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9 Great Track Drills To Make You A Faster Runner

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Track drills can be helpful to any runner’s training regimen, whether you’re an aspiring sprinter, a seasoned marathoner, a beginner, or someone looking to enhance fitness. 

These drills build the fundamental skills necessary for speed and endurance and improve overall running form, strength, and agility. 

Track drills focus on various aspects of running mechanics, including acceleration, stride length, and efficiency. 

For competitive runners, track drills are used to sharpen their competitive edge. At the same time, fitness enthusiasts will find them beneficial for developing cardiovascular health, muscular endurance, and improved running economy.

In this guide, we will delve into the most effective track drills, providing detailed instructions and tips on performing each one.

Whether you’re training for your next big race, looking for warm up drills to use before your next run, or looking to diversify your fitness routine, these track drills will help you push your limits and unlock your full potential. 

People on a track doing running drills with small hurdles.

9 Great Track Drills To Make You A Faster Runner

Running drills such as A skips, B skips, high knees, and Cariocas can be a great way to warm up your body before beginning your sprint training sessions.

#1: A Skips

A skips promote an efficient foot strike, minimal ground contact time, optimal knee lift, and full range of motion in the hip flexors.

Here are the basic steps for how to do a-skips.

  1. Stand upright with your core and glutes engaged, chest up, arms at your sides, and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hop on the ball of your right foot, keeping the right leg straight. Using your core to draw your left leg up so that your thigh is at least parallel to the ground, dorsiflex your toes on the left foot to point toward the sky.
  3. Rapidly claw your left foot to the ground, directly under your center of mass like a prancing horse, landing on the ball of your foot near the toes. You won’t be progressing very far forward.
  4. Now shift your weight onto the ball of your left foot, bringing the right leg up to hip height, again with your thigh parallel to the ground.
  5. Alternate sides, maintaining a bounce to your skip.
  6. Pump your arms as if sprinting. 

Start with 20-30 meters, take a brief rest, and return to your starting position.

A person warming up on a track by doing high knees.

#2: High Knees

High knees is a classic running drill that focuses on the knee drive and helps improve sprinting and running form. It also strengthens the core and can help improve turnover which can essentially help you run faster.

To perform high knees, drive your knees upward as high as you can towards your chest, landing on the ball of your foot before rapidly and explosively bringing your leg back up towards your chest. 

Pump your arms vigorously in opposition to your legs to bring your knee upward. Do not focus on achieving a rapid horizontal velocity.

Rather, the focus should really be on driving your knees up as high as possible and increasing your turnover.

A person bounding on a track.

#3: Cariocas

Cariocas or grapevines are a good trunk and hip mobility running drill where you travel in the frontal plane (side to side).

This lateral shuffle drill enhances coordination, agility, core strength, and cardiovascular fitness without the need for any equipment.

To do the carioca exercise with proper form, you’ll need a large open area with ample room to move sideways to either direction and then back.

A soft, grassy area is ideal while you are learning to carioca in case you trip and fall, but an indoor space, parking lot, or driveway will also work.

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your feet hip-width apart. Bring your arms out to the sides like the letter T.
  2. Press into your left foot to push off, bringing it behind the right foot as you transfer your weight onto the left foot.
  3. Step your right foot further to the right (out to the side) so that you’re standing back upright with both feet.
  4. Next, cross your left foot in front of your body in front of your right foot, drive your knee up towards your chest, and step your weight down onto your left foot
  5. Step your right foot out to the right again to continue traveling laterally.
  6. Continue shuffling to the right with this pattern, alternating moving your left foot first behind and then in front of the right foot.
  7. Reverse directions to come back, starting with bringing the right foot behind the left foot, stepping the left foot to the left, and then bringing the right foot in front of the left foot.

As you do this running drill, sweep your arms across your body in a reciprocal pattern to your hips, as you would with running, but moving more parallel to the ground across and behind your body rather than forward and back next to your body.

A person doing the high knees exercise.

#4: Bounding

Bounding is essentially exaggerated skipping, but rather than trying to achieve rapid horizontal progression, you want to focus on maximizing your vertical gain with each bounding step. 

Explode off of your forefoot using your calf muscles and arm swing to propel your body into the air. The moment each foot contacts the ground, immediately launch into your next bound.

#5: Hops

Single-leg hops with a stiff ankle help you generate explosive power and stability in your ankles. Begin with only 10 to 20 meters per leg.

#6: Sprinting Backwards

Running backward has various benefits, so incorporating some backward sprinting into your track drills is a good way to challenge your neuromuscular system in different ways. 

Make sure that you have ample room between you and the next runner and that you are running on the straightaway of the track. Glance periodically over your shoulder to ensure your safety.

#7: Butt Kicks

Butt kicks are a great dynamic stretch for your quads when you are warming up for a speed work session. It also gets your hamstrings and glutes firing and ready to go.

During the butt kicks drill, pump your arms vigorously while you bring your legs up quickly, tapping your heel to your butt with each kick.

A person running with a parachute.

#8: Resisted Sprint Drills for Track

One of the most common types of sprint drills for track is running sprints with resistance, which can help you get faster and stronger while simultaneously improving your running form and sprinting mechanics.

Speed training with resistance involves performing sprints with some form of resistance.

This typically includes a sled push or pull, running with a parachute, running with a partner pulling back on you via a resistance band tethered around your hips, or even sprinting with a weighted vest.

Depending on the form of resistance you are using and the structure of your workout, you might begin the sprint with the form of resistance and then, halfway through, release the resistance and sprint unencumbered to achieve maximal speed.

For example, with a resisted parachute sprint, you might sprint 50 meters with the parachute and then release the parachute and sprint faster for the final 50 meters. 

The purpose of this is that sprinting with the resistance increases your strength, and then by removing the added resistance, it feels all that much easier to sprint without the parachute. 

Therefore, you can increase your turnover and maximal speed and truly accelerate to achieve your top sprinting velocity.

Sprinting with a weighted vest or doing a sled pull provides a similar challenge.

A weighted vest combines strength training with speed training to build explosive power and leg strength more functionally than traditional strength training exercises.

A man pushing a weighted sled in a gym.

#9: Sprinting and Track Drills Hybrid Workout

You can get creative with your track workouts by incorporating track drills while simultaneously working on improving your speed.1Aloui, G., Hermassi, S., Bartels, T., Hayes, L. D., Bouhafs, E. G., Chelly, M. S., & Schwesig, R. (2022). Combined Plyometric and Short Sprint Training in U-15 Male Soccer Players: Effects on Measures of Jump, Speed, Change of Direction, Repeated Sprint, and Balance. Frontiers in Physiology13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2022.757663

Rather than just doing all of your running drills at the beginning of your workout and then moving on to sprinting at various intervals on the track, you can incorporate strengthening exercises, running drills, and plyometrics in between intervals to take your workout to the next level. 

This will challenge your body by requiring you to run on tired legs while developing other aspects of your fitness, such as anaerobic capacity, muscular strength, neuromuscular coordination, power, and explosive speed.2Valamatos, M. J., Abrantes, J. M., Carnide, F., Valamatos, M.-J., & Monteiro, C. P. (2022). Biomechanical Performance Factors in the Track and Field Sprint Start: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(7), 4074. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19074074

For example, you might perform A skips for the first 100 meters around the curve at the track and then sprint the next 100 meters

Then, you might do B skips for the next 100 meters along the curve. Then, you might sprint the next 100 meters back to the finish line.

Two men running on a track.

For the second lap of the track, you could do bounding for the first 100 meters, then sprint. Then you could move onto high knees. 

For the final straightaway, you could do 50 meters of cariocas in one direction and then 50 meters facing the other direction.

You can use this type of format with as many laps as you would like. 

You can even stop at the end of a straightaway and perform plyometric exercises such as tuck jumps, jump squats, and burpees, particularly if you want to do track & field drills for field exercises such as the long jump, triple jump and high jump. 

Incorporating jump training in your workouts will help build that explosive jumping power you need.

Track drills for sprinters are as much about running fast as improving your technique. Make sure you are working on your running form.

For all track drills, including A skips and high knees, ensure your turnover (cadence) is fast and that you land on your forefoot.

As you add tack drills to your training program, begin with just 20-30 meters and then progress the distance of your track drills. The focus should be on technique, not distance.

For more information on plyometrics for runner’s check out this next guide:

References

  • 1
    Aloui, G., Hermassi, S., Bartels, T., Hayes, L. D., Bouhafs, E. G., Chelly, M. S., & Schwesig, R. (2022). Combined Plyometric and Short Sprint Training in U-15 Male Soccer Players: Effects on Measures of Jump, Speed, Change of Direction, Repeated Sprint, and Balance. Frontiers in Physiology13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2022.757663
  • 2
    Valamatos, M. J., Abrantes, J. M., Carnide, F., Valamatos, M.-J., & Monteiro, C. P. (2022). Biomechanical Performance Factors in the Track and Field Sprint Start: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(7), 4074. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19074074
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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