Sports Coach Logo

website Translator

            topics

site search facility

 

 

 

 


Speed

How to Increase Your Speed - Acceleration

In the last of this issue's articles on speed development, Patrick Beith explains how to accelerate effectively and efficiently

Speed is a product of stride length (the distance your feet 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.

High intensity sprint work involves recruiting specific groups of muscle fibres and improves the efficiency of neuromuscular firing patterns. Sprinting is taxing to the central nervous system (CNS) and once the CNS becomes fatigued, workouts quickly lose their effectiveness. Any type of speed work must be done with full recovery - approximately one minute of rest for every 10 metres that you run. Sprinting is a highly technical activity.

Without full recovery, both your muscles and your CNS 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 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° angle to the ground
  • Keep the heel recovery low during the first 6-8 strides
  • Drive the elbows down and back. Keep the hands loose, but not open
  • Arms should remain at approximately 90 degrees at the elbow
  • Step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximal force
  • Do not 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° angle to the ground, step over the opposite knee, and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximal force.

Acceleration work should be used at the beginning of your training season. You cannot be efficient running longer distances without getting the proper strength levels and neuromuscular efficiency off the shorter intervals. You want to be driving out as far as possible so the stronger you are the further the acceleration phase will be which in turn will improve your top speed.


Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • BETH, P. (2006) How to Increase Your Speed - Acceleration. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 38/ December), p. 8-9

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • BETH, P. (2006) How to Increase Your Speed - Acceleration [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni38a5.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Patrick Beth is a co-owner of Athletes' Acceleration, Inc, a company devoted to performance enhancement whose mission is to improve the knowledge base of motivated coaches and athletes in order to improve athletic performance. He is a Performance Consultant certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS), the American Council of Sports Medicine (HFI), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES) and is a USA track and Field Level II Coach in the Sprints, Hurdles and Jumps.

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: