Train like an Olympian: Speed

These plyometric exercises will help improve your speed. Performing them, muscles are given an eccentric loading (lengthening action) followed by a concentric contraction (shortening action). The objective is to be able to use energy accumulated during the loading phase to maximise the muscle contraction in the opposite direction.

Plyometric work is best carried out on a soft surface (such as grass or on a gym floor), with plenty of recovery between sets. Avoid doing plyometrics on fatigued muscles, or on the same day as heavy strength training or a quality running workout, such as speedwork or a long run.

Standing plyometric press-up

HOW Stand around three feet away from a wall, then lean in towards it so you move onto the balls of your feet. Bend your elbows to bring your face close to the wall. Use your arms to push yourself back almost to vertical, clap, then return. Two sets of 10 reps.

WHY Improves upper body strength.

Forward jump

HOW Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your body quickly by bending at the knee and hip, then jump forwards, keeping low to the ground and aiming for distance rather than height. After landing, immediately repeat the jump. Perform two sets of six jumps, with two minutes’ recovery between each set.

WHY Develops muscle strength in the lower body and improves the power needed for speed.

In-place squat jump

HOW Stand upright, with your feet hip-width apart. Lower your body by bending at the hips and knees while keeping your back straight, then drive your arms up and jump vertically upwards, concentrating on gaining height. Bend your hips and knees as you land and return to the start position. Perform two sets of six jumps, with two minutes’ recovery.

WHY Promotes strength and power for fast running.

Fast feet

HOW Pumping your arms as in a sprinting action, move your feet quickly, focusing on very fast cadence with minimal knee lift. Perform moving forwards for 20-30 metres.

WHY This move develops neuromuscular coordination and efficiency. This allows faster muscle recruitment, encouraging reduced contact with the ground.

Heel flicks

HOW Rise on to your toes. Keeping your body upright, run while kicking up your heels up behind you. Focus on moving your heels as quickly as possible, with only slow forward movement. Perform for 40 metres.

WHY Useful for developing the good heel lift needed when the leg moves through the swing phase, encouraging quicker cadence.


HOW Bound forward using an exaggerated running stride. Try to concentrate on good forward motion and high knee lift in the leading leg, with a straight drive (trailing) leg. When new to this exercise, limit the height of the bound to avoid overloading your muscles. Perform for 40 metres.

WHY Encourages greater distance with each step through propulsion and increased flexibility of the stride.

High skips

HOW Move forwards in an exaggerated skipping motion, focusing on gaining good height above the floor with each push off. Drive your arms to generate higher lift. Perform for 40 metres.

WHY Encourages greater propulsion with each stride.

High knees

HOW Move forwards quickly on your toes while lifting your knees high and driving with your arms. Perform for 40 metres.

WHY Promotes the good knee lift needed for fast running, as well as encouraging quick leg turnover.