Tom Tellez’ 5 Phases of the 100m Sprint

I mentioned the previous USATF SuperClinic in the article on Dwayne Miller, LaShawn Merrit’s coach.

Among the wealth of information provided at this clinic was a lecture and handout from Tom Tellez.

Tom Tellez requires no introduction… you can read the article Sprinting: A Biomechanical Approach Part 1 (Part 2 is here) for a detailed look at his coaching concepts and philosophy.

His handout from the clinic (PDF) is pretty sketchy, as if it has been photocopied over and over, but the overall picture of the 5 phases of the 100m sprint remains clear.

In his handout, he charts the 5 phases and the “percent contribution” to the total race.

  1. Reaction Time (1%)
  2. Block Clearance (5%)
  3. Speed of Efficient Acceleration (64%)
  4. Maintenance of Maximum Velocity (18%)
  5. Lessened Degree of Deceleration (12%)

Percent Contribution to a 100 meter race

Looking at this chart, it’s no wonder why sprint coaches elect to focus on speed and acceleration work.   But this doesn’t show the whole picture as one component can severely affect the next component.  For example, proper block clearance sets up for proper speed of efficient acceleration.

And so on.

Or, if you put too much energy and focus on the speed and acceleration phase, you will pay the price and substantially increase your deceleration phase (instead of lessened).

Below are my notes on how Tom Tellez describes the 5 Phases of the 100m Sprint

Reaction Time

Reaction time is measured by the time taken from the firing of the gun to the first muscular reaction performed by the sprinter.

A bad reaction time will produce a very different 100 meter race pattern with the sprinter rushing through the next phases!

Here is the video on how I practice reaction time.

Block Clearance

2 things come to mind.

1) You need proper biomechanics in the starting position in order to generate the greatest power to overcome inertia.

2)  The greater the force applied in driving from the starting blocks by the sprinter, the greater the initial velocity produced.

The block clearance phase sets you up for the next phase.

Speed of Efficient Acceleration

In the 40 yard dash, the athlete accelerates to maximum velocity in as short a time as possible. This also applies for the 100 meters.

However, the longer it takes the sprinter to reach maximum velocity, the greater the potential for the sprinter to
reach higher maximum velocities (which is the goal for the 100 meters, right?).  Today we are seeing athletes such as Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay reaching top speeds well beyond the “traditional” 60 meters.

The word “optimal” comes to mind, where an effective acceleration phase can produce the highest maximum velocity.

Maintenance of Maximum Velocity

Optimizing is a popular word here.

An optimal combination of stride rate, stride length and ground contact time will produce the highest top end speed.  This topic has been discussed at lengths on this Blog.

As far as posture goes, the sprinter will be in a full upright position during this phase.

Lessened Degree of Deceleration

The sprinters’ ground contact time increases with fatigue.  We’ve seen that on the article Ground Contact Time, Stride Length and Fatigue in the 400m.

Staying relaxed, and “staying tall” with a high vertical displacement are common terms.  But a lot of coaches neglect the importance (and biomechanics) of the arms and hands.  Arm action is just as important as the legs.

In John Smith’s perfect world, he would eliminate the Negative Acceleration Phase or Deceleration.  More on that later.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Efficient is the key word, but pushing harder and efficiency might not mix.
    The questions becomes how to become more efficient from the blocks to set up an efficient acceleration pattern?