This article is guest blogged by Jim Hiserman, author of the books Program Design Method for Sprints & Hurdle Training and Strength and Power for Maximum Speed.
This is a 5 part series:
Part 1 – A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength & Power, Core Strength, and Maximum Sprint Speed.
Part 2 – A Sprint & Hurdles Program Design Overview
Part 3 – Training for Development of Maximum Speed
Part 4 – Basic and Advanced Technical Models, including Proper Execution of Key Drills
Part 5 – Speed throughout the Training Year
Part 4 – Basic and Advanced Technical Models for Sprinting
BASIC TECHNICAL MODEL
The basic technical model should emphasize the following mechanical points:
- Upright posture with hips tall,
- Knee lift with dorsi-flexed foot (negative angle between the foot and shin),
- "Grab back" motion of heel after knee lift has brought the dorsi-flexed ankle over
the opposite knee,
- Heel to butt motion, after contact with the ground, emphasizing dorsi-flexion of the ankle. It should be noted that flexion of the knee and dorsi-flexion of the ankle will speed up the flexion at the hip. This serves to increase the velocity of the recovery leg by emphasizing keeping the levers of the recovery leg short.
The basic technical model begins with the proper execution of three basic drills. These are: "A" Skips, Butt-Kickers and Ankling.
Emphasize: 1) bringing the toe, heel, and knee up, 2) Stepping over the opposite knee, 3) Grabbing back forcefully with the heel while keeping the ankle dorsi-flexed.
Emphasizing high "negative" foot speed and "heeling" into the track prepares the foot for a proper attack from a dorsi-flexed foot. It is important to remember that the "ground phase" quality is determined by the ground preparation phase.
1) running with the toes curled up towards the shin (dorsi-flexed),
2) keeping the ankle dorsi-flexed at contact and immediately after lift-off from the ground, 3) complete plantar (roll off big toe with toes pointed down) flexion of the ankle while in contact with ground. Acquisition of the “ankling” skill will prevent athletes from landing on the toes (plantar-flexed ankle). It is important to note that landing on the toes causes: 1) less knee flexion and 2) anterior tibial (shin) pain. A plantar flexed landing in front of the center of mass can cause achilles tendon and shin pain.
Butt-kickers: Emphasize: 1) keeping the ankle dorsi-flexed. 2) Bringing the heel all the way up to the butt. 3) Keeping the levers as short as possible.
The folding of the heel up to the butt is the key! Coaches should not allow athletes to do more difficult sprint drills until Ankling, Butt-kickers, and "A" Skips have been perfected at high speeds.
Upon perfection of the basic technical model, development of advanced strength and power and advanced drills should be introduced to begin the programming of the Advanced Technical Model.
ADVANCED TECHNICAL MODEL
The Advanced Technical Model emphasizes the same components of the Basic Technical Model with the addition of the following points:
- The swing leg knee should be even or in front of the support leg as the support leg hits the ground.
- The athlete must land on a support leg that is closer to the athlete’s center of mass while extending the hip and pulling the foot backwards against the track. This requires advanced levels of strength and power in order to keep the hip and knee from collapsing at impact.
- Upon landing in the support phase the athlete should keep the hip extending against the track to keep the hip from collapsing.
It must be remembered that "high technical quality" of the support or ground phase is determined by the ground preparation phase.
The determining factors required for a quality ground preparation phase are:
- The folding of the heel up to the butt after it leaves the track.
- High negative foot speed when heeling back into the track.
- Ankle that is dorsiflexed upon ground contact.
The cyclical nature of sprinting dictates that each phase relies on the preceding phase. Therefore, it should be noted that the quality of force application during the ground phase enhances the recovery or swing phase. This, in turn, enhances the preparation phase that makes it possible for application of quality force at the ground phase.
Elite sprinters produce a higher foot velocity at touch down, landing closer to the center of mass, but do NOT get maximum extension at takeoff. This results in a more frequent force application with a decrease in ground support time. A properly dorsi-flexed foot at touchdown can maximize force application by taking advantage of the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC). There is a high correlation between the ankle joint stiffness and contact time at all running speeds which serves to point out the relevance of high ankle joint stiffness in aiding the athlete to create the greatest possible impulse (force x time) during the ground contact phase.
In order to increase the maximum speed of sprinters it is necessary to develop the explosive and elastic strength necessary for greater force application in a shorter amount of ground contact time.
The slight lowering of the body at impact causes an “eccentric” contraction in the muscles that surround the hip, knee and ankle that, in turn, keep the body from collapsing and provide the “pre-stretch” vital for the quickest application of force. It is extremely important to develop the “eccentric” strength in order to maintain stride length while minimizing ground contact time.
Drills that enhance negative foot speed (the heeling back motion during the preparation phase) and work on recovery leg speed and force application should be utilized in conjunction with the basic technical drills when work on the Advanced Technical Model is emphasized.
Some basic drills to employ for the Advanced Model are:
1) Straight Leg Bounds. This drill is the best way to protect against hamstring pulls and strains. It should be used to work on high negative foot speed, proper dorsi-flexed ankle position upon contact, and high force application against the track in the shortest amount of time. Think of landing on hot coals.
2) Step-Over Running. This drill should be used to emphasize the heel-to-butt speed to upgrade recovery mechanics. Athletes should fold the foot from the ground to a position up under the butt and then step over the opposite knee as fast as possible. If done correctly it will look as if the athlete is almost running in place.
3) Sled Drags. This drill is used to increase the contractile strength/power of the hip extensors, (glutes and hamstrings) and core strength of the postural muscles that surround the pelvis. The athlete should pull weight sufficient to reduce his or her speed by no more than 10%. This sometimes amounts to about 10% of the athlete’s weight. Weight that slows the athlete down more than 10% will reduce the speed/power co-efficient necessary for correct neural firing specific to high-velocity movement.