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T r a i n i n g

Workouts for Sprinters

Here are some good speed sessions for the sprinters. One focussing on acceleration, the other on maximum velocity. It is suggested that you start with 2 days a week of acceleration work. Once you feel comfortable and are performing each rep with proper form and you have reached running 30 meter intervals with no problem, add a day of maximum velocity work in.

Acceleration Acceleration speed is a product of stride length (the distance your hips travel in a stride) and stride frequency (the number of steps you take in a given time period). However, you will not reach top speed by focusing on increasingly larger steps to increase stride length or taking short, quick steps to increase stride frequency. Instead, top speeds are created by applying 'optimal' force to the ground. Both length and frequency are improved by strength so better strength application results in faster speeds. Really, acceleration training is a form of strength training.

Ground contact times (the amount of time each foot spends on the ground) are another important factor to consider during acceleration. During the earliest parts of acceleration, especially the first two steps, you are trying to overcome (inertia) the weight of your body by moving it forward as quickly as possible. This takes a great deal of strength and power. The stronger and more efficient you are, the more you can extend your acceleration phase.

Once you become fatigued, workouts quickly lose their effectiveness. Any type of speed work must be done with full recovery. Generally speaking, that means approximately one minute of rest for every 10 yards that you run. Sprinting is a highly technical activity. Without full recovery, both your muscles and your central nervous system will begin to fatigue quickly, reducing the short and long term effectiveness of your training. For this reason, acceleration should not be trained with fatigue present. To optimize your success, full recovery must be adhered to both in your individual workouts as well as your weekly plan. It takes roughly 36-48 hours to fully recover from a speed workout.

Acceleration Cues:
  • Drive the lead arm (same as front leg) up as you begin to sprint.
  • Drive out so the body is at a 45 degree angle to the ground.
  • Keep the heel recovery low during thefirst 6-8 strides.
  • Drive the elbows down and back.
  • Keep the hands loose, but not open.
  • Arms should remain at approximately 90 degrees from the elbow.
  • Step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximal force.
Don’t force yourself to ‘stay low’. This will limit the amount of force you can apply to the ground and leads to poor acceleration. Let your upper body unfold naturally. ‘Staying low’ will occur naturally if you are already strong enough.

During acceleration, the foot should strike directly below or slightly behind the hips. You must be able to drive out so your body is at a 45 degree angle to the ground and step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximal force.

Many athletes are not strongenough to hold and maintain that ideal drive phase. What we do is trick the body to maintain the proper form by having athletes start using different positions. For example, starting their interval on the ground seated, lying down in the push-up position, on one knee, etc.

Example of an Acceleration Workout:
  • 3 x 20 metres - push up (down position) start
  • 3 x 20 metres - push up (up position) start
  • 3 x 25 metres - seated facing 'forward' start
  • 3 x 25 metres - seated facing 'backwards' start
Rest interval in between each repetition is 2 minutes and 3-5 minutes between each set.
Maximum velocity Acceleration work must be done before you can even look at starting maximum velocity (top speed running) work. Maximum velocity work is when you are running at full speed, so your body will be completely upright (perpendicular to the ground), and you will no longer be leaning at an angle as you were during acceleration.

You will want to relax or 'float' during maximum velocity. What this means is you want to ease back in the amount of effort you are expending while running but without slowing down and losing any speed. This idea sounds contradictory, and like any new skill, it takes some practice to perfect.

While running, you want to continue to step over the opposite knee, but you do not want to drive the ball of the foot down into the ground. This is tough to do but it is essential if you want to maximize your speed and reach your full speed potential. If you are not relaxing while you are running, your body is really fighting itself and causing you to slow down.

Relaxation while at top speed must be practiced. Here's an example (called a "Fly 40"):
  • Place a cone at the starting line, at 20metres, at 60 metres and at 80 metres.
  • Accelerate hard to the first cone (20y). Maintain the speed you have generated by running relaxed.
  • Once you hit 60 metres, slowly decelerate for the next 20 metres, coming to a full stop at the last cone.
You should look to do about 6-8. Rest interval is 5-6 minutes between each.