Toys!

Damn, I think it was even colder out this weekend than last.  I’m a trooper, though – notice the fixie in the background of the picture  🙂   I must say, though, that this workout was rather abbreviated.  I began with some ballistics, dynamic stretching, sprint starts and approximately 50 shoulder dislocates to get in the groove.  Then:

  1. 8 x “flying” 100s.  Approximately 2 minutes between sprints.  “Flying” = a 10 to 15 yrd. “run in” or “bounding” start – as opposed to a dead or block start.  For me, this is a cold weather/muscle pull precaution.

I then went into a sled drag/muscle-up/prime-time combo.  I didn’t keep track of reps and such in this combo.  I alternated drags and prime-times with muscle-ups in groups of 3s & 5s until I missed, then when back to the drags and prime-times.  About 3 rounds or so of that.

For me to explain why I performed the sled drags the way I did – in an upright, straight-legged, marching motion – we need to first consider the sub-components comprising any sprint over, say, 10 meters or so.  Now entire careers can be (and, in fact have been) built upon analyzing the sprint, and what I’m going here is simply throwing out the rudimentary core components.  Those basic components are:

  • Reaction Time
  • Block Clearance
  • Drive Phase
  • Transition
  • Maximum Velocity
  • Maintenance
  • Negative Acceleration

Now, most folks would assume that sled drags should be done with a hard lean-in, approximating the position of the first few steps out of the blocks (a “prowler” type motion could be substituted here as well) – and, properly prescribed, this can certainly be a good idea.  However, the bulk of most sprinting is done in the post-transition phase, i.e., in an upright position, and the inability of an athlete to maintain power production in this position is what ultimately limits the athlete’s sprint time.  In fact, I believe this is the most overlooked aspect of bettering sprint performance with athletes not directly involved in track & field.  Most strength and conditioning programs fixate on the initial few steps of the sprint – which is no doubt important – however, to fixate on this aspect is to leave lots of potential speed as just that – unrealized potential, left on the table.

I know that some S&C coaches prefer to perform this motion like this, however, I prefer to employ more of an exaggerated, fascist goosestep motion.  In other words, I reach out with a nearly locked knee, pulling through and as far back as possible with the heel, toeing-off only at the last possible moment.  And I concentrate on one leg at a time – for instance, 10 reps left, followed by 10 reps right.   Again, I apologize for not having video of this…someday, I promise!  “Prime-times” are the ballistic, bodyweight version of this motion, done for speed and per-step distance, with the only technique difference being that I remain on the balls of the foot throughout, with no heel strike.

All of this talk brings up an interesting point of discussion.  Is developing vertical or horizontal force application (power) more important in bettering one’s sprinting ability?This black/white, either/or argument is rampant among strength and conditioning coaches.  The fact of the matter is (my opinion, of course) that both forces are obviously important, and the question as to which which one is “most” important is simply an exercise in minutia quibbling.  Improve strength and power in all of the applicable vectors; hell, it’s not all that difficult.  Just don’t fixate on one aspect at the expense of another.

For a little more on the topic, see this EliteTrack post.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! I like how cerebral you site is. Thanks and keep up the thought provoking articles.

    I don’t have a track background in track, so quick question in terms of sprints. In terms of power, are you talking about “pushing” off the ground? I used to do this, but I started to get feet problems.

    I’ve been running the “pose” method for the last couple of years with emphases on “lifting’ instead of pushing. I know this method is quite effective for long distance running, but how does this apply to sprinting? Also, you talk about “knees” high and a marching motion when sprinting. Isn’t this motion unnatural? The only runner I’ve remember that ran like this was the great Rodger Craig of the 49ners.

    Thanks for reading my questions. Any ideas would be greatly appreicated!

    • This is an exaggerated movement meant to more fully engage the glutes/hams. Also, it’s a goose-step as opposed to a high-knee step. Post acceleration transition, there is (in a good sprinter) more of a pull/paw-back leg motion vs the “push” motion indicative of the first few strides out of the blocks. Now at this point the foot/ankle/Achilles actually are together acting more as a spring in opposition to ground forces, so this paw-back motion is more an optical illusion than anything else, but it does illustrate the proper motion/technique. Sprint times are largely dependent upon minimizing ground contact times and maximizing force application (increased power), both of which deteriorate greatly when a “push” technique is employed.

      I’ve heard good things about the POSE technique for distance work. Distance running and sprinting are two totally different animals though, and I’m the least qualified person to speak to concerning distance work 🙂

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