It is a necessity for athletes to be fast in order to make it to the next level. “If you are going to play here you are going to have to be able to RUN,” David Cutcliffe, Head Football Coach at Duke University once said about changing recruiting standards for the program. Basically, if you can run fast coaches are going to notice you, but being a step slow may get you overlooked.
“What measures are kids today taking to be faster athletes? “
Well most kids stretch, do team running, and lifting and do some core work.
“Is that enough? “
Complacency, boredom, going through the motions, and not knowing how to move.
Many athletes don’t know how to run efficiently, making them more susceptible to fatiguing too quickly, muscle imbalances and injury.
1. Forward mechanics. In the first 10-15 yards of a sprint, you are in the acceleration phase of your sprint. In order to get to top speed as fast as possible you need to be leaning at a 45° angle (red line in picture) to start. This lean must come from your hips and not from your back. A good way to work on this part of a sprint is to do 20 yard hill sprints (the green line in the picture).
This forces you into a forward lean and promotes a proper knee drive. The more you can drive the knee up the more force you can apply to the ground which will propel you forward at a faster rate as long as you are at a 45° lean. An athlete must also have a strong arm drive. As a general rule, try to keep elbows bent at a 90° angle and pivot from your shoulders (as shown in both pictures). Athletes should be careful to not run with "anchors". An anchor is anything an athlete does to hinder their forward mechanics. Examples of anchors can be running with your head back, having a large posterior kick with a small knee drive and having a large posterior arm drive with little to no forward arm drive, usually occurring from the elbow and not the shoulder.
2. Running on the balls of your feet. If you are about to run a 30, 40 or even a 60 and your heels are hitting the ground. You are slow. If this is happening in the first 10-15 yards then you are really slow. This does not mean you should run on your toes, it does mean that you need to keep your heels off the ground. A sprint is a pushing motion and running on the balls of your feet promotes this motion. If an athlete’s heels are hitting the ground they are more than likely reaching too far out in front of them and pulling their body through the run. Also being on the balls of your feet limits ground contact time and promotes force into the ground propelling the body forward.
3. Are you stretching enough? Force production is the key to speed. In order to have an opportunity to apply great force into the ground, you must have great range of motion. If an athlete’s hips are tight, it will hinder their ability to perform a knee drive capable of applying maximal force and hinder the ability to stride efficiently (6 steps in the first 10 yards). Athletes must also be flexible enough to handle the stress of sprinting on their muscles. Stretching the hamstrings, hip flexors and hip rotators can decrease the risk of hamstring and groin pulls.
Attention to detail often separates good athletes from great athletes. Follow these three tips to work on your speed and you will see the benefits.