This speed training guide will teach you everything you need to know about getting faster as a player.

Techniques to increase speed.

SAQ Training.

And 10 Speed training exercises you must add to your programme today!

Let’s get started…


Speed Training


Why is speed important?

A 2002 study found that one of the key differences from elite players to lower level players was speed over short distances.Therefore:If you want to reach the highest level of football, you must improve your speed, agility, and quickness.Here’s a stat for you: During a match an outfield player averages high-intensity movements every 30 seconds and maximum effort sprints every 90 seconds.And the intensity of these sprint increases the higher up the footballing ladder you progress.However:Speed in football is not just being able to run fast. There are many aspects to overall speed that will make you a better player:
  • Acceleration over 10 yards
  • Agility and quick feet
  • Being able to change direction quickly
  • Being able to perform skills with speed
  • Having speed of thought
  • Speed Endurance (Performing repeated sprints)
  • Speed of the mark
  • Speed with the ball
This shows that being fast for football is more than just having the straight line speed of Usain Bolt.You must have the speed that suit game situations.Have a Think:When was the last time you sprinted over 50 meters in a game?It rarely happens.The truth is that a players average sprint distance is around 15 meters. And not always in a straight line.Match pace changes throughout the game and you must be able to suddenly move in multiple directions to either evade or track your opponent.

Speed Training Helps Fight Fatigue

Training for speed (anaerobic training) improves the amount the energy our muscles can store in the form of glycogen.

This means we have more in the tank for performing sprints throughout the match.


This type of training can help your muscles fight fatigue by improving the muscle’s ability to fight against the build of hydrogen ions (the burning sensation in your muscles when you exercise)

  1. Regular speed training can:
    Improve the amount of force you produce during fast movements
  2. Increase short distance speed
  3. Improves your muscle energy stores so you can perform high-intensity sprints for longer.
  4. enables to the player to recover quicker between sprints, so they can perform more repeated sprints throughout the game.

How Stride Length and Stride Rate Effects Your Speed

Sprint speed basically combines your stride length and stride rate (how quick you move your legs).However, we all have a natural running style and trying to alter stride rate and length uses up more energy.Therefore you must condition your running style during training to achieve improvements in these areas.Stronger muscles and more flexible joints will help to increase stride rate and length.

What are the Main Factors that Limit Spring Performance

Scroll over to reveal the limiting factors

7 Key Areas For Sprint Speed

1: Stride Length
2: Stride Rate
3: Strength
4: Technique
5: Co-ordination
6: Flexibility
7 Speed Endurance
But straight line speed isn’t the be all and end all. To succeed in football, you must master speed in a variety of movements.Technical ability will only take you so far, it’s the combination of stamina, speed, ability, and strength that enables a player to progress.

A 2014 Study by Jens Bangsbo highlighted that players who compete at a higher perform more high-intensity sprints than pro professionals at a lower level.

The interesting findings showed that top elite players average a distance of 10-13 km per game…


The higher the level of football the more sprints were completed within that 10-13km.
The research showed that:

  • International players sprinted 28% more times than lower level pro players.
  • Teams with a higher league ranking completed 30-40% more high-speed sprints than teams lower in the league.

This further supports the idea that speed and high-intensity movement is essential for any player wanting to progress within the game.


How To Increase Your Speed

There is no denying that genetics plays a huge part when it comes to how fast you can run.However, you can still make a difference.By following a specific speed training programme you can significantly increase your speed in all areas.Including your speed of thought, which is important for players who do not possess blistering pace.

John has never had any pace but importantly for him, the first 10 yards are in his head. He reads the game so well. Wherever the ball is he’s in the right position in relation to where the ball is.

Ray Wilkins about John Terry Tweet
This shows that Terry has a great speed of thought and is able to read the game.

Key Areas to Train For Speed

As a player, your aim is to improve your all-around quickness and speed. So that you are faster in all aspects of your game. Therefore you must train in the following four areas:

1: Explosive Power and Strength Training for Speed

You should use explosive power drills to allow your body to perform quick bursts of maximal effort.Players with a higher explosive power can move faster and react quicker.To improve your explosive power and strength you must train using exercises that need near maximal power output in a short time period.Basically, you need to:Move heavy weights very quickly!However:You will need to condition your body to move heavy weights, so start off with lighter weights and gradually progress. This will reduce the likelihood of injury.Elite football players are very powerful. This power is transfered on the field to enable them to move fast.The combine speed and strength of your muscles contractions results in how powerful you are.Therefore to increase your power you must train both of these areas. Lifting weights will increase your strength, whilst plyometric training transfers this strength into power and speed.

2: Speed Endurance Training

Throughout a match, you must perform several all-out sprints. The more of these sprints your perform, the more you fatigue causing your power and speed to decrease.So:You need to train for speed endurance (also known as anaerobic endurance) to ensure you can maintain high-intensity sprints for longer and recover faster to sprint again.Here is a great speed endurance session from the guys over at FourFourTwo:

3: Flexibility Training For Speed

One area of training that is often overlooked by young players is flexibility training.We know it may not be as impressive a deadlifting twice your bodyweight, or smashing out 10 muscles ups.However, if you skip flexibility training you are leaving some serious training gains on the table.Ryan Giggs spent 23 years playing for Manchester United’s first team and owes a great deal to practicing yoga.When discussing how he continue to deliver at at thg highest level Giggs said:

"The yoga has definitely helped me. It helps me train every day because it gives me the flexibility and the strength not only to play the game but to train as well."

Ryan Giggs - Manchester United Tweet
When it comes to speed, flexibility training can help relax and tight muscles, allow them to contract quicker.This relaxation also improves the range of motion at the joint which increases your stride length.Your speed and power will now increase as you can apply more force over a greater range of motion.

4: SAQ Training

The fourth and most important area of speed training for football is:Speed, Agility and Quickness training (AKA SAQ training).This type of training encompasses all areas needed to move faster around the pitch.  and can be trained in the same session.There is some overlap when training speed, agility, and quickness, so they can all be trained in the same session. We’ve already mentioned the importance of training speed…However, training agility will improve your:
  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Control over your body
  • Ability to change direction quickly without losing your balance.
Whereas Quickness training Quickness will improve your:
  • Coordination to escape a tricky situation on the pitch
  • Overall foot speed
A football specific SAQ training programme will help you improve your:
  • Acceleration
  • Balance
  • Co-ordination
  • Ability to quickly change direction
  • Foot Speed
  • Speed of the mark
This type of training is about technique and performing the drills with quality and not about exhausting yourself.

Bonus Speed Training Tip: Jumping

Studies have shown that adding weighted jumps to your training programme can drastically improve your speed and acceleration.Horizontal weighted jumps can help a player improve their force production and acceleration.Whilst:Vertical weighted jumps help a player improve top speed sprints, power, and strength.So, adding loaded jumps to your training schedule today will improve your speed performance on the field.


Top 10 Speed Training Exercises

There are many ways to increase your speed for football and following a specified training program will give you the structure to gradually improve all aspects of your speed. Remember, the correct strength training exercise will improve speed.

However the goal is to improve your strength to weight ratio or relative strength. So to be fast on the pitch you need to improve strength without getting to big.

If you want to add a few exercises to your routine today, here is a list of our favourite speed training exercises:

1: Power Clean

This is a great exercise for engaging all of your bodies major muscles.

However, this is not a beginners exercise and will take some practice and coordination. We suggest this exercise as it helps to strengthen your calves, hamstrings, glutes and back muscles which work together to make up your posterior chain.

2: Squat

Another great exercise to improve your speed is weighted squats.This compound exercise works the hamstrings, quads, calves and glutes.Performing this exercise improves a players core strength and ground reaction force. This allows players to transfer any speed gains into football specific movements.

3: Hex Bar Deadlift

A must have exercise is any strength building programme is the deadlift.The movement in this exercises takes a similar path to a squat, however using the hex bar brings more of the back muscles into play for a full body workout.This is important for straight line and multi-directional sprint movement.There are many reasons we suggest using the hex bar over conventional deadlift including:
  • Less stress on your back by shifting the weight to your sides
  • The lifting technique is easier to master than the conventional deadlift. There is less to think about you can concentrate on lifting the bar off the ground.

4: Sled Push/ Sprint

Sled pulls are a great speed training exercise as they improve your acceleration off the mark.A 2014 study found that training with a sled helped improve stride length, maximal speed and contact time with the ground (which allows you more time to push off the ground).Its important to remember that adding too much weight can be detrimental to your sprint technique. The key is to add enough weight that will create a load/resistance, but you can still sprint naturally.

5: Rear Foot Elevated/Bulgarian Split Squat

During a football match players perform a number of movements on one leg. So… It makes sense to add single leg exercises to your routine to provide balance, strength and stability to both sides of your body. This exercise is great for improving speed as it works the quads and hamstrings as well as the small stabilizer muscles that large compound lifts might miss.

6: Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

Your speed and force primarily comes from your glutes and hamstrings, therefore you must improve their strength to be able to run faster.A great exercise to target these muscles is the single leg Romanian deadlift.

7: Broad Jump

Being able to perform quick movements is essential in football.Therefore you need to improve your explosive strength and the broad jump is a great exercise to improve explosiveness.Broad jumps help improve the power you can generate by forcing you to simultaneously extend the ankle, knee, and hip, otherwise known as triple extension.This exercise also builds fast twitch muscles fibers essential for players to move explosively around the pitch.

8: Single Leg Hurdle Jumps

Another great exercise for improving your single leg strength, power and stability are Single leg hurdle Jumps.

9: Depth jumps

As we mentioned earlier performing jumps are help improve both acceleration and top end speed.One of the most demanding jump exercises is depth jumps.

10: Pallof Press

It is important to keep your core stable which performing sprinting and agility movements.Therefor your sprint training should include exercises that improve core strength and stability.A great exercise that you can start today is the Pallof press.