The 100 meters can be broken down into 3 parts:
- reaction time,
- acceleration to top speed,
- speed endurance,
If you take Usain Bolt’s 9.69 time from Beijing 2008 as a percentage of time, you get:
- Reaction time = 0.165 (1.7%),
- 0-60m without reaction time = 6.155 (63.5%),
- 60-100m including celebration = 3.37 (34.8%),
The term “Acceleration”, or roughly the first 60 meters or up to 7 seconds in Elite male athletes, is commonly broken down into 4 components: strength, power, power speed, and speed. Females reach top speed sooner around 50 meters as well as intermediate or a young developing sprinter. If you plot velocity over time, you will notice that the high top end speed is a result of accelerating farther into the 100m race.
Using the Pareto’s 80-20 Rule, what would you focus on?
Two-thirds of the race is pure speed and acceleration, which is why we focus on speed sessions 2X per week, and speed endurance 1X per week.
For our 400 meter athletes, depending on the athlete, we prefer 2X per week speed sessions, and speed endurance 1X per week early in the annual plan, but shift that to 2X per week speed endurance, and speed 1X per week for race specificity usually around April.
So, how do you practice reaction time without doing too many starts using blocks?
How to Practice Reaction Time (but please don’t over do it)
I’m not saying reaction time, or practicing reaction time is not important. How much, and when to do it are my two biggest concerns.
I’ve seen coaches practice endless reaction drills to their athlete prior to a race in the warm up area. One or two is fine, but 30 minutes of reaction time drills and starts is way to much.
The drill I’m going to describe is not as destructive on the legs as doing real blocks. It simply practices the reaction time, and possibly getting familiar with the rhythm of the starter’s command. Of course, you should never try to cheat and anticipate the gun. Always REACT to the gun. Do not LISTEN to the gun.
If I have the luxury, I take advantage of the prior heat IF you have access to the competition area, and do a “practice start”. Of course, the Olympic final is impossible. Some sprinters fuss about their block positions, but if you bring a tape measure, you are always guaranteed the right settings. And besides, they won’t start the race without you if your blocks aren’t ready.
In the WMA2007, you can see me do a practice start just for the reaction drill. I call this the standing pike drill.
I am inside and back of Lane 1, standing in Lane 8, dressed in all black. Dressing in black helps keep me warm. I am bent over in a standing pike position, and I react to the the starter’s commands and the sound of the gun. Unlike a real start, no leg movements are used. That’s it. I flick my left hand and arm forward, and my right arm reacts with a swing in the opposite direction. All my energy is saved for the actual race.
Video of Heat 5 – prior to my race.
While I get a terrible start according to my standards in my race (Heat 6, Lane 6), the point I’m trying to make is to simply use the preceding heat to practice your reaction time (Heat 5) with the starter’s commands. Especially when the commands are not in English!
That’s it. Only one practice start, and I saved my legs for the race.
Video of Heat 6 – my race.
I’m not terribly impressed with the race, but considering my PB as an open athlete is 10.92, running a 11.95 16 years later at the age of 44 isn’t bad either.