The primetime speed event of the year has come and gone, the 100m final at the Rio 2016 Olympics. As always, it was exciting for athletes and non-athletes alike. People who don’t sprint love the short term excitement and marvel at the incredible feat; the people who do sprint gawk at the technical refinement and get excited about pushing their own limits. The problem is, most athletes just get this feeling for a few weeks after the olympics or a few weeks before their season. This doesn’t work.
Almost every sport, with a running base at least, is built on speed. So, why don’t more people train for it?
JUST DOING IT ISN’T ENOUGH, THERE’S 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO BE DOING TO GET FASTER
What I tend to see is, people sprint, but they don’t train speed. What’s the difference? Sprinting just means running at maximum intensity (as hard as you can). This doesn’t mean you do it well (fast) though.
If you want to get faster, your training has to focus on trying to improve these 4 things…
**I like the term “coordination” but it encompasses a number of the above factors, so we will leave it out for now…
Keep reading to find out what you’re missing…
Stiffness refers to the ability to resist deformation. Every time we take a step during a sprint, we are transmitting a large amount of force into the ground. If we are able to maintain stiffness, this force is returned to our body as a whole system and will project it upward and forward down the track. If we deform (bending of foot, ankle, knee, hip, etc.) parts of this force are dissipated at certain spots up the kinetic chain, and the entire system isn’t projected the same way.
This is a trainable quality and is best developed using plyometrics and other sprint-centric drills.
This is an area of interest in the most recent sprint research, as we look to truly understand what makes the fastest different from the others. Before we get into the specifics of the elite, let’s talk about the amateur. Just the other day at a testing camp for bobsleigh I saw an athlete that was extremely strong and built like a fridge. However, he was slow, and this is not the way to become a bobsledder (think – the start of the 100m final on ice!). This wasn’t because he couldn’t put enough force into the ground, but rather the force was going in every direction possible. Feet and arms were just flailing around. This is an example of someone who just needs to learn how to consistently repeat the same stride, pushing back and down into the ground.
With the elites, as mentioned earlier, the discussion is about horizontal and vertical forces, especially as the sprint progresses. For now, let’s just say they are both important, and the specifics of getting you from 10.50 down to 10.00 can be left for a later date!
This is an interesting one since there are a few different ways to get here. This one can be enhanced in the weight room fairly simply with a variety of heavy and explosive lifting. This type of work typically shows up in the first 20m, so this is one way we often see improvements in the start. The second way is through increased stiffness. Remember that force in a foot contact is the resultant expression into the ground. A stiffer limb will always create more force, so sometimes it has nothing to do with adding new strength in the weight room, but rather improving your interaction with the ground. This type of increase in force will be apparent through every foot contact, so the whole length of the sprint.
A good example of a drill you can incorporate would be BOUNDING
This last one also has a few pieces to it. One of which is just more consistent technique, which means that each rep you do in practice is much less variable. As you settle into good sprint technique, you should be able to think less and hit similar times over and over. The second part of this is the specific endurance. This has a lot to do with the distance you will need to run later. Bobsledders, just to go back to the example earlier, constantly test and perform at 30m. This requires a lot less special endurance than a 200m runner. The key thing to remember with special endurance, is that we are always trying to lengthen out our top speed slowly over a development period, rather than settling into some comfortable pace. The fastest time wins, so don’t get too much into pacing at submaximal speeds if you don’t have to.
If you think you’re going to magically just “get faster” without working on these variables, then you’re sadly mistaken. If you’re serious about a sport and want to improve your speed, then you need to make it a priority. Get out at and hire a sprint coach today.
It’s About Getting Better!