Kenta’ Bell on Coaching Sprint Force & Mechanics [PODCAST]

Last night I had the opportunity to listen to the teleseminar hosted by USATF-GA (Georgia).  The guest speaker was Kenta’ Bell, two time Olympian (2004, 2008) in the Triple Jump who has written several articles on this Blog.  (Click here for his past articles)

Also in attendance was S&C coach Randy Hadley and numerous other coaches. 

The Teleseminar was held at 8pm EST or 2am CEST my local time, so I was in no mood to ask questions Smile

The podcast is an hour long, but I recommend taking a look (or listen).  Download it to your iPod and listen to it while in traffic if you have to.

kenta bell triple jump

Photo credits: Getty Images © copyright

There are several “take home” pointers, including:

  • proper sprint mechanics
  • proper guidelines for strength & power development
  • the top 5 muscle groups to strength train
  • why building a bigger engine is not always the answer
  • are we training our sprinters correctly?
  • what can we do as coaches Nationally to improve as a nation?


In the podcast, he refers to his article on SpeedEndurance, which is Significance of Force Application in Max Velocity Sprinting, Part 11.

He also refers to Bud Winter’s The Rocket Sprint Start.

Kenta’ Bell TeleSeminar

Presenter: USATF GA with Kenta’ Bell
Broadcast Date: February 4, 2013
Duration: 1:08:00
File Size: 64.0 Mb


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
  • Hi Jimson,

    I have been glued to your website for a few days waiting for Kenta’s latest article as his last article was so good. I can’t find a link to down load his Podcast. Are you able to add it or have I just missed it, computers aren’t my strong point.

    Many thanks for the way in which you put things together and the depth of the articles you post. Your site is second to none.

    Kind regards

    • @Chris, on the orange box above, it says “download”:

      USATF-GA with Kenta Bell [1:08:00] Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download

        • @Ian, thanks, we need more of these discussions to help the other coaches out there. We’d love to get Innocent Egbunike’s podcast here as well, being a sprinter and 400m site (hence the name speed endurance)!

          • Innocent Egbunike was an outstanding 400m & 200m Athlete for Nigeria/Africa. He was one of those athlete we grew up watching on the TV, followed by Mary Onyali, and the others. I bet he probably turned out to be a very good Coach. Therefore, he’s input would be a great addition to the forum podcast community.

  • Great podcast. I never thought about using a broomstick to teach posture and sprint mechanics but it’s definitely a very good idea.

  • I can see how there might be some benefits to this running without the arms idea. I would just be worried about creating unwanted movement patterns. If you spend a lot of time running without the use of your arms which are used to primarily counter the movement of the hips and legs then couldn’t that result in some unwanted rotations going on?

    • If for any reason it creates “unwanted” rotation, then you have potentionally identified another area of concern: weak core and rotational stabilizers. When watching your most efficient runners there is minimum rotation, if any, thru the trunk, this is not simply because of the use of the arms but a strong core (including the postural region).
      What taking the arms out does do, is allow you to see the body in multiple different planes and identify those potential areas of concern.

      • Your arms counter the rotation of your hips (which do rotate and need to in order to sprint effectively) so if you take them out of the picture then you are teaching your self to run slower because you are…running slower. You will also have have more rotations going on because your arms can’t counter, but that doesn’t mean your core is weak necessarily.

        • @Everyone, these are all great discussion points. I plan on having a weekly teleseminar/Radio show very soon and it might be easier to have questions like these (instead of back and forth comments and answers).

          I think this will be the best time format: Every Wednesday at 9am PST, Noon EST. 5pm BST, and 6pm Central Europe time (me!). I hope this works out for everyone, though Sydney/Melbourne Australia is at 4am! We may have to change that one on occasion!

  • Wonderful podcast with great explanation. More like this please.

    I am no expert but a raw Master Athlete still trying to learn the trade; yet i have to commend Jimson, Kenta Bell and others involved for such an insight into Speed, Power and Performance just through bounding, skip ropes (this i naturally love doing anyway) and jump ropes. I have been attending weekly pilates so as to work on my core.
    I am beginning to understand what Kenta Bell is saying, putting it into practice by using the right personnel who agrees with Kenta’s philosophy…could be the challenge.

    I like the broom-stick exercise. We should give it a try – there’s got to be benefits.

    Has Kenta got video clips of these exercises? This could do us the power of good. As i’m a visual person, i would very much love to watch the actions he’s talking about. I’m certain that Coaches and Athletes would like to purchase them. I would! Jimson, any thoughts on that?

    Are other coaches alike also learning from Kenta’s teaching and management style? Is Kenta’s knowledge been passed on to other coaches who might need this kind of expertise?

    Shame Kenta that i don’t live close by to your vicinity.

  • I would like to ask Jimson, Kenta and Coaches alike on how you train Master Athletes. What would you do, introduce or implement that would help Masters Athletes to get better. The same methods as teaching kids? If it differs, then may be occasional articles or materials on coaching Master or Older athletes could be of great assistance. We all discuss and share about youth development.

    Please advise accordingly

    • @Manny, I’ll write a separate article for Masters training, but from my experience it’s (1) Recovery and injuries and (2) Volume and injuries. Once you get injured, your season is finished, unless you want to compete and risk further injury. I would train hard every 3 days.

    • @Manny. I trained one Master athlete very successfully on the 400 m. I’m not an expert but the program was so successful that I feel I can share some insight with you. Of course It’s hard to tell how you should train but there are some guideline.
      0) assess your goal
      1) If your training age is big in some or many areas then you need much less training in those particular area. For example If you trained plio for 10 years then you can do much less plio. Just some refresh is more than ok.
      2)Very often you need a longer GPP phase (up to 3 months) and a shorter SPP phase. Work mobility a lot.
      3) 2-3 weeks mesocycle works better (1-2 week higher intensity+1 week recovery) than 4 weeks mesocycle with older athletes. I aslo feel that reverse loading volume maybe more suitable with older athletes.
      4) One or 2 hard training per week is ok. Most of the time just one. and at the end of the SPP you may need 2.
      5)Most plios should be on soft surfaces (Sand is great)
      6) You should make a medical assessment very often.
      7) be very careful about nutrition. Consult your physician or a dietetician.

      If you want more insight let me know.

      • To fabien

        Many thanks Fabien for your assistance. Jimson has been brilliant at telling or forwarding me notes or web links (such as Kenta Bell/Boo Schexnayder). Kenta Bell is going to forward me more videos. Also, I am reading a book written by Nick Newman ‘The Horizontal Jumps’. Boy! what a book. Now the question is – how do i use this book as an Amateur, as it’s written for the professionals. So if you have any additional information that can or would of benefit to me and other Master Athletes out there…, that would be great.

        I’m almost 41. I started athetics…and as a Master Athlete (100/200/LJ) 2 years ago this month…, also injured since may 2011. I’ve just started all over again. I run for my local club and I am still learning on how to cope with my body stress and how to manage it properly. I keep thinking i’m 20…everyday. Nice try Manny. You can check for emmanuel ogunniyi on ‘power of 10 website’ and you’ll see my results. nothing great about it.

        Like i’ve communicated to Jimson before. I am just an athlete who wants to be good and injury free…for once.

        My schedule plan thus far:
        Pilates on Tuesdays
        Track on Tuesdays/Thursdays
        TRX and plyometrics exercises – Fridays

        My email is

        I know my details would be safe with you as it has been with Jimson.

        Thanks for reading

        Jimson – many thanks for all your support via your website. I am still looking forward to you visiting England sometime. You know where i am if needed.

  • I think there are some really solid things going on in the podcast, but a few things I’d like to discuss that I don’t necessarily agree with. I don’t think we can necessarily compare the LJ/TJ approach to acceleration in the 100m. When we talk about LJ/TJ we need to be tall and fast early on so that we can use proper steering, get proper posture and get to an ideal speed etc. That being said, it takes extra energy to “rush” through your acceleration and get to that speed but it won’t negatively affect you because you are running anywhere from 20-35 meters in total. When we look at the acceleration patterns for the 100m, I think there needs to be a lot more patience when you are accelerating out and a lot of that depends on the strength of the athlete, the speed of the athlete etc. I am by no means saying you need to cue the athlete to stay down and tuck the chin because I hate when coaches cue this. I think it needs to be a smooth and progressive process like you mention later on but it still can’t be rushed, and if it is then energy is going to be wasted being upright and still trying to accelerate because it is not as bio mechanically efficient to do so. You mentioned some of the older sprinters and how there was a difference in how they accelerate vs how we accelerate now and if you look at some of the data of 10m splits, they are reaching top speed earlier on and slowing down for a longer portion of the race than some of the top guys are now. If you look at splits from Gay and Bolt they are pushing there acceleration out longer but still being smooth and progressive with body positions and then they are essentially having more energy for the later part of the race. Whether this is because of coaching improvements or PED’s is still under question but it still needs to be mentioned. And with your regards to the Jamaicans and the rocket start, I think Asafa Powell attempts to do more of a stay down and tuck the chin (at least on practice videos).
    You also mention after your acceleration you see people stand tall like a drum major and get high knees and how they won’t be going anywhere. What would you like to see them doing then? I think you’d want to see very good posture like a drum major and you’d want to see good front side mechanics so that you can apply for down into the track but you seem to be saying that’s not what you’d like to see?
    You talk about athletes wanting to run fast in the december and if they are then it is a bad thing and how strength training shouldn’t necessarily be done in the fall. I have to disagree with some of what you are saying. I think you can have a successful fall training and still run fast in december. If you look at the college setup and have athletes training from august straight through to NCAA, you might see some fast times in december. I am not saying you need to be doing tons of specific special endurance work and prepare to peak but I don’t think we want our athletes to run slow. I think you can still do true strength training earlier on especially at higher levels i.e. college and above, but not necessarily 6×3@90% but whats wrong with 4×6 @ 70-75%? I don’t think you should hide from strength work and have phases where you are just addressing strength endurance or whatever especially at higher levels. You also mention athletes getting into olympic lifts early and how you don’t like that. I would argue that 90% plus of college strength training starts off with some sort of olympic lift or variation of olympic lift to prepare for them. So again this depends on what level you are talking about.
    You mention athletes not doing the real running such as the 300’s the 400’s and the 30 and 45 minute runs. Who are we talking about here? And what are the benefits? I’ve never had any of my athletes do anything over 400m fast and in the fall we won’t do any repeat 300’s or 400’s or whatever you are talking about unless it’s some extensive tempo in the grass. What would be the benefits of anyone in the 400m down to the jumping events doing 30 and 45 minute runs? I think that is super old school and for a good reason. Because coaches are finding better and more efficient ways to prepare their athletes for their events. Why not do some general strength work or some medball circuits to prepare the long jumper? You can still get them fit and do exercises and work that is way more specific than slogging through a 45 minute run. This would be especially detrimental if you are trying to develop there speed which I would hope you would be trying to, even early on.
    There was also mention in here of not doing weight training with pre-pubescent athletes. I think that is another old school myth. I agree that you should be working primarily general strength, body weight, and medball work. Also I agree that you need to keep things fun. But teaching kids certain movement patterns such as a clean pull with just the bar or a squat with the bar on their back(once they are adequately strong enough to do so) then why wait? Research says there is nothing wrong with it so why are we going to avoid it?
    The last thing I want to discuss is how you mention that in the US there are too many ways to train people and how it needs to be more uniform. I think that is the beauty of the sport and other sports. There are an infinite ways to train and athlete and there should be because every athlete is different and every athlete needs different coaching cues. Obviously there are certain commonalities that should be taught and some ways are probably more scientifically correct than others but in general that is what makes the art of coaching and athletes so great. Why pigeon hole yourself into one way?

  • Very interesting podcast, thank you. Kenta makes some very insightful points. Looking at it from an athlete’s point of view, you coaches must admit that the wide variety of opinions on how to train for sprinting is hugely bewildering! I was just beginning to master the “Tom Tellez-style” start and staying low in the drive phase, when guys like Jimson and Kenta, whom I respect, start advocating the Rocket Sprint start ;-) Which is a VERY different proposition. The weight is much more forward (many coaches are anti this in principle), the hip height to head height differential is much less, the head is up in the “set” position. The shin angles are much lower than 45 degrees. The first step is deliberately longer. In short, TOTALLY different to what has become the “norm” (rightly or wrongly). My question is: Is the rocket start for everyone, or only superstrong elite athletes? Conventional wisdom suggests a lesser mortal school or college or masters athlete would fall over with the weight so far forward. Most of us struggle to not pop straight up out of the blocks, let alone master 45 degrees. Now we’re being asked to come out even lower. Kenta, you suggested that athletes are staying low and driving too long nowadays, but if you start at less than 45 degrees, isn’t it going to take even longer to reach “vertical” top speed mechanics? I thought the shin angle determines the angle at which you come out of the blocks…
    I appreciate all of you guys, it’s just very confusing when you can’t agree on the fundamentals of sprinting. I’m beginning to panic when I think about running, because with all the disparate cues I’ve picked up, I’m not sure I know how to run at all anymore!! ;-)

    • @Michael, my only advice with doing drills and cues is to aim for only ONE CUE PER DRILL. Don’t over-complicate the drill.

      The start is different for everyone. For Youth and (very old) Masters, I recommend a standing start. (Maybe the Moye block). If you pop up with blocks, it’s because you are “weak” in leg strength to get the proper angles. Or else you will flat in your face.

      • Hi Jimson thanks for your reply. I’m only 41, so not ready for the standing start just yet :-)
        I don’t think it is a strength issue per se, as I can squat and deadlift 220 pounds for 10 reps comfortably. It’s an issue of balancing weight in the set position and co-ordinating the power leg, quick side leg and arms at the gun.
        My real point was that The Rocket sprint start in it’s classic form involves very different angles and weight distribution. In the Bud Winter video clip I also noticed that all the athletes appear to bending from the waist and their backs are rounded, almost hunched in the first few steps out of the blocks. Very different from the typical 45 degree line from ankle to head in a conventional start.
        There is a tendency for people to seize on techniques and methods when elite athletes start using them. The truth is Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt would probably still be 1 and 2 in the world from any kind of start. I think the answer is to master one technique and get comfortable with it, and then work on the rest of your phases and race plan to optimise your potential.
        If we chop and change every time a credible coach sings the praises of a new (or old) method, continuity gets lost in the quest for the next magic bullet.
        I’ve followed coaches online and seen them evolve from advocating short to long to long to short, to combining both, to minimalist approach. Evolution of approach is great, but all it really shows is that there are many ways to skin a cat. For my money, avoiding injury and continuity in training over several seasons is the real answer.

        • Here’s my opinion. Concerning the start or any technique elements don’t copy what one athletes is doing. See commonalities in all top athletes is a much better method, also know some anatomy and biomechanics. First the best angle starting from a standing position is 45 degrees this is physics 101. It is the ballistic angle that give you most bang for the buck. If you look carefully most people including elite athlete go out at slighlty larger angle. Cause it demands a lot of power in the posterior chain to yield the first steps properly. It’s not because you can propulse yourself comfortably at a 45° angle that you can amortize the impact properly. So start with a 55° angle if your not sure there’s no problem with that. Moreover if your RFD is too low (no matter how strong you are) you will not take any advantage of 45° angle as you don’t have the power output. Second concerning the breaking at the waist, to me it’s a biomechanical heresy for the following reason : you cannot flex your knee enough to get in an optimal position. Consequently your shin angle when your foot strike the ground will not be optimal neither. So It think you’d loose a few cm on each stride for maybe 5 or 6 strides. You don’t loose much but still. So if I was you I would start with a 55 degree angle master the first 7 steps with that angle then change for a 50 degrees angle and see how it goes and so on (play with your front knee angle in the starting position 110°, 100° etc). You also need a proper strength training to progress. I feel that squats are perfect for that cause it start with an eccentric movement. What I do is to go deep (passed parallel for obvious mechanical reason) and vary the timing of the eccentric movement from slow with heavy load to fast with lower load. Of course you need to practice your acceleration all the time since your physical qualities are changing I don’t hesitate to go back to 10m or 5 m acceleration if I feel the mechanic has change du to my strength and power improvments. Of course there are many methods as you say there is different ways to skin a cat. But you can see if it works for you. I hope that’s help.

          • Hi Fabien

            Thanks for your advice. How do you measure the body angle at start. I’m assuming by video analysis? Pretty hard to “feel” the difference between 45 and 55 degrees in the body I should think.
            Here is a video of the first couple of steps of my start. Poor light, apologies for the quality.
            Comments welcomed and appreciated!

  • First you need to set your blocks properly. Then when it’s done you raise your hips and look the knee angle of the front leg. It’s easy to check just watch your knee. The rear leg will automatically be at proper angle. So start with a 110 degree angle (it doesn’t need to be so precise) then move to 105, 100 and so on. Of course after that you need a coach or a video. Film from 3 different angle : side (like many people do), front and back. When you film you need what to look for first. Study Tellez, pfaff stuff they are pretty good then make an check list. You can film from 3 different angles : front back and side and have a check list (short and easy, 3-4 elements max) for each. For example : from the side look at shin angle, arm action and posture, from the back hip height (it has to elevate after each step) etc…