Chasing Greatness

The Speed Drills You NEED To Do

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The first thing that has to be mastered before any traditional speed drills is athletes’ arm action. I can tell exactly what an athletes’ legs are doing just by watching the way they move their arms.

The role of the arms is to stabilize the torso, maintain balance and help the legs generate power (so to speak).

So I always start with:


– feet hip to shoulder width apart- weight slightly forward on the balls of the feet
– chin up, chest up
– front arm between 70-90 degrees, back arm 90-120 degrees
– hands should come up to cheek height, clear the hip in back
– all movement through the shoulders
– cue athletes to ‘pound nails’ behind them by driving the elbow down and back
– arms never cross midline of body

Once athletes get that down, they may be ready for the traditional speed drills.

Start with the ‘A’ MARCH.

Use two variations of this drill. The first is simply done without the use of the arms because most of the time that is too complicated for athletes to do.

So once athletes can coordinate the ‘A’ MARCH W/NO ARMS, I’ll then add the arms following the same technical expectations as with the ARM ACTION DRILL.

With this drill, the legs should behave in a piston-like fashion. That is, there should be no ‘pawing’ or ‘cycling’ of the legs. Such cues and movements will get athletes in trouble once they increase their horizontal velocity.

Increased speed will naturally force athetes’ legs into a more cyclical pattern. For now, they need to train their neuromuscular systems to decelerate the thigh as soon as the active heel clears the support knee.

In short, this will look like the name implies; a march.

‘A’ MARCH (with no arms)

– hands on hips
– cue ‘chin up, chest up, toe up (dorsiflexed), heel up (over the opposite knee) for the duration of the drill
– recover the active heel underneath the hips
– step over the support knee
– drive the active leg down into the ground as soon as the heel clears the knee (ankle should not drive out, paw or cycle past the hips)
– initial foot strike should be with the ball of the foot, not the heel
– active foot should strike directly beneath the hips
– active foot should land no farther than ½ footlength in front of support foot- alternate legs for prescribed time, # of reps or distance

Once your athletes get this down with perfection, you can add the arms to the drill. You’ll be amazed at how quickly everything falls apart with this simple addition.

And if athletes are struggling with this basic drill, imagine how inefficient they must be when attempting to run at full speed.

The next drill you have to teach is the ‘A’ SKIP. Now this drill really exposes lack of coordination, so make sure that the ‘A’ MARCH has been perfected.

Generally, athletes are so bad at this drill (I don’t want to admit how long it took me to learn this drill correctly) that I only let them perform it with one leg at a time, in place and, of course, with no arms.

Like with the ‘A’ MARCH, teach this drill with no arms at first. For the sake of political correctness, I won’t make an analogy as to what your team will look like if they try to do the full drill right away.

Most of your athletes will just turn this into a regular, exaggerated skip. That’s why I start them in place.

But the key to the ‘A’ SKIP is the double hop on the support leg.

Each hop should only be a couple of inches off the ground, but there should be two of them: the first as the active leg recovers and active ankle steps over the knee and the second as the active leg is decelerated into the ground. When done correctly, both feet should hit the ground at the same time.

‘A’ SKIP (no arms, alternating legs, in place)

– hands on hips
– cue ‘chin up, chest up, toe up (dorsiflexed), heel up (over the opposite knee) for the duration of the drill
– cue athletes to repeat ‘hop, hop…hop, hop’ in their heads to help coordinate the double hop movement
– recover the active heel underneath the hips while hopping with the support leg
– step over the support knee
– drive the active leg down into the ground as soon as the heel clears the knee (ankle should not drive out, paw or cycle past the hips) while hopping on the support leg
– initial foot strike should be with the ball of the foot, not the heel
– active foot should strike directly beneath the hips
– active foot should land no farther than ½ footlength in front of support foot
– alternate legs for prescribed time and/or # of reps once double hops is successfully coordinated
– deceleration of active thigh (‘drive down’) should be noticeably faster and more forceful than the initial recovery of that active leg

In writing it doesn’t look much different than the ‘A’ MARCH but it is. Once athletes can coordinate the double hop you can let them cover some ground, add arm action and alternate legs.

The next drill to teach is the ‘A’ RUN. This drill starts to simulate running mechanics in a more obvious way than the other drills, though it can be just as difficult to learn.

I’m going to describe the full ‘A’ RUN here. I usually start with the HALF ‘A’ RUN which is simply to limit the range of motion by stepping over the calf instead of the knee. So simply change ‘knee’ to ‘calf’ when first teaching this drill. Also, I only teach this drill with arm action as it should be mastered by this point.

Despite the exaggerated nature of this drill, athletes should not cover much ground with each stride. It should not look like a bounding drill.


– cue chin up, chest up, toe up, heel up
– keep the shoulders in line with or in front of the hips
– do not break at the hips
– starting at a jogging pace, recover the heel, step over and drive down using proper technique learned in previous drills
– at the same time, use appropriate arm action to maintain balance and find rhythm
– simply alternate legs and slowly increase speed as dictated by power generated through force application

Performed correctly, this drill looks like someone running throughwaist deep water. Once mastered, I will often add a hard acceleration out of the ‘A’ RUN. This will force athletes to keep driving down because the tendency is to fall back into old habits. The acceleration will make this more pronounced.

Don’t forget, old habits die hard.

The final drill in my progression is the FAST LEG drill.

It’s also my favorite.

This simulates the speeds and ranges of motion that are closest to actual sprinting, but isolates one leg at a time. There are a number of variations that I use with athletes, depending on their level of coordination and skill mastery.

They’re discussed in greater detail in the Complete Speed Training program.

With the FAST LEG drill, start out by focusing on one leg at a time. Jog very slowly between repetitions with very little range of motion so that the difference in technique when jogging versus doing the drill is very pronounced.

Let athletes do as many of as few FAST LEGS as they need when first starting. If doing the drill for 30 meters, let them only do 2 total FAST LEGS if that is all they can coordinate. At first it will take a lot of brain processing for athletes to coordinate the movement correctly so they won’t be able to bust out repetitions in a rapid fire format. At least at first.

But you’ll see what I mean when you try to learn the drill yourself or watch them try to do it.
Ideally, athletes should be able to go: FAST LEG, 2 steps, FAST LEG, 2 steps, etc., whether alternating or using a single leg. However that is an advanced skill requiring both practice and patie

One final thing:

Cue athletes to think about the drill as two separate, but seamless movements: recovery and step over, then drive down.

Often, athletes will recover and then just let the foot flop down out in front of them. They must focus on the whole movement. They’ll discover that the more force they apply, the more they can feel themselves being propelled forward.

Once they learn to alternate legs, their speed will naturally increase due to the power they are generating. For most athletes it really drives home the importance and benefits of ‘stepping over and driving down’ when it comes to running faster.


– cue chin up, chest up, toe up, heel up
– don’t break at the hips, dip or drop the shoulders when performing the drill
– slowly jog forward
– recover the heel, step over and then drive down focusing on firing the glutes and creating great force
– coordinate arm action with leg movement
– land on the ball of the foot with the foot
– active foot should land no more than ½ foot length in front of support leg
– slowly try to increase # of reps completed over a given distance
– alternate legs when single leg technique is mastered

That is my proven drill progression. I know it works because all my athletes get faster, sustain less injuries and out perform their competition.

I used the Complete Speed Training video to help me write these descriptions. And the truth is that these written descriptions really don’t do the drills justice.

If a picture is worth a thousand words than the Complete Speed Training Program has to be worth 100,000 words.


Try these drills out yourself or with your athletes. If you use the same teaching progression I showed you here, your athletes will get much, much faster.

It’s just that simple.

But I strongly recommend getting a copy of Complete Speed Training. The secret to running faster involves much more than just drills. This is just a piece of the overall training puzzle.

I’ve already put the puzzle together for you.

Click here to learn more:

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