Sprinting 101 – Part II

Part 2 of 3

  1. Get more front-side than back-side.

When comparing elite sprinters to their sub-elite contemporaries, there is a big distinction between their front-side (FS) and back-side (BS) mechanics. Front-side mechanics refers to the motion when the swing leg is in front of the body. Back-side mechanics refers to the motion when the swing leg is behind the body. Generally, the greater time the lower limbs spend behind the trunk in the recovery phase the slower the athlete. Coaches, like the one from point 1, need to emphasise and drill FS mechanics with their athletes. Often, the inability to maintain FS mechanics is purely a strength issue specific to the anterior and posterior core and hip extensors. However, it is also likely a technical breakdown in the running model. Contact times aside, athletes’ should always be trying to increase FS mechanics and limit BS mechanics.

  1. Become a student of the sport (or event)

Athletes should strive to become a student of their sport. Over time, they should come to know all the ins-and-outs of their event. Not only will this make it easier to promote discussion between the athlete and coach about technical demands or session specifics, but it will also develop a greater sense of ownership within the athlete. At this stage, the athlete will likely know the effects (positive and negative) of missing or adding sessions to their programme. It can often make them more accountable to the goals they are trying to achieve if they understand the intricacies of how to get there. I have found that those athletes who enjoy all aspects of their sport and love their craft are the ones who maintain good longevity and continue with strong intrinsic motivation to achieve their dreams.

  1. Maximum Velocity is the limiting factor.

Usain Bolt achieved his world record times by hitting a higher maximum velocity (MxV) than his competitors; plus held this velocity for a longer duration. In his 2009 100m WR race in Berlin, his 10m splits from 50-80m were astonishing:

  • 50-60m – 0.82
  • 60-70m – 0.81
  • 70-80m – 0.82

Improving an athlete’s MxV takes time (months/years) and must be a priority of the coach. The improvement can develop from a spectrum of training modalities but should ideally focus around ongoing technical development in that phase of the race. If there are technical deficiencies in the running model at MxV, e.g. posture, casting of the leg, the athlete will have an increased level of braking forces and the time will start to blow out. Due to the high eccentric forces experienced in the lower limbs at high speed the coach and athlete must be undertaking the necessary strength work to cope with these forces. This work can focus around gym exercises which target eccentric strength or plyometrics (and of course practising fast running:). With timing gates, the level of improvement for MxV flying runs can easily be monitored to gauge where attention should be focussed.

The ability to achieve a greater maximum velocity is interdependent on how deep into the race the athlete can accelerate. Therefore, continue to develop your acceleration qualities and this should assist your overall attainment of an increased MxV.

Stay tuned for part 3

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