Sprinting is essential for athletes since their sport requires it almost all of the time.
Sprinting is also good for people that want hard workouts to lose fat and get in better shape. Track is also a sport where half of the events are pure sprints.
Many people do not know how to sprint correctly. Athletes find that they are slow and poorly conditioned and it is because they never learned technique.
If the body is not moving efficiently, then it must use a lot of energy to get the job done. Take that same amount of energy to running with good technique and that athlete is now going to run faster.
When an athlete runs like crap and also complains of having issues getting winded then we can look for how they run.
Too many athletes run like they are jogging. There is no knee drive, they are too upright, their heels are hitting the ground, and it looks like they just aren’t going anywhere.
I blame coaches that run their athletes into the ground every other practice because their kids start to pace everything. Sport coaches do not train their athletes for speed, but don’t worry they played the sport growing up so they know everything.
Making an athlete faster is actually a very simple process. Once technique is cleaned up and they realize how fast they can actually go, they will be amazed with the results. We just need to get there.
For now, we are going to focus on the first 20 yards, give or take, of sprinting. This is also called acceleration. the mechanics here are different than what happens after 20 yards.
Here are 6 technique tips for faster acceleration and sprinting.
The athlete’s torso should be about 45 degrees from the ground when they are accelerating.
At the very least, we need to think Titanic. You know the scene where the girl and Leonardo DiCaprio are at the front of the boat an he is sort of holding here. Well take that position, lean forward, and catch yourself. Your chest will be towards the ground and you are most likely in a good forward lean position.
High Arch Foot Strike
Too many athletes run on their heels.
It makes them slow and contributes to shin splints, two epidemics of today’s athletes. If you are trying to run fast and pounding your heels into the ground, then that is a lot of impact on the lower leg.
Instead, athletes should sprint on the high arch of the foot, or the front half. Some also say drive through the mid foot. Important: this does not mean run on the toes. Run on the front half of the foot.
Slow and “unconditioned” athletes also run with a really shallow knee drive. Nick Winkelman works with athletes for the NFL combine each offseason. He says that athletes should run like they are in knee high grass.
In short get those knees up. Watch the sprinters in the Olympics. Big time knee drive and big time speed.
It might feel uncomfortable or awkward at first, but that is a good thing. Making changes should feel different and weird.
Push the Ground Away
This is a good way to get athletes to propel themselves forward. We see this in the good that looks like he is moving really fast but not actually going anywhere.
Athletes must extend the back leg, powerfully, to push themselves forward. This is an advanced cue for athletes that have the other aspects figured out already. It is also a game changer in terms of increasing speed.
Let the Arms Go
Athletes are really tense when they run. They do not just let their arms swing freely. Its almost like they are a T Rex going down the field.
They need to relax. The arms will swing on their own as long as the athlete lets them.
Alternatively, the arms should not come across the body. They should be going forward and backward. In advanced athletes that do not run with tension, they should actively swing the arms forward and backward.
It will help increase speed and keep their efforts going forward and backward instead of side to side.
Go, Really Fast
Here we are with a mindset shift. If I kicked a ball and said the first person that gets it doesn’t have to run today. Both athletes are going to be in an all out sprint.
Tell them to sprint as hard as they can for 15 yards and the effort is suspect.
I had one athlete shave 0.5 seconds off of a 20 yd dash just by telling her to run faster after every attempt.
Most athletes are holding back so we need to find a way to get them to go all out for sprint training.
This can be talking to them, have them chase something, or have them get chased without getting caught.