Treadmill Exercise to Increase Sprint Speed

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed.
Sprinter

Workouts designed to increase sprint speed are traditionally performed on a track or in a gym, but in a pinch you can perform your program while using a treadmill. Just keep in mind that when a treadmill belt starts moving at a high rate of speed, a fall can lead to serious injury. Gradually familiarize yourself with using a treadmill for sprint training and always use the emergency stop clips to reduce the risk of injury in the event of a fall.

Before Getting Started

Sprinting is an activity that requires proper form, explosive power and speed. If you're training for a specific event, you need to keep that distance in mind when preparing your treadmill sprinting program. Sprint programs typically incorporate a variety of different distances as a means of focusing on different aspects of the race, but you don't want to consistently run longer sprints when the event you're training for is a much shorter distance.

Proper Sprinting Form

You want your body to be as streamlined as possible when performing a sprint, so minimizing extraneous movement and improving your form will help your run become more efficient. This efficiency will ultimately help you increase your sprinting speed, and a treadmill is a great place to focus on form and body movements to maximize efficiency.

When sprinting on a treadmill, you won't be able to crouch down and "come out of the blocks," so you'll essentially start your sprint in the drive and stride phases. Start by leaning your torso forward approximately 30 degrees and swinging your arms closely at your sides to minimize lateral movement. You want to keep your face, neck and shoulders relaxed while keeping your shoulders square with the treadmill belt. Fully extend your back leg as you drive your knee forward to the next stride. You want to land and push off from the ball of your foot. As you build speed, you'll begin straightening up to a near vertical height. Continue focusing on leg speed and arm speed, keeping your movements as smooth and "relaxed" as possible.

Treadmill Sprint Workouts

The best treadmill sprint workouts will mimic those performed on a track, with a period of high-intensity speed work followed by a period of active or total rest. This type of sprint interval will help you develop your speed while working in a relatively stable setting. There are a couple things to keep in mind, though:

  • It takes time for a treadmill to build up to a specified speed. For example, if you want to run for 30 seconds at a 10 mile per hour pace, you'll need to actually add extra time to the beginning and end of your sprint to account for the time it takes to get to the workout speed.
  • Pressing buttons on a treadmill to speed it up will interfere with your form. If you can, enlist a friend to mess with the buttons while you concentrate on your running form.
  • It is possible to stand on the outside foot railings of a treadmill while the belt spins at a fast speed beneath you. This would enable you to "hop on" at a given speed, sprint for your specified time, then "hop off" again. While this is possible, it can be dangerous. If you plan to try it, make sure you test it out at lower speeds, gradually building yourself up to a faster speed. Also, always wear the emergency shut off clip to turn off the belt instantly if you fall.

Perform sprint interval workouts three to four days a week, alternating between workouts. You'll also want to make sure that you make time to hit the track or gym to work on your starts, a key element to faster sprint times.

Sprint Interval 1 - Longer Sprints

Your long sprint day will add up to approximately 1.5 miles of running interspersed with approximately the same amount of walking.

  1. Perform a five minute warm up jog at a comfortable pace.
  2. Put the treadmill on a low speed and work on several agility exercises to loosen up your legs and prepare your body for sprinting. Perform 20 seconds of skips, backward running, butt kicks and lateral slides, leading with each foot. These may feel funny performing on a treadmill, but they're the same as on solid land - just start slow and gradually increase the speed to a comfortable pace.
  3. Run for 75 seconds as fast as you can - continue increasing the treadmill speed until you're at your absolute top speed.
  4. Walk for 75 seconds at a pace slow enough that it allows you to recover.
  5. Repeat steps three and four, three more times.
  6. Run for 45 seconds as fast as you can - continue increasing the treadmill speed until you're at your limit.
  7. Walk for 60 seconds at a pace slow enough to recover.
  8. Repeat steps six and seven one more time.
  9. Cool down by walking for five minutes

Sprint Interval 2 - Mid-distance Sprints

To perform the mid-distance sprints, perform the same steps as in the Sprint Interval 1 series, but perform eight total sets of 40 second sprints followed by 45 seconds of rest.

Sprint Interval 3 - Shorter Sprints

When performing shorter sprints, you're aiming to run as fast as you can for approximately 10 to 20 seconds. This is very tricky on a treadmill. It's probably best if you can jog for about 30 seconds at a comfortable pace, then have a friend ramp up the speed to your maximum limit, immediately slowing it back down again to allow you to speed up, then slow down with the treadmill. Perform 10 of these short sprinting bouts, but allow yourself to rest completely between sets, stepping off the treadmill to catch your breath for 60 to 90 seconds.

Don't Forget the Gym

As important as it is to practice your running to improve sprint speed, you also need to work on your strength and power in the gym. Strong calves, hamstrings, glutes and calves are all important elements of speed, but don't forget to workout your upper body, too. Your back, arms and shoulders all help drive your body forward, so make sure you perform a full body exercise routine that focuses on explosive movements.

Treadmill Exercise to Increase Sprint Speed