Overspeed training takes sprint intervals to the next level.
There are a plethora of ways to increase running speed—track intervals, plyometrics and specialized strength training, to name a few. But one you may not be familiar with is overspeed training, which requires running at a speed that pushes the body past what it is accustomed to during sprinting pace, prompting neuromuscular development and training leg muscles to contract and legs to turn over faster.
Overspeed training can be performed via three main approaches:
- Treadmill sprinting at a high speed, which forces the athlete to keep pace
- Bungee cable-assisted sprints
- Downhill sprinting, which naturally forces the legs to turn over faster
Greg Moore, a performance specialist at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, says that while overspeed training can be effective, athletes should exercise caution to avoid injuries associated with explosive movements.
“An athlete must progressively implement these methods into a training program in order to decrease the likelihood of injury and increase maximal gains,” he explains. “With a consistent and systematic overspeed training program, unassisted running speeds will be improved by the recruiting of more muscle fibers and through improvements in stride length and stride frequency.”
Not only is it important to ease into overspeed workouts in terms of reps and speed, but also to perform them when you’re fully recovered to ensure that you are able to maintain proper form.
Want to incorporate overspeed training into your routine? Moore suggests the following tips:
1. Perform unassisted runs in the same workout as overspeed sprints. Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that athletes will run faster unassisted immediately following overspeed training. You’ve got roughly a 10-minute window to do unassisted sprints following overspeed sprints to garner the most benefits.
2. Keep overspeed sprint pace to within 10 percent of unassisted speed. Everyone has experienced that out-of-control feeling when careening down a steep hill. No matter how you implement overspeed training, you put yourself at risk for injury if you are going so fast that you aren’t able to maintain an athletic and efficient gait.
3. Perfect your sprinting technique. Think about running tall, strong and relaxed during overspeed sprints. Proper form is imperative to achieving top speed.
Whether you’re training for a race with abundant hills or you’re simply looking to increase your foot speed, downhill repeats offer a great training and technique session. Perform this workout well-rested one time per week. Moore suggests utilizing a gentle downhill grade of between 1 and 2 percent.
10 minutes easy jogging warm-up
5–8 x 20–30-meter downhill sprints (starting with 5 and adding extra repeats in coming weeks and months)
Walk or jog back up the hill after each repeat
2 minutes rest
5–8 x 20–30-meter flat sprints (on pavement, grass or a track)
Walk or jog back to the start after each
10 minutes easy jogging