The ultimate sprint training series. Part 2

In the last article we spoke about what contributes to the ability to get of the mark when accelerating. This article looks to give you insight into what aspects of training you can address to improve speed off the mark.

Typically there are three main areas that need to be addressed in relation to getting off the mark quickly.

  1. Propulsion forces - These are force/power/impulse producing capabilities - this is your ability to produce high forces (internally through muscle contraction and use of reflexes) at a fast enough rate .

  2. Coordination of the correct technique - Ability to coordinate your body and orientate the forces that you can create into the ground effectively

  3. Regulating stiffness (particularly of the ankle) - ability to stop the ankle,knee, hip and spine from collapsing as you apply forces to the track.

Lets take a look at what training can be done to achieve this.

Propulsive force

These can be broken into two types of training. Related and specific. Related training is training that has the ability to increase the underlying physical characteristics to increase force or power producing capabilities, but are not specific to the sport at hand. This would include using strength and power resistance training. These types of resistance training can be varied to increase strength, muscle hypertrophy or power. Other variations may emphasize one portion of the lift such as the push phase or the lowering phase and may look to overload this portion. Research shows that there is a correlation between power, strength (eccentric and concentric) in exercises such as the following (listed below) and the ability to propel the body in the early acceleration off the mark. If you identify that this is an area that you have not trained or has not been emphasized, you may look to address this as part of your training to improve getting off the mark.

  1. Squat variations

  2. Lunge and split squat variations

  3. Leg Pressing variations

  4. Deadlift variations

  5. Olympic lifting

The second style of training that will look to increase propulsive force is considered specific transfer. These tasks mimic the acceleration portion of running but typically will include resistance in the form of the following.

  1. Hill running

  2. Sleds/prowlers - (traditionally 10-30% of body weight, but recent research by Morin and Samorzino suggest up to 100% of body weight can increase the ability to co-ordinate horizontal impulse forces)

These activities improve the ability to coordinate movement in a time and spatial specific domain that is closely related to running. This is considered a good way to transfer improvements of strength as above into a running specific activity.

Co-ordination and technique training

To address the technique associated with running, exposure of the athlete to tasks that challenge the ability to co-ordinate running are useful. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

  1. Accelerations from different positions and velocities (taking off from standing, kneeling, on the ground, moving at slow speed, stopped) all contribute to improving the ability for the athlete to address greater understanding of how to co-ordinate running. This may even include downhill and assisted sprint takeoffs. All of these tasks will increase the awareness of the athlete to coordinate their limbs. These should be done at or close to 100% intensity.

  2. Use of resistance runs (see the specific resistance exercises in previous section)

  3. Use of different surfaces. (grass, track, sand) - different surface compliance addresses the athletes ability to manage the force application and ability to control how the leg orientates the body.

This list in not exhaustive, however if the athlete is struggling to co-ordinate their propulsion, these exercises are likely to assist with their understanding.

Stiffness

The third area that is addressed and is often missed is the ability to create a stiff platform on the ground, so that when you propel yourself, there is not a loss of control about the joints at the hip, knee, ankle or spine. to achieve this exercises such as the following can be utilized.

  1. Jumping and plyometric training

  2. Olympic lifting, isometric resistance or fast eccentric resistance training

  3. Use of heavy resisted running (heavy sleds or prowlers)

These activities of varying difficulty place the athlete in a position that requires them to control the absorption of load through the joints, teaching them to be stiffer whilst providing propulsion.

In our next article we will look at the types of sessions that you can design to improve getting off the mark faster and provide some example sessions.