The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult a medical professional before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan.

Some say speed kills. In this case, it's going to save your ass. Quickly evading imminent danger is an absolute necessity, and we're not going to let a lack of knowledge be the reason why you're slow. Sprint training is often overlooked in a physical preparation program, usually in favor of bench presses and asinine machine exercises.

Based on your surroundings or what you have available, traveling on foot might be your only option, which is why it's such a key component to a solid physical preparation plan. Quick bursts of speed may be the difference between life and death. After you absorb the information in this article, you'll be well on your way to developing a plan to increase speed and to have the tools to potentially get yourself or others out of a real bind in the future.

Phases of Sprinting

What do escaping a wildfire, running from a pack of wild dogs, and evading roaming bandits have in common? You'll sure as hell have a better chance if you're fast! Don't worry — even if you have no idea what to do, we'll outline what you need to know.

Sprint training might seem complicated, with many little nuances only an experienced coach might understand. Fortunately, this doesn't have to be the case. Let's break things down into digestible steps that will be very easy to not only understand, but also to implement.

Before we go into the training, let's briefly look at technique. Good sprint training is broken up into two main parts, the acceleration phase and the top-end phase.

Acceleration Phase


The acceleration phase is characterized by more of an angled, head-down body position, relying more on the strength and power of your lower body. This is the first phase, as you transition from being still to running. The initial quickness of the acceleration phase really comes into play in those situations that call for short bursts of speed, such as sprinting for cover between houses, parked cars, or other obstacles.

Top-End Phase


The top-end phase is a bit different — you're in a more upright posture due to the fact that you're primarily maintaining a speed for as long as you need to. You transition into this phase after the acceleration phase, as you begin running at full speed. This phase relies more on the up-and-down action of both your arms and legs. The top-end phase is extremely important in circumstances where you may have to outrun another person, animal, or anything else that requires you to run at distances longer than 30 yards (about 100 feet).

Speed Drills

Knowing what good technique looks like is great, but let's put together some drills to make that process easier. These drills are just simplified versions of specific movements used in actual running. When put into practice, they can dramatically improve your sprinting technique. Better technique equals a much better chance of making it to safety.

Acceleration Drill #1 Wall March


Begin with your hands on a wall and your feet further back, creating an angled position. Bring one knee up with the ankle also pulled up toward your shin. From here on out, nothing above the hip moves.

Now bring that same raised leg down. Once it makes contact with the ground, drive the opposite leg up to the same position.

Repeat, alternating which leg is raised. Don't allow your total body lean to be lost. Repeat on each side for the recommended number of repetitions.

Acceleration Drill #2 Push-Up Start


Begin face-down with your hands under your shoulders and your toes in contact with the ground. Explosively push your body off the ground as you bring one leg upward.

Drive your foot into the floor and take off. Sprint for an additional 10 to 20 yards. Repeat for the recommended repetitions.

Top-End Drill #1 Wall Top-End Posture


Start standing completely upright with one hand on a wall. Place the foot closest to the wall about 6 inches in front of the other leg, with pressure on your forefoot.

Drive your foot back behind you. Then keep the leg tight, and drive the knee up. Return to the starting position. Pause briefly, and repeat slowly for the recommended repetitions.

Top-End Drill #2 High-Knee Marching


Allow for about 15 yards of movement. While maintaining an upright posture, simultaneously drive one knee and the opposite arm upward. Bring the leg down, and repeat on the other side while moving forward. Complete for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Putting it All Together

Next, let's discuss what your actual sprint training will look like. In order to make speed training successful, there has to be progressive loading from week to week. We can't just jump in the deep end right from the start, or else you might get hurt. This way, you'll be able to adapt and improve without much risk of injury.

The four tables show a sample training program in a 12-week period with optimal recovery time between each repetition and set. Complete each of these programs at least twice per week. Start with phase 1 for three weeks, then move on to phase 2, and so on.

Phase 1 – 3 Weeks
ExerciseSetsRepsDistanceRest (sec)
Wall March310/SideN/A30
Wall Top-End Posture310/SideN/A30
High Knee March3N/A15 Yards30
Push-Up Start Sprint5N/A10 Yards60
Short Sprint4N/A30 Yards90
Long Sprint2N/A80 Yards150
Phase 2 – 3 Weeks
ExerciseSetsRepsDistanceRest (sec)
Wall March310/SideN/A30
Wall Top-End Posture310/SideN/A30
High Knee March3N/A15 Yards30
Push-Up Start Sprint4N/A20 Yards90
Short Sprint4N/A40 Yards120
Long Sprint2N/A100 Yards180
Phase 3 – 3 Weeks
ExerciseSetsRepsDistanceRest (sec)
Wall March310/SideN/A30
Wall Top-End Posture310/SideN/A30
High Knee March3N/A15 Yards30
Push-Up Start Sprint5N/A20 Yards90
Short Sprint4N/A50 Yards120
Long Sprint3N/A100 Yards180
Phase 4 – 3 Weeks
ExerciseSetsRepsDistanceRest (sec)
Wall March310/SideN/A30
Wall Top-End Posture310/SideN/A30
High Knee March3N/A15 Yards30
Push-Up Start Sprint4N/A30 Yards90
Short Sprint4N/A50 Yards120
Long Sprint4N/A100 Yards210


Adding in some of this sprint training will be a tremendous aid to you in the future. With uncertainty around every corner, you can't be dependent upon cars, bikes, or other means of transportation. There's a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing that you can handle yourself no matter what is thrown your way. Being quick on your feet is a key aspect of your overall physical preparation plan, and, therefore, cannot be overlooked.

About The Author:

Ryne Gioviano is the owner of Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design. He holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

For more information, visit www.achieve-personaltraining.com. You can find Ryne on Twitter and Instagram at @RGioviano

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