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The Elements of Running Fast

How to run faster: 5 simple tips | Fast Running


Now, if you have been waiting to find out “How can I get faster?”, this part is for you but unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as moving rapidly, it involves a complex consideration of a multitude of individual factors, specifically finding a balance between power, speed & technique (Haugen et al., 2019).

Let’s talk a bit about how each of these factors can contribute to the previously discussed; ground contact time.


Defined as the rate of force development, this means a more powerful athlete should mean more force production in a shorter amount of time. Let’s look at the production of force. In running, more specifically sprinting, there should be a focus on the production of horizontal power. As when coupled with the forwarding motion of running, there needs to be a utilization of the little time spent on the ground  (Triplett et al., 2012).

A lack of power & strength is detrimental to sprinting performances and contributes to longer ground contact times (Behm et al., 2017; Santos-Concejero et al., 2013). Developing a program that emphasizes lower extremity explosive power and elasticity, e.g. horizontal jumps & plyometric training, has been shown to increase sprinting times (Mackala et al., 2019). But as mentioned earlier, it isn’t as easy as focusing on one component. Next, we look at speed and how we can find a balance between speed & power.



When we consider optimizing & training around speed, the focus shifts to being… faster. Previously, we looked at power and focused on the production of force, here we look at the rate at which force is produced. In a drop jump for example, this would mean increasing jump height while decreasing ground contact time. These combined, contribute to an athlete’s Reactive Strength Index (RSI) and showcase tendon elasticity. Improving speed with a short-term specific speed training program shows an increase in sprint time (Mackala et al., 2019), what this involves is repetitive sprint work over short distances.

How does this relate to ground contact time? Well, spending a shorter amount of time on the ground (speed) & achieving the same distance/force (power) is the essence of running fast.



Lastly, we look at technique as this is going to impact how effectively we spend our time on the ground. Let’s briefly talk about tailoring for individual techniques. Increasing leg stiffness by limiting vertical motion has been shown to decrease the metabolic cost of running & in addition, compliments a gait that relies on elastic storage of energy, which can enhance running economy (Moore et al., 2019). An individual athlete’s size, joint flexibility & strengths must be considered when making gait changes or tailoring drills for improving running mechanics (Majumdar & Robergs, 2011; Triplett et al., 2012). Besides the above-mentioned desirable mechanics, there is no “perfect” way to run – and utilization of a person’s capabilities & strengths should be a priority through assessment.


With this, to objectively improve ground contact time, there should be a focus on finding positions that allow for ideal joint loading & leg stiffness, while targeting the optimization of the relevant stretch-shortening cycles (Rumpf et al., 2013).

The Finish Line

Designing a training program that assesses & adapts to the individual capabilities of athletes regarding each of these components, can be a way to target the ground contact times of running and improve individual athletic performance!

If you need help designing a program or are seeking assistance in this area, reach out to our team here!


Behm, D. G., Young, J. D., Whitten, J. H. D., Reid, J. C., Quigley, P. J., Low, J., Li, Y., Lima, C. D., Hodgson, D. D., Chaouachi, A., Prieske, O., & Granacher, U. (2017). Effectiveness of Traditional Strength vs. Power Training on Muscle Strength, Power and Speed with Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in physiology, 8, 423-423.

Haugen, T., Seiler, S., Sandbakk, Ø., & Tønnessen, E. (2019, 2019/11/21). The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance: an Integration of Scientific and Best Practice Literature. Sports Medicine – Open, 5(1), 44.

Mackala, K., Fostiak, M., Schweyen, B., Osik, T., & Coch, M. (2019). Acute Effects of a Speed Training Program on Sprinting Step Kinematics and Performance. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(17), 3138.

Majumdar, A., & Robergs, R. (2011, 09/01). The Science of Speed: Determinants of Performance in the 100 m Sprint: A Response to Commentary. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 6, 479-494.

Moore, I. S., Ashford, K. J., Cross, C., Hope, J., Jones, H. S. R., & McCarthy-Ryan, M. (2019, 2019-November-04). Humans Optimize Ground Contact Time and Leg Stiffness to Minimize the Metabolic Cost of Running [Original Research]. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 1.

Rumpf, M. C., Cronin, J. B., Oliver, J. L., & Hughes, M. G. (2013, 2013/08/01/). Vertical and leg stiffness and stretch-shortening cycle changes across maturation during maximal sprint running. Human Movement Science, 32(4), 668-676.

Santos-Concejero, J., Granados, C., Irazusta, J., Bidaurrazaga-Letona, I., Zabala-Lili, J., Tam, N., & Gil, S. M. (2013). Differences in ground contact time explain the less efficient running economy in north african runners. Biology of sport, 30(3), 181-187.

Triplett, N. T., Erickson, T. M., & McBride, J. M. (2012). Power Associations With Running Speed. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(6).


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