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How fast you are has something to do with genetics, including the amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers you have compared with slow-twitch muscle fibers. Training using methods that target these muscle fibers can help you improve your speed, even if you aren't as naturally fast as others in your league or on your team. These methods include a variety of running and jumping exercises that go beyond simply sprinting in a straight line.
Explosive power helps you make a quick, powerful movement in one direction, critical to helping you make the first step as you begin to run. Improve your explosive power with exercises such as box squats, deadlifts and leg presses. Perform six to eight repetitions of each exercise using about 50 percent of the maximum weight you can lift. Box jumps are another effective exercise for training explosive power. Stand in front of a box or bench that's about knee height and jump onto it with both feet at once. Perform six to eight jumps. Perform three sets of each exercise per workout
When you run, you must coordinate two or more muscles to create the motion. Include plyometric exercises into your speed training routines to create sport-specific drills. Sprinting is the simplest form of plyometric exercise, but it won't be enough if you need quickness for sports that require side-to-side and forward-and-back movements. Ladder and small-hurdle drills are good choices for workouts if you use a variety of footwork movements. Improve foot speed with a drill that starts with shuffling your feet as quickly as you can as you move forward for about five yards. When you reach the five-yard mark, sprint for another 10 yards. Walk back and repeat three times.
Train your muscles to move faster than you can move them by yourself using overspeed training. Running down a hill brings gravity into play, helping your legs move faster than you can move them on an even plane. The optimal slope for this type of running is approximately 6 degrees, according to researchers at Marquette University. Have a friend hold a resistance cord attached to your torso while standing in front of you, pulling you toward him as you run. Have your friend hold a long towel around your waist while standing behind you, trying to resist you as you start sprinting. After you take several steps, have him let go of the towel, causing you to make a sudden burst of speed.
Running while resisted trains your central nervous system to use more muscular effort while you run. Have a friend hold a resistance cord attached to your torso, standing behind you, or attach the cord securely to a wall, post or other implement. Try to run away from the cord. Have your friend hold a towel around your waist and try to resist you for 10 seconds. Run with a running parachute.
Running dashes is a tried-and-true method of improving your speed. Perform 10 sets of 10-yard dashes, recommends speed-training expert Randy Smyth. Time each dash to note your speeds, keep a log and compare your workouts.