The Most Effective Running Drills to Improve Speed & Running Form

Think back to high school. Even if you weren’t a member of the track team, you may recollect watching the athletes bounding up and down the track. We aren’t talking about the running here; rather, the pre-race warm-ups. A visit to the track with the athletes’ power skipping, appearing to shuffle along doing odd things with their feet, running kind of sideways, taking teeny tiny steps and doing a multitude of other things. Why are they doing this? Is it helpful? Should everyone do running drills? Are they helpful?

What Are Running Drills?

If you think back to track practice you might also remember being told to drop to the ground and stretch your muscles before you run. Science now shows that this type of static stretching on cold muscles can actually do more harm than good.

Running drills are essentially a dynamic form of warm-up. You get your muscles warmed up and ready for exercise by completing a variety of different movements. However, it isn’t just about warming up because you could do that with other movements.

Benefits of Running Drills

When you complete running drills, you are also completing muscle memory practice. When you do a drill with proper form, you are engaging your muscles in movements that will promote proper form muscle memory. This encourages your body to move properly and show best form while exercising.

You may feel silly completing drills running down your own street, but we promise it’s worth the time and effort. These drills will have many benefits! In addition to proper form, you can experience increased speed, balance and coordination. Running properly can also reduce the chances of injury.

How Often Should You Do Drills?

If you are doing drills to increase speed and mobility, you will want to consider incorporating them into your workouts a couple workouts each week. Some runners have recognized the benefits of drills as a dynamic warm-up. What does that mean?

If you learn drills and decide to do them every time  you run, before actually running, you are using them as a dynamic warm-up. For example, start with slower movement drills and work your way up to the faster motion ones. This allows your body to warm up gradually as you progress through the motions.

How Long and Far Should I Go?

Drills should be done a length of around 20 meters, but the duration of drilling really depends on your objectives. If you’re trying to warm up prior to running, the time needed to ready the body for exertive activity really does vary by individual. Most people will feel ready for activity in 5-10 minutes.

If you have other goals, you may want to dedicate closer to 10-15 minutes to drills.

What Drills Make You Faster?

If your goal is to increase speed please remember drills are not a magic bullet. In order to get faster you need adequate nutrition, consistent core work and a training program that you are willing to dedicate yourself to. That training plan should include some dedicated speed work including tempo and track speed work. If you have already committed to these things, working on form and explosion with drills can definitely help you reach your goals!

Drills To Try

High Knees

high knees drill
Suunto

High knees are a drill done exactly as it sounds. You are running while making very high knees. Almost in an exaggerated effort, you are lifting each knee quite high before moving on to the next leg. Your arms are kept in proper running form as you work through this drill, shifting from left to right foot quickly.

A-Skips

A-skip running drill
YouTube

Done similarly to a High Knee, an A-Skip is done while skipping. As seen in the illustration, you are maintaining good arm form and high knees. The major difference is in a high knee you are moving legs quickly and rapidly switching feet. In A-skips you are actually skipping, but with focus on where your knees are.

B-Skips

B skip
Run4PRs

Similar to the A-Skip, this drill has a leg extension (as illustrated) added to the movement. You are actually “snapping” your leg out and around. This quick movement promotes explosion.

Butt Kicks

running drill butt kick
Podium Runner

In butt kicks you are literally kicking your own butt. Focus is on arm form and kicking the back foot up high, and you will not move forward quickly. Think about quick movements up with the foot, but not trying for quick forward locomotion.

Bounding

bounding
Triathlete

When bounding, you are either bounding for distance or height. Bounding for height is a power skip of sorts. You are making exaggerated skipping motions trying to get as high as you can. If you are bounding for distance, you are looking for as much distance out as you can. Excellent for athletes who jump, such as long jump, triple jump or high jump, these drills are also excellent and fun warm-up activities.

Carioca

carioca
Women’s Running Magazine

Carioca is a drill where you cross step and move laterally. Best explained in a video, this is an awesome exercise that works on speed and agility.

Strides

Just a controlled sprint, strides are short spurts of speed that typically are implemented at the end of drills. You are literally just taking off and running 20-30 meters hard, with focus on good form. The thought is that you take everything you thought about in drills and pull it all together into quick movement.

For Visual Learners

If you are a visual learner, there are many great videos out there to help you learn these drills. It may be helpful to find some of these on YouTube and watch someone in action, actually performing the movement. This is a great way to learn.

Who Should Do Drills?

Of course, the simple answer is anyone can do drills! Whether you are looking to increase your speed or if you are looking for an excellent dynamic warm-up drill may be just what you need. Furthermore, athletes who are adequately warmed up prior to running typically get more out of their workout. If you are looking at taking your running to the next level the answer is YOU. You should do drills!

Sources:
Why Every Runner Should Do Running Drills
Seven Running Drills to Improve Speed, Form and Efficiency

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