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On the web, some articles boast solid yet somewhat unrealistic workouts in an attempt to promote fat loss and developing the posterior chain. The problem is that if you’re not able to move well, you’re already losing half the benefits right off the mark. You’re also risking injury.
As a former university level sprinter and long jumper, I’d like to think I know a thing or two about sprinting technique, especially when recommending it to a population that’s comprised of non-track athletes. Instead of diving into exercises that help make you more explosive, lets stick with the theme — technique with sprinting workout cues.
For starters, do yourself a favor and avoid what’s probably the biggest sprinting mistake in the game.
It’s a refined gauge to familiarize yourself with, but once you gain experience practicing sprints, you’ll be able to feel how fast you’re going, relative to your max effort. Treat sprinting like weight lifting. Although you know you have a tangible one-rep max, intuition and common sense will let you know if you could have squeezed out an extra rep with 80 or 90 percent of your max. Your body will tell you when there’s ‘juice left in the tank,’ and what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. If you need an idea of what percentages of your max speed should feel like, look no further.
Now that you’ve got that gauge in mind, it’s time to refine your technique. For simplicity’s sake, let’s break it into two major phases.
This is the first portion of your sprint distance where you rapidly build velocity from your start. A helpful example of this phase is having it last around 15 strides — in a distance shorter than 100 meters, this phase would be brief of a few strides. In the drive phase sprinting, it’s important to keep your eyes focused on the track, barely in front of your feet. The better you become at this, the closer to the ground you’ll be able to stay — facilitating acceleration. Make sure to maintain a forward lean while pumping your arms hard. To leave the ground in a full extension, really push off your legs. Take a look at the video for an example.
The maintenance phase emphasizes exactly what it sounds like — maintaining or holding on to the max speed that you just generated from the drive phase. This is where you turn off the “jets” and coast. Your arms should be in a full, natural swing, with your knees coming up nice and high. The movement should feel effortless. Try not to place tension in any parts of your body, and keep your hands open. Your body should now be up tall, with your spine held erect. Keep your eyes focused on the destination, and let the velocity you’ve built up take care of itself. Below is an example.
To recap, sprinting fast is something you need to practice in order to refine technique. Remember this checklist the next time you hit the track and start running fast:
To instill these cues, practice these two exercises at a low tempo over 10-15 metre stretches before you run:
In both cases, use a high knee lift, a full arm swing, and tall body. Dorsiflex the toes so that you land with a straight leg down, with the weight on the ball of your foot. Think of the track being too hot to be on, so that your contact time stays short and light.