There are lots of speed training workouts and approaches to sprint training that you can incorporate into your conditioning program as a sprinter, runner, or athlete of other sports.
Flying sprints are a fun way to work on maximum velocity sprinting without feeling like you are using maximal effort or tensing up when you sprint fast.
But, what are flying sprints? What are flying 10s and flying 20s? What are the benefits of flying sprints for speed training?
In this training guide, we will discuss what flying sprints are, how to do them, the differences between flying sprints vs accelerations, floating sprints, or other types of sprint training, and the benefits of flying sprints for runners and athletes of other sports.
We will cover:
- What Are Flying Sprints?
- How Do You Do Flying Sprints for Speed Training?
- What Are the Benefits of Flying Sprints for Runners?
- Tips for Programming Flying Sprint Workouts
Let’s dive in!
What Are Flying Sprints?
Flying sprints, sometimes called a FS workout, involve sprinting at maximum velocity after building up or accelerating into your top speed.
Essentially, you hit the flying sprint while you are already “flying,” rather than doing an explosive sprint start from starting blocks or doing an acceleration from a falling sprint start or standing sprint start.
In this way, a flying sprint workout or flying sprint drill focuses on improving your sprinting mechanics when sprinting at maximum velocity rather than building explosive power to improve your acceleration portion of sprint or speed training.
Although your ability to accelerate quickly to your maximum sprinting speed is indeed an important part of sprinting performance and should be included in speed training, this type of sprint training is extremely demanding on the quads and is only a portion of what goes into making you a faster sprinter.You have to also practice actually running as fast as you possibly can.
This latter aspect of speed development is ultimately what distinguishes a flying sprint drill from flat sprints or accelerations.
Most flying sprints are very short distances, with flying 10s, flying 20s, and flying 30s (flying sprints for 10m, flying sprints for 20m, and flying sprints for 30m) being the most common flying sprint workout distances for most athletes, even distance runners.
How Do You Do Flying Sprints for Speed Training?
Here is an example of how to perform a flying sprint drill:
- Set up cones on a track or sports field such that you have a cone or demarcation at the starting line, a cone 20m away, and a third cone another 20m beyond that, or 40m from the starting line.
- Stand at the starting cone and perform a “falling sprint start,“ which means that you will be standing up with your weight on the balls of your feet and then fall forward on the “set“ command, then drive with your arms on “go” (rather than being down as if in starting blocks).
- Try to accelerate as fast as possible off of the starting line and continue to accelerate through the first cone at the 20m mark.
- You should be at your full sprinting speed, or maximum sprinting velocity, by the time you hit a cone at 20 m.
- Then, you do a flying 20m sprint by seamlessly continuing to hold your maximum sprinting speed until you hit the final cone (and 40m).
- Then, gradually decelerate at a pace that feels natural and not overly abrupt.
- Walk back to the start and take a full recovery, generally 3 to 5 minutes.
- Build up to six reps of these flying 20 sprints.
Here are a few additional ideas for the best flying sprints for athletes:
Flying 10s: Accelerate 20 meters and then sprint at maximum velocity for the flying sprint for 10 meters. Decelerate and then take full recovery and perform eight reps.
Flying 30s: Accelerate 25 meters and then sprint at maximum velocity for the flying sprint for 30 meters. Decelerate and then take full recovery and perform 5-6 reps.
“Full recovery” is usually 3-6 minutes.
Note that because the flying sprint zone should be tackled at maximum sprinting velocity, flying sprint workouts are only indicated for healthy athletes with no hamstring injuries or contraindications to maximum velocity running.
Unlike floating sprints, which should be performed around 90 to 93% velocity for the float sprint portion, flying sprints should be at 99 to 100% of maximum sprint speed.
What Are the Benefits of Flying Sprints for Runners?
There are several important benefits of flying sprint workouts or flying sprint drills for runners, sprinters, and athletes of other sports.
Here are some of the top flying sprints benefits:
#1: Improve Speed
Flying sprints help increase sprinting speed or how to run at max velocity without tensing up.
The ultimate goal of flying sprint drills is to improve sprinting biomechanics and performance.
#2: Condition the Neuromuscular System
Flying sprint drills certainly fall under the umbrella of speed training and can help runners and athletes of all sports run faster.
The flying sprint speed workout should not be reserved only for sprinters; middle-distance runners and distance runners can also benefit from flying sprints because this type of top-speed training conditions the nervous system.
Ultimately, because flying sprinting drills involve maximum speed sprinting, the nervous system is being challenged to coordinate your running stride and cadence as fast as possible.
This is neuromuscularly taxing and can improve acceleration, sprinting speed, and the efficiency of the ATP/PC energy system.
Tips for Programming Flying Sprint Workouts
Here are some tips for performing flying sprints:
#1: Keep Flying Sprints Short
As with any speed training or sprinting drills, maintaining proper sprinting mechanics should be the priority when doing flying sprint drills over increasing the distance for flying sprints or doing more volume per session or per week.
Even without the heightened injury risk when performing max velocity flying sprints and accelerating and decelerating in and out of a sprint, the effectiveness or speed benefits for runners or other athletes decrease if the number of meters exceeds the capacity of the athlete to maintain maximum sprinting speed for the flying sprint distance.
Essentially, you want to focus on prioritizing nervous system precision, super-high intensity, sprinting technique, and sprinting mechanics with flying sprints workouts over increasing flying sprints distances, reps, or total flying sprints volume.
This is why flying 10s, flying 20s, and flying 30s in terms of doing a 10 meter flying sprint, 20 meter flying sprint, and 30 meter flying sprint, respectively, are much more common to see programmed for sprinters, football players, and other athletes over something like a 100m flying sprint.
Trying to hold maximum sprinting velocity without forcing maximum effort or having the athlete tense up is really hard to achieve once you try to start doing longer flying sprints, and thus, it takes away from the overall purpose of doing flying sprints for speed training or sprint training in the first place.
#2: Focus On Turnover
With flying sprints drills and workouts, try to focus on increasing your stride frequency, or cadence, rather than your stride length.
This allows you to sprint faster while training the nervous system to fire more efficiently and at a faster rate, improving neuromuscular coordination and motor unit activation to improve your sprinting mechanics and maximum sprinting speed.
Plus, studies have shown that when comparing the effects of increasing stride length vs stride rate (cadence) for running faster, increasing stride rate reduces the risk of injuries while increasing stride length increases the risk of running injuries.
#3: Progress Gradually
A good rule of thumb for progressing flying sprinting workouts for an athlete is to increase the distance for a flying sprint by no more than 10% from week to week.
This will help the runner stay focused on proper sprint mechanics and technique without becoming overtaxing for the nervous system or muscular system, either of which can cause the sprinting form to break down.
As with any maximum velocity sprinting or high-intensity speed training, the risk of injuries with flying sprints is relatively high, which is why you want to be especially mindful not to overdo how much you program flying sprints into speed workouts and use a gradual progression with flying sprint distances in training.
Most coaches recommend no more than 2 to 3 flying sprint workouts per week, building up the frequency, distance, and number of reps for flying sprint training.
You can learn more about the best sprinting drills here.