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Acceleration Development

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

Since high intensity sprint work involves recruiting specific
groups of muscle fibers improves the efficiency of neuromuscular
firing patterns, sprinting is taxing to the central nervous
system. Once the CNS becomes fatigued, workouts quickly lose
their effectiveness. Any type of speed work must be done with
full recovery. Generally speaking, that means approximately
one minute of rest for every 10 yards that you run. Sprinting
is a highly technical activity. Without full recovery, both
your muscles and your central nervous system 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
fully 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 degree 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 from the elbow.

  • Step
    over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground
    to create maximal force.

Don’t 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.

Get Vertical!

At the beginning of your training season acceleration work is
used. You can’t be efficient running longer distances without
getting the proper strength levels and neuromuscular efficiency
of the shorter intervals. As your athletes get stronger, you
can extend out the acceleration distances. You want your athletes
to be driving out as far as possible. The stronger the athlete
is the further the acceleration phase will be and will set-up
the athletes’ top speed better later on.

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 degree angle to the ground and step over
the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to
create maximal force.

Horizontal to Vertical

Some athletes aren’t
strong enough to hold and maintain that ideal drive phase.
So, you must trick the athlete’s body
and make it so that they have to get into the right position.

Start your acceleration work on the ground and work your way
up. In order to put the athletes in the best mechanical position,
even without great strength levels, athletes will start with
short intervals, in a horizontal position. As the athletes get
stronger, the acceleration intervals are lengthened and/or the
starting positions are more vertical.


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