When my longtime coach Dennis Barrett took a sabbatical from coaching in 1986 to compete as an athlete in Bobsled, he returned armed with a lot of new training ideas.
And one of the “radical” ideas was downhill running at slopes at 1% grade.
After all, bobsledders have to overcome the inertia of pushing a sled, in sync with the other teammates in the 2 or 4 man bobsled.
With other guys pushing the sled, the ice, and the gentle downslope, you better have the turnover and the power to keep that sled moving, especially the brakeman.
And you better have a good driver!
Yoshihide Kiryu (10.01 for 100m, and 20.41 for 200m) of Japan is now enrolled in Toyo University, which is building a 60 meter track with a 1% decline just for the purpose of overspeed training. The actual specs is a 60 cm (approx. 2 feet) drop over the course of 60 meters.
Toyo sprint coach Michiaki Kajiwara explains:
“This track allows you to learn how to move your legs and contact the ground at 9-second speed. The 1% slope is the key. If the slope is too severe it will alter the athlete’s running form on flat ground”
But downhill isn’t all…
The track starts with a 30 m straightaway and rises 60 cm, or a 2% grade. After a gradual curve, the 60 m downhill section starts.
Why uphill? Michiaki Kajiwara says:
“Training on the uphill section will improve his power”
Assisted Training Methods
Basically, I know of only 3 ways for assisted training methods.
- Downhill running
- strong tailwinds
In my 2009 article on overspeed training, I preferred to use slight downhill grades over a rope or pulley (i.e. towing). While it may increase stride frequency, or increase stride length, it comes at a cost: increased ground contact time. Bobsledders preferred the downhill method as it mimics the real deal. But you are not a bobsledder, though for many of you, it may be your only chance to get to the Olympics, next to the 4x100m relay.
These devices should NOT make you run faster, rather they should help you run and reach your top end speed more efficiently.
Even if you run a PB with a massive tailwind, you still RAN THAT TIME. Your muscle memory, as well as your neurological system, will remember what it actually feels like to run at these new top speeds.
So there is a place for this in your training, but keep the grades (or tensions with a pulley) very mild. Just like Long jumping 30+ feet, or dunking a basketball, with the aid of a trampoline, doesn’t serve a purpose.
As far as wind helping athletes, I covered that topic in a lengthy article back in 2011 titled, Wind Assistance: Do Illegal Tailwinds help Sprinters?. I prefer to train with the wind at my back. Some coaches make the athletes run into the wind for strength and psychological training.
Psychologically, I like to see fast times when I check my splits with my Freelap. We live in a world of instant gratification and short attention spans, right?
Just remember sprinting good times is primarily acceleration development, and that means don’t lose focus on sound biomechanics.
Whether or not Yoshihide Kiryu breaks the 10.00 barrier is another story!