The ultimate sprint training series. Part 1

This series was created to help you get faster. In all sports being fast is an advantage and is often associated with the most important moments in games.

Takeaway Tip:

“To be fast off the mark, orientate your body forward at 45 degrees and push yourself explosively forward repeatedly, increasing your stride length and stride rate consistently with each step. "

The first aspect of getting faster that we will address is how to get off the mark rapidly. When we increase speed (or velocity if we are being technical) from a low or stopped position and increase speed to a higher velocity this is considered acceleration. In this article we will introduce concepts around acceleration, what we know from the research evidence about how to accelerate quickly and look to highlight what areas can be addressed if you want to get off the mark faster.

Getting off the mark faster.

To get to this answer we need to look into the available research. A significant amount of work has been completed by the research groups of JB Morin, Ian Bezodis and Jean Slawinski respectively. These groups have looked at the technical, biomechanical and temporal parameters expressed by elite sprinters across multiple studies and have shown some factors that help us to understand what allows athletes to be fast off the mark.

The work by Bezodis and his team where able to collect data at major championship races and have described the key items that make up sprint acceleration. From this data we see that the best in the world are able to get to 10 metres from a stationary position in under 2 seconds (male) and around 2 seconds (female). They achieve this taking 7 to 8 strides and increasing the speed of their legs to hit close to 5 strides per second after the first 3-4 strides. To understand how they do this week need to look at the work from Morin and Slawinski.

Slawinski shows that the orientation of the body and the legs as they strike the ground from the stationary position is optimised to increase your ability to push yourself forward. The legs push back and down into the ground, forming angles of approximately 40-50 degrees with the ground depending on the athlete. Taller athletes will generally have a higher angle and shorter athletes a lower angle, but if we remember back to our high school science or maths classes and the understanding of projectile motion, an angle of 45 degrees maximises the pushing or horizontal force (pushing you forward or propelling yourself forward by pushing the ground away from you) and vertical forces (pushing you in the air so that gravity does not hold you down). Each step that you take from the first will increase this angle by 5-8 degrees until you are hitting the ground with your feet (your body/torso will match the leg angles as they hit the ground) at 90 degrees around step 10-12 or at approximately 20 metres.

JB Morin and his group highlights that this is achieved through the balance of creating high net horizontal impulses into the ground.

What is impulse and why is it a balance?

Impulse is the cumulative measure of force and time. Why this is important is that the best athletes are able to impart high ground reaction forces whilst not spending too much time pushing into the ground. So the balance is to push hard into the ground, but do not spend too long doing this otherwise you will not be able to generate the high cadence/frequency of stride rate describe above (up to close to 5 strides per second).

Takeaway Tip 1

  1. To be fast off the mark, orientate your body forward at 45 degrees and push yourself explosively forward repeatedly, increasing your stride length and stride rate consistently with each step. These attributes can developed and trained through technique training (learning where and how rapidly to push and coordinate the exchange of the legs) and through strength and power training to increase the application of the ground reaction forces .

In part 2 we will look at the training that will help you to achieve an explosive acceleration off the mark.