Become an Elite Sprinter: 3 Exercises for Explosive Performance

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They say that speed kills—and they’re right. Speed is the most important asset in many sports, and can give you a significant advantage over your opponents—if you have it.

But how do you develop elite level speed as a sprinter?

Through explosive training exercises that develop your power and speed simultaneously. Studies show that explosive-strength training can lead to significant improvements in running performance by improving muscle power and running economy (the amount of energy you use to run at a given pace).

Even if you’re not a track athlete, training like a sprinter can still help you dominate your favorite sport. After all, speed is a critical key to success in many sports, from football and basketball to hockey and lacrosse.

Naturally, you’ll need to do more than sprinting and these 3 exercises to become an elite sprinter—but these 3 can definitely help you get started on the right track.

Proper Running Form

That said, here are 3 exercises that will help you explode off the line faster—and leave your opponents in the dust:

#1 – Sled Pulls

Sled pulls are a great workout—and a great way to build explosive power and become faster.

Attach a sled to a heavy weight. The amount of weight might be anything from 10% to 75% of your bodyweight, depending on your level of fitness.

Then, simply strap yourself in and pull the sled for a set distance—20 yards is a good starting point. As you get stronger, you can increase the distance to 30 yards, 40 yards, or further.

Start slowly at first, and then pick up the pace as you get comfortable with the movement. Remember, the key is to generate as much power as possible with each pull. Make sure to keep your back straight and your core engaged the entire time.

Also make sure to rest in between sets—sled pulls are incredibly demanding, and you’ll need to give your body time to recover. Resting at least 2 minutes is a good idea, and 3-5 minutes is even better. You want to be fresh for each set, so you can generate as much power as possible.

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#2 – Power Cleans

The Power Clean is a classic Olympic lift that will help you develop explosive power. This whole body movement is used by many athletes to improve personal strength and performance. CrossFitters also use this exercise to develop power and explosiveness.

Now, power cleans require a fair bit of technique—so if you’re new to this exercise, always make sure to get work with a certified coach/trainer before you try it. But to give you an idea of how it’s done and what is involved, here’s a “quick” general overview of what happens in a power clean:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell on the ground in front of you.
  2. Squat down, and grasp the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width and your hands facing your legs.
  3. Lift the barbell up to your thighs, and then explosively stand up, pulling the bar up as you do. Your shoulders and hips should rise at the same time.
  4. As the bar rises above your knees, thrust your hips forward bending your knees slightly so your thighs are against the bar. Shrug your shoulders and pull the bar up into your mid-chest, keeping your elbows high, so that it ends up resting at the level of your collarbone.
  5. Drop into a partial squat position, keeping your torso erect. Your arms and hands should rotate around and under the bar to create a shelf. After gaining control and balance, explosively stand up tall with the bar in the “catch” position on your shoulders and clavicle.
  6. Rotate your hands back around the bar and remove it from your shoulders and clavicle, lowering it back down to complete the rep. Make sure you simultaneously flex your hips and knees as you lower the bar to the floor.

Yes, all of that was one rep. As you can see, the power clean is a complex movement that takes some time to master. But it’s definitely worth the effort—this exercise will help you develop explosive power and strength, which will carry over to many other sports and activities. Again, make sure to consult a certified trainer or coach to help you learn this exercise before you attempt it.

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#3 – Box Jumps

A successful box jump requires both power and coordination. There are many videos to be found of athletes “fail”-ing their jump attempts—but don’t let that discourage you. With a little practice, you’ll be nailing this plyometric power move in no time.

  1. Start by standing in front of a strong, stable box that’s about knee-height.
  2. Bending into a quarter squat, swing your arms back, and then them swing forward and explode up and forward onto the box.
  3. Land with both feet on the box—as softly as possible.
  4. If you’ve landed in a deep squat rather than a quarter squat, your box may be too tall.
  5. Jump (or step) back down, landing as softly as possible.

No, performing a few box jumps in your training routine won’t help you conquer the world—but it will help you build explosive power in your legs. And that’s what you need to become an elite sprinter.


Sled drags, power cleans, and box jumps are all great exercises to help you develop explosive power. If you want to develop your sprinting capabilities further, consider adding these exercises to your training routine.

But remember, always consult with a certified coach or trainer before attempting any new exercises—especially if you’re new to lifting weights or plyometrics. Stay safe and have fun!