Run Like Sonic – Sprint Faster With Overspeed Training, Speed Drills and Biomechanics

By on March 3, 2015

The purpose of this article is to help you learn to run faster like Sonic the Hedgehog. By the end, you will have various training tips that can help you to increase your running speed over time, as well as some tricks that can help you to run faster instantly.

I’ve always found jogging to be a little bit boring. To me, what’s way more interesting is running. As in running fast so that you can feel the wind in your hair, so that you cover more ground more quickly and so you have to dodge oncoming obstacles, jump over gaps and weave around the place. Trail running in particular is great fun.

Not only is running really fast and exhilarating, it’s also great for quickly burning lots of calories and it could potentially one day save your hide. It’s one of those things that you should just be able to do, even if it rarely comes in handy anymore – just like being able to lift heavy amounts. I’ve already looked at how you can increase jumping height, now it’s time to look at running speed.

I also love sprinting because I love Sonic the Hedgehog. I know that’s about the least cool thing I could possibly say but it’s true. When I was a little kid I used to run around with my arms behind my back pretending to be Sonic and these days I still spend most of my free moments playing Sonic Runners on my phone or Sonic Generations on my computer. Why do I love those games? Other than being a massive nerd, it’s because they let you feel free and they test your reactions and that’s what sprinting can do for you in real life too.

Seriously, what is not to love about this??

Seriously, what is not to love about this??

Anyway, without tarnishing my reputation any further, let’s look at what type of training you can use to develop real speed…

Speed Drills

To start, let’s take a look at some speed drills. Speed drills are drills you can use to train the muscles and technique required for running speed. They generally involve running on the spot in some way, or running with a little added resistance and they’re the sort of thing that highschool football coaches might use (I imagine). Some examples include:

Marching A’s: These are great for warming up as well as for increasing your sprinting ability. The idea is to get your knees up as high as possible while running and then launch into a kind of skipping motion. The power generated should all go into driving your knees upwards and you will need a short stretch of grass to practice on.

High Knees: High knees are running on the spot while pounding your legs up and down as high and as fast as possible. This helps to develop explosive power by training the fast twitch muscle fibres and also trains you to get your leg up off the floor as quickly as you can which aids with your speed. This can also help your technique in that way then as well as your power.

Prowler Sprints: This drill involves using ‘prowler sleds’ which means you’ll be piling weight on top of a sled-like object and then pushing it along the ground. It’s similar to the way you see American football players training and it’s great for developing the strength and endurance you need in your legs to keep pushing forward.

Uphill Sprints: This is pretty much what it sounds like – sprinting up a steep hill in order to build more explosive power in the calves and quads. You’ll find that swinging your arms more to generate more momentum helps you to get up the hill more efficiently, which is generally good practice.

Sprinting on Sand: Running in sand is a great way to train your speed because you require more power to propel yourself forward and to lift your feet up off the floor. Theoretically, if you can run fast on sand, then you can run even faster on land. Running in shallow water can also help – so ‘beach running’ generally is encouraged. For good measure you should wear a crop top and engage in some homo-erotic embracing afterward.

rocky-sprint-training

Gadgets and Gizmos for Sprint Training

The right gadgets can help with speed drills and running training. We’ve already mentioned the prowler but if you don’t have somewhere you can push around a giant heavy sled, then you might do better with a running parachute – a parachute you attach to your back and then attempt to run with. You can get one from amazon here

Alternatively you might choose to try something else intriguing – sand simulation shoes. I thought I invented these but sadly a quick look online told me I was wrong. If you were interested in creating something of your own to do a similar job, it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult.

Overspeed Training

Overspeed training has got to be one of the coolest names for a training technique ever. “Hey what are you doing today?”, “Oh nothing much, just OVERSPEED TRAINING”.

It’s also potentially a pretty cool training method that in theory can help you to run faster by training your central nervous system. The idea here is that one of the things holding us back when it comes to our running speed, is the fact that we don’t know how best to move our legs to generate that speed. The problem is the central nervous system and the lack of movement patterns.

Overspeed training forces you to go faster than you normally would through a variety of methods: by being towed by a car, by running down a hill or by using ‘prone’ sprinting where you lean forward as though you’re just about to fall over. Your legs work like mad to keep up and by practicing this you learn the biomechanics of how to go faster.

The big question to ask here though is: does it work? And the answer is unfortunately: who knows?

Some studies do suggest you can use overspeed training to get faster (1) but critics say it’s a sure fire way to injure yourself. It’s also worth noting that in overspeed training there’s no need to ‘push’ off the ground because gravity/a car is doing that for you. This means the biomechanics are slightly different (as with running on a treadmill).

The best solution? Decide if you think it might work for you (you know your own body). Then give it a go if so and see if it does!

Weight Training

What can you do with regular weight training? Well, anything training the muscles of the legs would be a good start and especially things that hit the calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes (though training your hip flexors can also help, especially if you have problems with your form). Explosive, plyometric training is the kind we’re interested in here – especially things like box jumps.

Just as important is to train your shoulder muscles which should be doing a lot of work driving you forward with a pumping motion – just try swinging them more and you’ll feel the difference as you’re propelled forward faster. ‘Dumbbell runners’ are an exercise where you go through the motions of running while holding dumbbells and they’re great for your delts as well as your triceps.

In general though, it’s important for those interested in sprinting not to forget the importance of strength training. While we might associate weightlifting with bulk and bulk with being slow, the studies show that weight training can and does increase acceleration and running speed (2).

Training Your Feet

I’ve covered this before in various places but to reiterate – we underuse our feet today. Our feet have lots of small muscles in them for controlling toes just like our hands do and these can be used to stabilize ourselves on uneven surfaces as well as to help push us off more powerfully from the floor.

Barefoot training is one thing you can do about this, as is running with the Vibram Five Fingers. Or you can try using an exercise regime designed to increase foot dexterity – such as ‘toe yoga’ or ‘toega’.

This is one of those things though that no-one is really likely to do. Still, it’s interesting and it definitely could give you a speed boost. And this study (3) shows that ‘lower extremity dexterity’ also improves agility.

Stretching

Stretching is another thing I’ve covered before with regards to jumping and I’ve covering it again here. The more flexible you are in your leg muscles in particular, the faster you will move. Why? Because your muscles will be presenting less resistance against the motion you’re trying to make. Tight shin muscles (tibialis anterior) for instance can make it more difficult for your toes to push off the ground because they are getting pulled the other way.

What’s really interesting though, is that stretching just prior to going running will actually diminish your performance according to a lot of research (4). This appears to be due to some lack of control due to the relatively more supple muscles and connective tissue or perhaps some loss of strength. Stretch in the evenings but not while you’re waiting to race.

Biomechanics

I’ve discussed the biomechanics of running before and gone over how the Tarahumara tribe use their ideal form in order to run huge distances. A lot of what I wrote there is still relevant here but there are some differences.

Notably, the goal of a sprinter will be to first go through an ‘acceleration phase’ to reach top speed and then to enter into a maintenance phase in order to remain at that speed in an energy efficient manner. Thus they start with a somewhat ‘pose running’ style technique where they lean forward to leverage the effects of gravity. At the same time, the focus at this point will be to apply large force into the ground. In other words, the speed of your steps is less important than how powerfully you are pounding the ground. Think of your legs as pistons.

As mentioned, arm swing is also very important. So no running like Sonic I’m afraid…

Energy

I won’t go into this in depth here but of course to be able to sustain high speeds you also need to train to increase your energy efficiency. That means reducing your weight (the same effect as stripping the interior of a sports car), it means increasing your mitochondrial count and function (which I covered here) and it means improving your VO2 Max – your ability to take in and use oxygen.

One of the quickest ways to improve your energy for running is to use creatine. And apparently beetroot juice might also be pretty good thanks to its content of nitric oxide which causes vasodilation and thus helps more blood and oxygen around the body (5).

Practice

Last but not least is simply to practice. A lot of people who are interested in health and fitness will job but how many people actually sprint? Like I said at the start of this post, sprinting is fun and it’s something you should be able to do… so do it! You look like a maniac sure but that’s part of the fun.

And while some people might be concerned that sprinting will ultimately hammer your knees or shorten your lifespan, the point to remember is that we used to do it all the time – so it really can’t be all that bad for you. Use your body to its maximum and move your feet! And anyway, a world where it’s considered ‘dangerous’ to move at top speed on foot is a world I want no part in.

run-like-sonic

To the Green Hill Zone with me then!

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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I'm an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I'll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.