Four Step

by Developing Speed
Kinetic Select June 2021


This excerpt from Developing Speed aims to develop athletes’ ability to accelerate quickly through stride modification.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing Speed, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.


To develop the ability to accelerate quickly by gradually lengthening the stride during the transition from a static position to a full sprint.


Tape or some other marker indicates the starting line and the distances for the four steps. Step 1 is 30 inches (about 75 cm) from the starting point, step 2 is 40 inches (about 100 cm) from step 1, step 3 is 50 inches (about 125 cm) from step 2, and step 4 is 60 inches (about 150 cm) from step 3. The athlete stands at the starting position and starts running through the four steps at quarter speed, avoiding hesitation between the first and second step. One foot lands just inside each measured step marker. The athlete should initially start in a low driving position and then gradually rise to a more upright position.

Coaching Points

  • Emphasize that the first four or five steps in an athlete’s start are crucial and should be executed with explosive power.
  • Focus on an initial arm drive that creates an explosive first step.
  • Emphasize an arm movement that beats back to the hip. The harder the arms are pumped, the harder the opposite leg will drive.
  • Emphasize a quick arm action; arm speed governs leg speed.
  • Encourage athletes to think of their steps as if they are a four-speed transmission.


The initial focus is on technical development rather than on maximum speed. Progression can involve graduating to three-quarter effort and then to 100 percent effort. This technique can be thought of as a smooth transition (like a drag car with a four-speed transmission). As the athlete becomes proficient at accelerating, add a ball to develop the important speed–skill link.

With Developing Speed, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has created the definitive resource for developing speed training programs that optimize athletic performance. Including assessments and the application of speed training to eight specific sports, this authoritative guide provides all the tools needed for maximizing speed. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online at the NSCA Store.

#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

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