Stride Length vs Stride Frequency

In the context of running, speed is composed of two variables: stride frequency and stride length. These two variables are specifically related to our definition of speed, which is distance over time. Stride frequency relates to the time factor, while stride length relates to the distance factor. So, your speed is ultimately determines by how quickly your stride rate, or frequency, is, and how much ground you cover in each one of those strides.

Most training out there is geared towards training for stride frequency. All of the cone drills, ladder drills, SAQ drills, etc. areIMG_1753 designed to increase the rate of your stride frequency. The idea is that if you focus on those fast twitch muscle fibers, you can take quicker strides, and you will increase your speed. What about stride length? What kind of training helps to increase stride length? An even bigger question to ask is which one is more important to train for, stride frequency or stride length?

As a trainer, I must say that both are important in order for an athlete to reach their maximum potential speed. But, which has the greater impact on overall speed? To be quite honest, your stride frequency is greatly under the influence of your genetic predisposition. If you were not born with quick leg turnover rate, you will not be able to train to make it a whole lot faster. Yes, improvements can be made through specific training tools, but the biggest gains in your speed will occur in the realm of increasing the distance you cover in each stride, not in the rate of leg turnover.

Think of trying to run in sand. It’s not very easy, is it? Does the sand slow down your leg turnover rate? Maybe a little bit, but for the most part, your legs are still cycling through at a fairly decent rate. Where you lose the majority of your speed is in your stride length. Because the sand does not provide a durable surface for which to plant your foot, not as much force is returned back to your body from foot contact. Hence, your strides will be shorter than if you were running on a solid surface.

You can train your body to be able to run faster through increasing your stride length, by increasing the total efficiency of your body. The next post will address more of the components of training for a longer stride.

Loren Sheets

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