Complete Speed Training

Acceleration Speed Training - Proper Running Mechanics

Now as the athlete begins to rock forward, there are three specific things we need to see our sprinters do before their back leg or their quick side leg ever touches the ground.

The first thing we want to see the athlete do is swing and drive the lead arm up.  So in this case that's going to be the left arm.  It's going to be the arm of the front leg.


The second thing we want to see athletes do is get triple extension on the drive leg or the front leg – the left leg in this case – at the ankle, knee, and hip as the athlete toes off.  And as you can see here, that athlete has fully extended.  So there's no bend in the knee, there's no little bend at the waist.

And the third thing is that the athlete comes out at a 45-degree angle to the ground.  So if we were to draw a line from the back of her heel through her hip and the back of her head, that would be at a 45-degree angle.  And as you can see here, she's got a pretty good straight line through that angle.  The head's a little bit down, but generally she's got a good 45-degree angle as she comes through.

It's critical that we have these three things in place for a number of reasons.  Driving the lead arm up allows the athlete to get triple extension off their drive leg.  If the athlete only flicks that front leg arm, that left arm, up, that right leg is going to hit the ground right away.  They're not going to get good push off the ground or out of the blocks.  The first step is going to come down quickly, and they're not going to set themselves up for a good drive phase.

So it's critical that that athlete drive that lead arm up which helps athletes get that triple extension.  So the first thing that I begin cueing athletes when they come out of an acceleration position is to get that lead arm up.  As you can see, getting the lead arm up allows the triple extension off the left leg.  As that leg extends, that allows the free leg or the swing leg, the right leg, to get good clearance from the ground or from the blocks and allows your sprinter to get a good big first step out of the blocks and maximize all the gains you've been trying to do in the weight room.

We need to get triple extension in the power leg before the swing leg hits the ground.  We've been spending all our time doing plyos and lifts in the weight room, trying to get extension, Olympic lifts.  We need to take advantage of that now as far as our practical application is concerned.  So these are the things we need to focus on right away.  And as you'll see in later clips, this is a lot easier said than done for a lot of your athletes.

We have to cue our athletes to come out at that 45-degree angle because that sets your sprinters up for the optimal drive phase or optimal acceleration position.  If the athlete comes out lower than 45 degrees and that straight line from the ankle through the head, then they're going to fall forward.  And they're not going to be able to handle that; they're not strong enough.  And if they come out at an angle that's higher than 45 degrees, they're just going to pop straight up from the athletic position, they're going to pop straight up out of the blocks, and they're going to grind through the gears too quickly and reach a false top speed too early.

So 45 degrees as they come out is the optimal angle coming out of the blocks or out of your acceleration position if you want to set yourself up for the best possible start or acceleration, whether it's out of the blocks, in a workout, in a relay, whatever the case may be.  So this is the position your athletes need to be in before that leg hits the ground, just like that is right there.

Now if we can get the athlete in that position as they begin their acceleration work, we can transition to the next phase of acceleration development.  So as she rolls forward out of this position, we really have to cue the athlete once she gets that lead arm up to drive the arms aggressively down and back behind here.  Because the arms and legs work in concert with each other, the more aggressive the athlete is with the arms, the more force she's going to be able to apply to the ground.

And so simultaneously with the arms, the athlete also has to drive the feet hard down into the ground.  You want to cue your athletes to pump their legs like pistons.  We're not really stepping over, driving down so much in the acceleration portion.  That's more of a top speed cue.  But we want our feet to be more like pistons.  We want to drive our feet down and back.  When you look at this athlete as she sprints, you can see the feet driving down and back toward her hips.  As the foot comes out in front of the hips and she comes out, the feet come down and back pushing the ground away behind her.  See, as you see the foot, it's not landing out in front of her hips or coming straight down.  You can see that foot coming back, and that's how she gets force, overcomes inertia, and gets her body accelerating down the track.

The next thing we want to talk about with our athletes is to make sure that they toe off with the feet behind the hips.  And that comes back to what I just talked about with driving the feet down and back as opposed to straight down during acceleration.  You can see here with the toe off taking place behind the hips what you want to cue your athletes to do is leave the foot on the ground behind you.  Why?  During acceleration ground contact time, the amount of time the feet spend on the ground, should go from long to short meaning they should spend more time on the ground earlier during acceleration and spend subsequently less time on the ground as the athlete picks up in velocity.

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Now athletes oftentimes do what I call spin their wheels.  So they're trying to get their turn over going quickly, trying to increase their stride frequency, and if anything, increase their stride length by taking bigger strides.  What we want to do is have athletes drive the foot down into the ground and let the foot stay on the ground as long as possible in order to take advantage of the things that we're doing in the weight room in terms of plyos and squats and dead lifts, Olympic lifts, etc.

So it's extremely important that your athletes drive the feet down into the ground and not focus on increasing stride frequency or turn over or increasing stride length by taking bigger strides.  Because remember, stride length, the amount of distance the hips travel in a stride, and stride frequency, the number of steps you take in a given period of time, are byproducts of force application.  They are not things we train in and of themselves.  We don't coach faster turn over.  We don't coach longer strides.  We coach force application which, in turn, creates faster turn over and creates naturally longer strides.  So that's something that's very important that we keep in mind that is a byproduct of force application, not training qualities that we focus on in and of themselves.

The final thing that we need to talk about in terms of the beginning part of acceleration is heel recovery.  During acceleration heel recovery should go from low to high.  So let's take a look at the first three steps that she takes and watch the way her heels work.  With each step you can see the heel recovery is low to the ground.  That first step is low.  This next step, the swing leg on the right side's a little bit higher.  And on that third step it comes up a little bit higher as it recovers underneath her hips.  This is the proper way to accelerate.

So the cues to use with your athletes in terms of keeping low heel recovery is you want to have them think about running on hot coals.  If they were running on hot coals, they'd pull that heel up underneath their butt as quickly as possible.  However, in order to make sure that the athletes keep low heel recovery, the things that we talked about earlier all must take place.  If the athlete has too much back-side mechanics right away, all the things we talk about before now and the things we're about to talk about will not be able to happen.  And that will set us up for a lower top speed and not maximizing our ability even at our current strength levels and skill level and speed level because we haven't set ourselves up with proper acceleration.



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Speed Training | 4 Most Important Words that Improve Speed | Linear Speed Development | Summer Training for Speed | Summer Training for Speed - Part II | Speed Coach | Speed Coach of the Year | Top Speed Training | Acceleration Speed Development | Goal Setting for Speed Athletes | Speed Training Practice | New Breed of Speed Coach | Acceleration Speed Training | MOST Important  part of speed training | Strength Training for Speed and Power Athletes | Conditioning Workouts for Speed Athletes | Speed Training Conditioning



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