Coaches and athletes are constantly looking to improve speed for running. Stride length and stride rate are two ways of doing that.
It is the “trailing leg” or back leg that determines stride distance and how much ground is covered each stride.
In order to extend stride distance we need a stronger push off the ground (toe-off) and that comes with stronger leg muscles (calves,feet, tendons) and ankle flexibility.
The greater the leg power the better the chance to develop a longer stride.
We can achieve greater leg power and thus stride length with traditional training such as hill repeats, hill sprints, flat sprints, stadium stairs, reactive training (=plyometrics,spring drills like bounding), form drills (for example: high knees) and running specific weight training (for ex: standing lunges with weights).
Speed skill sessions which are workouts that are designed to help improve stride rate are a key ingredient in my training plans that my athletes at T3 receive.
For example: Treadmill, flat trail, grass or track, repeat a series of 100m turnovers or 20s-30s turnovers followed by a walk or jog. Aim for 180-200spm, build 10k down to 3k RP whiles maintaining a relaxed & good running form.
Or, do speed skill sets such as 30m-60m-80m-100m (1-2x). Start with hill sprints (HS) and then transition to flat sprints (FS).
Or, work on a downhill (eccentric loading) and increase slope degree gradually & gently over the course of weeks (6% to even 40%!). The pull of gravity is forcing the athlete to run faster than he/she would be able to prevent falling. It is important to concentrate on good form and drive while running downhill.
Even though genetics play a big part in how quickly we can turn our legs (ex: fast twitch athletes have more bounce and hence a higher turnover) we can still improve stride rate. So don’t give up hope just yet especially after seeing improvements both personally, and the athletes that I had the opportunity to work with.
It takes time and hard work to improve skills -like with all other life skills (ex: leaning how to play an instrument, learn how to ski, skate board, or to become a better listener or mindful human being, better friend, husband/wife…).
Relentless repetition work requires determination and mental stamina/endurance (–> ex: a piano players must practice and repeat the same notes & movements over and over for 2,3 or 5hours each day, and that’s hard work (don’t you think?) which ultimately shall help the body (neuro-muscular) to move more efficiently, effortlessly and faster eventually.
Stride distance X Stride rate = SPEED
Coach Torsten Abel