Drills to Improve your Knee Drive for Sprinting and Acceleration

This article is somewhat of a part two, building on the idea of front-side mechanics and the importance of knee drive in sprinting, This article contains are some of our favourite drills to work on knee drive and knee position when sprinting.

First, some basic posture drills. Examples for all of these exercises are included in the video at the bottom of the page.

1. Isometric Hip Flexion Holds

Standing in position, nice and tall, arms in position, drive the knee up, foot sprung in dorsiflexion. We talk a lot about stretching out the psoas and how the hips flexors will inhibit your glutes, but a strong active Psoas is also important for your knee drive.
So switching it back on with this drill is a super easy trick, you also get some balance work, and you can practice foot position, keeping it sprung, not soggy.

2. Wall Drills

Taking the same idea as the posture drill, but now up against a wall you have your body in an acceleration specific angle. In this position, hips locked out tall, drive one  knee up, foot sprung into dorsi and think about being long and tall from head to heel.
From here, you can do a couple of things, the first we call sprinters calves, they are fantastic. They help you work on the calf-achilles complex tension while you are in that specific joint angle (not advised for anyone with achilles problems). You can also do some repeat knee drives either on the same side, working on rate of stride recovery or alternating sides trying to maintain hip and body position while pumping the legs.

Now, into more dynamic drills

3. Pocket Run

Next is Pocket Run. This drill is fabulous for creating that connection between elbow drive and knee drive on the one side of the body. It’s also a brilliant light, elastic drill that doubles as a cognitive wake up/refresher.

With one side of your body frozen (and hand in your metaphorical pocket) the other side is carrying you along with normal sprinting mechanics (be sure not to drag the frozen leg behind you, it should still help pop you along).

4. Piston Run

Piston run is where we really start moving. Acceleration is very different from top speed mechanics in that the legs are moving more pistons as opposed to a cyclical action.
With this drill, the speed of your les is starting to increase, but avoid muscling the drill or becoming all hunched over, the goal is to stay tall with a slight lean forwards and have the legs moving quickly under you with a nice light reactivity to them.
Okay. Then the last thing for better knee drive is a cue to focus on when you run. Thinking about breaking a pane of glass with your knee, especially in thes first few strides out of the gate is a great way to visualise and improve a strong powerful knee position.

*We stopped calling it high knees because we found the majority of our athletes really exagerated the high knee position and lost their cadence speed and body angle. Piston run is a powerful metaphor to create that elastic rapid cadency we are really looking for.

If you are interested in improving your running technique or sprinting speed, our Ultimate athlete guide has some great tips and tricks to improve your running efficiency.
You can get it by signing up for our free resources here →

If you want to learn more about running, shoes and feet, checkout our YouTube Playlist on speed and acceleration development. Terrible puns aside this playlist contains a heap of great videos for runners and humans alike, to make you a faster, more efficient and less injury prone runner.