Improve your sprinting speed
Nigel Hetherington explains how to improve your sprinting speed
Keeping it simple while being effective is the challenge with developing most fitness components and improving sprinting speed is no exception to this. Breaking things down into a series of manageable chunks usually makes things easier. For sprinting we might consider a logical order for progression to be:
Correct running (striding)
The initial priority is to ensure correct sprinting while remaining almost upright otherwise all training sessions will only serve to further ingrain any lack of technique. Developing a technique that is optimal for the athlete may take a long time but is crucial for maintenance of top speed. In some cases we may have to 'fix' poor points, even undo some long-established habits - this can require 'neural remodelling' as well as the more obvious physical development and we must be persistent and patient. Energy systems dictate that all athletes start to slow down after 5-8 seconds. Striding is about developing a sprinting action that serves to minimize energy losses and hence minimizes the inevitable speed losses.
Poor striding leads to premature loss of maximum speed attained during the acceleration phase.
The objective of acceleration is to attain maximum speed in as short a time as possible. Key elements:
Transitioning to stride
The key here is to move from a powerful forward leaning position held during acceleration through to the relaxed upright position of striding without sacrificing speed. The key to transition is 'smooth' over as fewer strides as appropriate.
This is specific to track sprinters and requires developing the best position biomechanically (for the skill) and anthropometrically (for their body) to allow the maximal and fastest drive from the blocks. Reaction and response are the key factors to move swiftly into the acceleration position.
The final piece in the sprinters armoury is to slightly modify technique in the final drive to the line - many female sprinters accomplish this with a slight quickening of tempo through shortening of action. Male sprinters often find a deliberately longer drive of the arms can work to extend the stride. Neither serve to reaccelerate only minimize speed loss. Both appear to have merits depending, not necessarily, on the gender of the athlete.
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About the Author
Nigel Hetherington is the Head Track & Field Coach at the internationally acclaimed Singapore Sports School. He is a former National Performance Development Manager for Scottish Athletics and National Sprints Coach for Wales. Qualified and highly active as a UK Athletics (UKA) level 4 performance coach in all events he has coached athletes to National and International honours in sprints, hurdles as well as a World Record holder in the Paralympic shot. He has 10 years experience as senior coach educator and assessor trainer on behalf of UKA. Nigel is also an experienced athlete in sprint (World Masters Championship level) and endurance (3-hour marathon runner plus completed the 24 hour 'Bob Graham Round' ultra-endurance event up and down 42 mountain peaks in the English Lake District). He is a chartered chemist with 26 years' experience in scientific research and publishing.
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