The Olympic Games are about to kick off, and the world’s eyes will be engrossed on the incredible talent on display in Brazil, Rio De Janerio. One of the main highlights will undoubtedly be the mens 100m final (FYI: August 14th).
Will Usain Bolt make it a ‘three-peat’ or will Justin Gatlin get the gold?
Nevertheless, you have jumped into this article as you want to be able to run faster or know how the elite do it? Well let’s get into it!
It’s a common belief that speed is something you are born with.
This isn’t entirely true.
Although genetics do play a big role, it has now been shown everyone can improve their speed through professional planning and coaching. The application of repeated sprints, jumping, weightlifting and general conditioning can significantly improve your ability to move faster, whatever your sport or past time.
I mean let’s face it, moving faster has been the goal of the human race since we became bipedal. The fastest human has always had an elevated status in ancient and modern society, Usain Bolt is a prime example.
So first things first, to have the ability to move faster with strength, we actually need some strength. Right? As a coach, it is up to us to assess our clients to ensure they have adequate strength in place to undertake proper sprint training,
So how would I as a coach, knowing you want to not only get stronger but become quicker go about it? First you would look at your abilities and deficiencies. We must always start with looking at your current physical state, understanding your training history, and ultimately determine how to proceed with your speed training through movement and physical capacity testing. This testing could include, but is not limited to, evaluating your posture, mechanics, strength, acceleration and relaxation.
“Performances that require technical excellence, such as maximal speed running, are not necessarily best served by a philosophy of all-out effort. These performances require a combination of force production, skill application and relaxation” – Hansen, D. M., 2014
What is relaxation? If muscles are tight and contracted constantly this makes it much more difficult to produce high-velocity movement. Ever heard the commentators during a replay of a 100m or a 200m sprint mention how relaxed the winner looked during the race?
Now first, lets get one question answered. The weight-room is not the exclusive domain of strength training. Incorporating jumps, medicine ball throws and body-weight exercises can also have a massive impact on our strength. However, weight-lifting is the most attractive solution due to the ability to quantify workload, fatigue and performance by immediate feedback on the load being used (reps, sets, – workout).
Strength training is the general strength element into our speed training. Weight- training provides excellent CNS stimulation whilst targeting and strengthening various areas of the body, however, no weightlifting movement is specific enough (from a velocity perspective) to provide a useful speed adaptation.
Movements such as Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts and upper body pressing would be excellent examples to include into a well structured strength training program.
Power training is another important aspect to look at within your training. We have 2 different categories:
Explosive Power: Our objective is to improve your acceleration abilities by incorporating movements that involve powerful triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle (a movement required as we accelerate). This alongside maximal strength training and acceleration training will ensure you of those explosive starts and strong accelerations.
Exercises include: Olympic lifts, explosive jumps and medicine ball throws
Elastic Power: We would initiate this practice a lot more gradual at the start of your training, due to the strength work and explosive power work. As we begin to reduce the strength and explosive power work we would then start to increase your elastic power work. This is mainly due to the amount of load produced throughout your muscles and tendons during the first phase, we want to minimise the stress of landing from jumps (elastic power training), therefore minimising injury.
Exercises include: Plyometric jumps.
To start, 2x jumping session per week of 5 sets of 6 repetitions (Total volume = 30 jumps). To increase volume, add up to 20 jumps per week. To produce more forceful landings we can implement movements including hurdle jumps, bounding and hopping over short distances.
Note: All our initial multi-jump training can occur on softer surfaces including grass, to cushion the landings – therefore, reducing the amount of force
“As with many sport movements, how the movement is started will often determine how successful the successive stages of that movement are. Sprinting is no different” – Hansen, D. M., 2014
Ok, now onto sprint training! When we perform ‘running drills’ we try to break down the movements used in actual sprinting to improve on those aspects when we perform the sprint in full-motion. Examples would include running posture and proper limb movements.
STARTS AND ACCELERATION
As our start and acceleration is hugely important whether we play team sports, or compete in athletics, working on this technique is imperative. We are already improving our maximal strength and power……which is going putting us a step ahead, now we need to incorporate some drills to take us even further.
The falling start is one of the first drills we will do. You will start from a low, staggered stance (this will help you use the momentum from the falling motion to unload at the start). Then you will fall to just beyond the ‘tipping point’ then initiate with the lead hand (hand same side as the front foot) to cue the legs to fire explosively and accelerate.
Tip: By using your lead hand as a cue it will enable you to extend your body into the correct posture.
The falling start – This diagram demonstrates how this drill is performed
MAXIMAL VELOCITY MECHANICS
All running athletes (sprinters, soccer, rugby etc.) all demonstrate maximum velocity at different speeds and distances. For example, in soccer the average sprint distance is 20m. As we transition out of the acceleration phase we have to shift posture from the driving forwards to upright sprinting. To become faster we need to increase the maximal force we produce from the highest point in our stride to the ground.
You have to emphasise the high-hip and high-knee position during maximal sprinting efforts!
To match the great forces of our lower body, our arms will also play an important role and have to demonstrate a strong front side presence.
So how do I perform all that, you ask?
Simple! In the diagram below it clearly shows that the athletes foot recovers high and tight to the buttocks, which sets up a high-knee position we were talking about. Then, the athlete does not reach out in front of their body to paw at the ground, instead they focus on driving and producing significant downward forces towards the ground. Again, do not forget about your upper limbs! Make sure your hand travels well in front of the face and downward towards the hip.
This diagram displays the upright sprinting mechanics
Ensuring you can reach your speed potential requires a professional to carefully manage all of your training elements. An integrated, organised approach that identifies your strengths and deficiencies as well as a combination of experience and keen observation will always ensure you stay injury free and consistently improve!
So there you have it! How strength training plays an important role in making you faster and how incorporating specific sprint training can take you to the next level! There are still a few things to consider including (but we can do that for you);
- Running mechanics
- Different drills for acceleration
- Different drills for maximal velocity
- Loading and progression
- ‘The short-to-long approach’
- Specific sporting considerations
- Other training considerations
If you would like anymore information and would love to go into more depth to see how we can help you here at Absolute then please contact us or come visit us at 199 William Street, Melbourne CBD.
Written by Performance Coach Steve Hissey
Brown, L., & Ferrigno, V. A. (2005). Training for speed, agility and quickness
Joyce, D., & Lewingdon, D. (2014). High-Performance training for sports.
Joyce, D., & Lewingdon, D. (2015). Sports injury prevention and rehabilitation: Integrating medicine and science for performance solutions