Sprinting is a skill. Doing it well takes practice.
You can get better at it, or make others better at it, simply by changing the way you use
your muscles. The primary ‘running muscles’ are the glutes and
hamstrings. So it is critical that athletes learn to employ those
muscle groups when performing speed work.
Today’s tip is one of the greatest coaching cues for improving running
mechanics and speed. I’m absolutely positive that once your athletes
apply this simple cue to their running, they will immediately get faster.
Today’s Speed Cue: “Step over, drive down”
When doing any type of speed work, it is critical that your athletes learn to step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground so that it lands underneath the hips with each stride.
In terms of mechanics, your athletes must perform the speed drills (A march, A run, A skip, Fast Leg, Arm Action drills) that reinforce the ‘step over, drive down’ principle. The purpose behind having them perform these drills and exercises is to reprogram their neuromuscular
system to fire the muscles in the patterns that produce greater force and therefore greater speed.
Most athletes have never been taught to run the right way so they are very inefficient.
A major problem affecting the vast majority of inexperienced athletes is called ‘reaching’. This occurs during the recovery phase of running when an athlete allows the foot to travel out past the opposite knee. The result is that the athlete’s foot reaches and lands out past their
center of mass causing a breaking action.
Watch your athletes when they practice or go watch some film of them competing. As they run, check or pause the video as soon as their foot touches the ground. If it is out past their hips instead of directly underneath the hips, they are ‘reaching’ and running considerably
slower than they are capable.
Additionally, they are placing great stress on their hamstring because the muscle is not working in the way it is meant to. So if you are seeing hamstring pulls, lower back problems, calf and/or achilles strains in your athletes, especially as the season wears on, there is a good chance that part of the problem stems from poor running mechanics.
One way to start to fix this problem is by applying today’s Speed tip. By giving your athletes cues to think about during practice, they will begin to reprogram their movement patterns and immediately get faster.
For example, to fix the reaching problem (which I can assure you your athletes have) cue them to ‘step over the opposite knee and drive down.’
Greater speeds are produced by applying more force to the ground. By learning to drive the foot straight down, landing underneath the hips, athletes will make the most of their existing strength levels and reduce injury.
To learn more about speed development, click here: