Introduction to Sprinting Mechanics
To sprint or accelerate as fast as possible we need to:
Apply as much force as possible into the ground
Apply force for an optimal duration (generally quickly)
Apply force in the correct directions.
To achieve the above we need to place our body in optimal positions and possess the capabilities to produce and absorb lots of force. In other words, we need good sprinting technique and the strength to turn this good technique into a lightning fast sprint.
Technique and Strength
Sprinting and acceleration are feats of neuromuscular coordination (technique) and force production/absorption (strength). These qualities can be developed by coaching the basic bio-mechanical principles of sprinting and by partaking in general and specific strength training. Doing so will ensure good patterns are hardwired into an athlete’s movement pattern memory and that they have the strength to capitalise on their potential.
Speed is a Skill
Speed is a movement skill that can be learned. It isn’t simply a thing that some athletes have and some don’t. Sure, certain athletes will posses genetic advantages (such as a higher percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres) but an attainment of technical and physical competence can provide big gains in speed for team sport athletes.
Majoring in Minutiae
The focus with team sport athletes should be on elements of technique that make the biggest differences to the athlete’s speed in the context of their sport, and this likely means using simple cues and drills to work on the basics of technique.
A sprinting coach will delve deep into a level of technical analysis that is not practical or useful for team sport athletes. When coaching team sport athletes — whose goal is always to be faster within the context of their sport, not for 100m in a straight line — the minutiae is unlikely to be necessary.
Learn the Basics
Many athletes have never been taught how to sprint, and many, although they may be quick players in their sport, are leaving speed on the table because of this. I encourage team sport athletes to learn the basics of sprinting and acceleration mechanics to enhance their on-field speed.
By focussing on how an athlete is projecting, how their thighs are switching and how their foot-ankle complex is reacting with the ground, an athlete/coach can make quick changes that lead to big differences. It's amazing what a few basic tips and techniques can do for speed capabilities. The next blog post will focus on projection, switching and reactivity - the three keys to faster sprints.
This article is an excerpt from Jon's e-book The Basics of Speed and Acceleration for Team Sport Athletes which you can download for free on the resources page.
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