance information. To discover the secrets to dominant speed, go to and checkout

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