In the last issue I talked about the importance of and key components
to the ‘step over drive down’ action and why it is critically important.
I can’t stress enough the fact that the ability to apply force to the
ground is developed by incorporating a number of specific, but
different training details into your program.
Again, there is no magical exercise or drill that will make everyone
an Olympic sprinter. Many of your emailed in agreeing with this
idea. Others said that it has been difficult to get old school,
‘my way or the high way’ head coaches to buy into this truth.
All the time coaches ask me for specific scientific information or
‘proof’ convince their ‘dinosaur’ colleagues of the truth about
modern speed training.
I hope that this article continues to help coaches, athletes and
parents understand the need for *more* than just rehashing
the same old program and outdated workouts year after year.
Last week I talked about the need for a complete speed training
program in order to truly take advantage of the amazing
improvements that will occur once athletes beginto step over
and drive down EFFICIENTLY.
So now it is time to talk more specifically about how to teach it
and I’m talking primarily about using drills to fix this.
Again, things like flexibility, strength training, shorthills, resistance
work, etc and and will improve the ability to apply force, but I really
emphasize technique because proper technique breeds efficiency.
Think of efficiency and technique the same way you should think of
cause and effect. They’re not separate entities but two sides of the
same coin. You can’t have one without the other.
So how do you develop it?
First, I’m a firm believe in teaching my athletes ‘why’ we do
anything. Growing up, I never particularly believed that my
coaches knew what they were doing. So there was always that
hint of distrust in my training. Of course I didn’t have the Internet
to use as a resource so I couldn’t exactly prove it.
Turns out I was right.
Nevertheless, I pride myself on being proactive in the sense that I
want athletes to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and
how it is going to make them faster. It likely stems from my own
disappointment in the way my talents were handled, but clearly it has
worked out for the greater good.
When athletes believe in their training and it makes sense to them
they are much more likely to both buy into the training but also work
out that much harder and focus that much more because they know
that everything they do is done for a specific and tangible reason.
If you don’t currently explain your training to your athletes I strongly
suggest that you start because it not only increases the work rate of
your athletes but I believe it creates a stronger more trusting
relationship with them.
As I tell my athletes at the beginning of every season and periodically
“If I cant explain to you how this or any workout will make you
better in terms that you understand and in a way that makes sense
to you, then you don’t have to do it.”
And over the years athletes have been notorious for trying to
stump me on something that I have planned for that day. Especially
on tough lactic acid workout days because as beneficial as they are,
they hurt. (And if I was a teenager I’d probably try to take a legal
way out of it if I could too!)
Being accountable to my athletes forces me to have a purpose behind
everything I do. And the fact that my athletes know that I can explain
everything to them in simple terms means they’re willing to run
through a brick wall for me.
And with some of my workouts, that analogy isn’t too far off!
Now, now how many workouts would your athletes get out of if they
got to pass on every workout you couldn’t effectively explain the
There is a reason I bring all this up.
It’s important that we understand WHY ‘step over, drive down’ is
important. As coaches, if we don’t know why it works, what it does
and why athletes are not doing it correctly, we really aren’t in a
positionto fix the problem.
And we certainly can’t develop the ability to create independent
methods of fixing the various technical problems and skill
development roadblocks that different athletes are sure to face.
The simple truth is, athletes aren’t doing it when they run.
They have never been taught how to run correctly.
Part of that stems from the ideas they’ve been given about
running and even the use of drills that they have seen in the past.
So in order to explain everything the first thing I want to do is describe
what ‘step over, drive down’ should look like.
And again, as with every description that I go over in the rest of this
article, seeing it done of video is a much more efficient and accurate
method of learning, seeing and teaching this concept. And it is
explained with greater depth and scope in the complete speed
Here is what I mean by step over drive down.
Its important that you visualize what I am describing here, though
for the sake of keeping things fairly simple since this is a written
description, I will not get overly technical by discussing the details
of what each muscle is doing at each point of movement or explain
the role of angular velocity, inertia, etc.
We’ll start with the athlete’s right leg (support leg) being on the
ground with the support foot directly underneath the center of mass
(CoM) or for our purposes, the hips. The active or swing leg is
‘trailing’ behind the center of mass (the hips). Recover the active
leg/foot by contracting the stretched hip flexors. This aids in the
forward and upward swing of the active leg and also puts the leg
in a better position to apply force at the next ground contact. At the
same time this is taking place, athletes must also dorsiflex the active
foot at the ankle (pull the toe up toward the shin).
Pulling the active leg foot up and under the hips, the ankle should
pass ABOVE the knee of the support leg.
This is where we need to pause because it’s the point where things
really start to fall apart for many young athletes. Weak,
uncoordinated, inflexible and/or inefficient athletes see major
breakdowns in form because they don’t ‘step OVER’ the opposite
Instead the active ankle swings out below the knee, where it
continues to travel out past the CoM where it flops, drops or
collapses onto the ground out in front of the CoM, the kiss of death
for faster running.
I call it ‘falling forward’ instead of sprinting because when you
watch an athlete from the side (or slow them down on video) it
looks like they are simply trying not to fall down with each step
forward the same way someone who has just tripped slams their
foot out in front of them to keep from falling.
Remember that the more time an athlete spends on the ground
when running, the slower they are going. This is another reason
why athletes who run flatfooted or land heel first can never and
will never be fast using that method.
So that is why it is critical that the first thing athletes learn and
train their bodies to do is to recover that active leg ankle up and
OVER the support leg knee. And that requires a specific
progression of drills that I need to explain to you.
’ll get to that once I finish explaining running mechanics.
Now, as soon as the active ankle passes over the support knee,
it is time for the ‘drive down’ phase. Here the active leg thigh is
decelerated. The leg begins to open up at the knee and extension
begins at the hip.
But remember, and this is of critical importance because athletes
WILL make this mistake:
Extension is due to the transfer of momentum not reaching by
kicking that ankle outward or contracting the quadriceps.
Athletes should not look like they are goose stepping, trying to
kick in a door or going over a hurdle as the active foot clears the
support knee. Instead the foot should cycle over the knee, open
up and then explode back down into the ground landing, generally,
underneath the CoM.
During acceleration the foot should land directly beneath if not
slightly behind the CoM, while at full speed the foot should land
slightly in front of the hips. And by slightly I mean no more than
one-foot length in front of the support foot.
Once athletes retrain their neuro muscular systems to operate
efficiently in this strict pattern of movement, they will be able to
truly take advantage of the strength, flexibility, coordination,
power, etc. they have been actively developing in the rest of their
complete speed training program.
But in order to ensure athletes are able to learn this technique,
they must use a proven drill progression. As an athlete who
struggled with this very concept I have spend years learning
through trial and error. First for myself and then to teach all
my athletes the most effective drill progression for quickly and
effectively teaching perfect running form based on the ‘step over,
drive down’ concept.
And one of the first things I learned, both conceptually and
experientially, is that some speed drills continue to reinforce
bad running form and mechanics. They should be immediately
eliminated from every athlete’s warm up or drill progression.
They should never be used at all, quite frankly.
And I’ll tell you exactly which drills you should never use, as
well as outline my proven drill progression in next week’s
Complete Speed Training Newsletter.
After reading my description of the ‘step over, drive down’
technique, you can understand just how powerful a teaching
and training tool this can be when you have it on video,
demonstrated with perfect technique by accomplished athletes.
Combined with an extraordinary amount of clear, easy to
understand techniques for every element of training required
to improve an athlete’s ability to apply more force to the ground
and run faster, how good will your athletes be when you have
the ability to turn all of their weaknesses into strengths?
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