Understanding of what allows people to run fast and potentially what will allow them to continue to get faster is continually emerging. In this two part series, we will look at how to accelerate faster and how to hit a higher top speed.

It is important to highlight that the different phases of sprinting present some unique interventions and understandings. Acceleration, that is the initiation of running up to a top speed, is the first part of any running action and is present in most athletic pursuits that involve running.

Because of its application to team sports, acceleration abilities have continued to receive the greatest volume of research attention. Multiple studies, a number of which have been led by JB Morin, have looked at how athletes accelerate. These indicate that the athletes that can produce high levels of resultant horizontal impulses at high velocities as their foot hits the ground tend to be faster accelerators. What does that mean? It means if you can push yourself forward forcefully (at a high rate of force application) and move your limbs quickly to push into the ground it is likely that you will accelerate at a faster rate.

How do we train this?

As suggested researchers such as JB Morin have been leading the way along with his colleague Pierre Samozino, they have been looking at simple ways to teach athletes to achieve higher resultant horizontal impulses and have used the application of high load sled running. These loads have been higher than the traditional use of sleds, up to weights equivalent to 100% of the user’s body mass.

What have they found?

Using heavy sleds teaches people to apply greater proportional horizontal force to the ground in the initial acceleration and is showing promising application to both team and individual sport athletes. Essentially it is teaching athletes to push in the right direction and as long as they are coached to do this with fast contacts then they are learning to accelerate themselves to faster speeds. In a practical way this can be achieved through any method that teaches the athlete to propel themselves forward quickly, in the forward direction and with a rapid and aggressive contact with the ground (high net horizontal impulse). This can be achieved through any form of resisted sprinting (hills, sleds, pulleys), and also without resistance. The key is to practice the aggressive propulsion of both the body and the limbs as they contact the ground.

In the second blog we will look at how we can improve maximal velocity sprinting.