Glen Mills on the Different Phases of the 100 meter Sprint

Every 100 meter sprinter is different.  But when you have a 6 foot 5 inch sprinter on your roster, who happens to be fast and comes from a 200/400 background, well… good things happen.

Tom Tellez broke down what he thought were the 5 phases of a 100 meter sprint:

  1. Reaction Time
  2. Block Clearance
  3. Speed of Efficient Acceleration
  4. Maintenance of Maximum Velocity
  5. Lessened Degree of Deceleration

John Smith of HSI prefers 7 phases, which is very similar to Tellez:

  1. Reaction Time
  2. Block Clearance
  3. Drive Phase
  4. Transition
  5. Maximum Velocity
  6. Maintenance
  7. Negative Acceleration

The IAAF New Studies in Athletics (NSA) is one of the top 2 coaching resources out there (TrackCoach from USATF is the other one).

Last year, there was a great interview from Glen Mills, better known as Usain Bolt’s coach.  Here is a snippet related to the different phases of a 100 meter sprint from the interview:


NSA: To what extent must an athlete’s technique adapt to the different phases of the race?
MILLS: The techniques for starting, for the drive phase, for the transition from the drive phase to acceleration, for maintaining top speed and then for reducing the effects of deceleration are different. The athlete must be able to adjust the technique to the different phases without loss of time. If, for example, when the athlete switches coming out of the drive phase into the acceleration phase and the technique is not correct he can lose significant momentum. Even if he was in a striking position during the drive phase, you will see the field leave him and then he will have to spend time to develop the momentum to get back to top speed and into the race. In the 100m, athletes usually run out of time when something like this happens.

NSA: How do you distinguish between the different race phases? What is their approximate ratio?
MILLS: I approach it according to the individual. The athlete himself and his strengths and weaknesses determine the length of the different phases. For instance, the length of the drive phase is affected by how much strength the athlete has to stay in the crouch position while developing maximum power. If the athlete does not have the strength to carry the drive phase long enough then it has to be aborted so he can go into the transition earlier.

If he is strong, like an Asafa Powell, and has an effective technique, he can carry this phase very long. I adjust the phases to suit the athlete’s strong and weak points, whether he is an explosive runner from the blocks or one with better top-end speed. If, for example, you were to say that the drive phase is 25m and stick to it then you would have problems with an athlete who may have a variation.

Certainly an athlete with good top-­end speed can use a shorter drive phase, because the chances are he develops top speed later and will be able to maintain maximum velocity longer in the last third of the race than the explosive starter. Of course, if the athlete has deficiencies in various areas then you have to correct them while you adjust the race phases, but you cannot adapt him to a phase that he is not able to execute.

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