This article is guest blogged by Karsten Jensen and Steve Millward.
You many remember Karsten wrote The # 1 Lower Body Strength Exercise to Improve Horizontal Acceleration (Part I) and Part 2. (Karsten Jensen, M.Sc. Exercise Physiology is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Visit his website at www.yestostrength.com )
Steven,a Masters sprinter from Toronto, wrote Comparison of Running Speed for Masters Aged 40-65
Top Five Strength Training Exercises For Sprinters Revisited
We would like to suggest a completely different list of “top five strength training exercises” for sprinters. We have reduced the number to four essentials. The four (lunge variations, eccentric calf exercise, kettlebell swing and Romanian dead lift) were chosen based on relative ease of learning, safety and, where possible, evidence in the scientific literature. They can also be done with minimal equipment – just a few dumb-bells in a pinch!
The single most useful group of exercises. Based on the Principles of Mechanical Specificity (dynamic correspondence) the lunge, characterized by single leg horizontal backward directed action forces, is the primary choice of lower body exercises to improve sprint performce. (1) In support for this statement velocity during unilateral jumps shows greater correlation to sprint speed than velocity measured during bilateral vertical jumps and, with few exceptions, peak and mean force in horizontal bilateral and unilateral jumps shows greater correlation with sprint speed than peak and mean forces during vertical jumps. (2).
For sprint training, walking lunges dragging a sled are preferable. These can be accomplished by dragging a weighted sled (attached by a waist belt). The load can be increased by carrying dumb-bells or a barbell in the overhead squat (snatch grip) position.
When the load on the sled reaches a certain percentage of the sprinters bodyweight, the lunge style can no longer be maintained. The exact percentage of the sprinters bodyweight where the lunge style cannot be maintained is yet to be established. However, the coach/sprinter will see that at certain loads the sprinter will have to lean forward more and more in order to bring the centre of gravity in front of leading foot. At this level of loading sled pulls walking with great forward lean while dragging the sled behind you can be used
Differences between the lunge style and sled pull:
|Lunge||Walking Sled Pull|
|Torso||Almost vertical||Greater forward lean|
|Lead foot contact||Entire foot (“pull your body over the contact point”)||Ball of foot only (“pushing backwards with lead foot”)|
|Loading options||Sled, vest, DB in hands etc||Sled, vest|
Similarities between the lunge style and sled pull:
|Lunge||Walking Sled Pull|
|Simultaneous extension of hip, knee and ankle joint of lead leg||Yes||Yes|
|Intended explosive drive of lead leg||Yes||Yes|
|Attachment of sled to sprinter||Through harness or belt at waist level||Through harness or belt at waist level|
Pulling a sled loaded with 10-20 % bodyweight results in higher activity of the gluteus maximus muscle, measured by electromyography, and velocity and movement specificity compared to the block start and thus excellent transfer from the training of that exercise to the block start is expected. (3). Also heavier sled pulls with 80-120 kg may transfer well to sprinting by maximizing antero-posterior ground action forces. (4)
Eccentric calf exercise
The next essential and a must for all sprinters. One foot on a step or box, descend slowly to a count of five. Load with a dumb-bell and vary the weight and the number of reps. Eccentric calf raise has a great track record in preventing Achilles tendinopaties. However, this empirical finding is not fully supported by current research. (9)
Training with the KB Swing can improve vertical jump power. (5,6) Vertical jump height is correlated to various aspects of sprint performance, although not as strongly as horizontal jumping force. The Russian swing (to eye or shoulder height) is the simplest; the Crossfit version (to vertical) is more difficult and possibly unnecessary. Vary the amount of weight and the number of reps and sets to challenge explosive strength versus strength endurance.
Romanian or stiff-legged (not straight-legged!) dead lift
The more flexed the hip joint the greater the stretch experienced by the hip extensor muscles. The greater the stretch of these muscles the greater the tension these muscles experience as the lift is initiated. Placing high tension on a muscle in the stretched position results in high levels of active and passive myo-fibrillar tension and is thought to be a strong stimulus for the laying down of sarcomeres in series and in parallel. An increased number of sarcomeres in series and in parallel support muscle size, maximal shortening velocity and power. (7) Thus, the stiff legged dead lift – compared to the conventional and sumo dead lifts – should be a stronger stimulus on the gluteus maximus for both strength and size and power. Further, the stiff legged dead lift yields high-maximal activation of the hamstring musculature. (8)
Karsten is a periodization coach and founder of Yes to Strength (www.yestostrength.com) and Steve competes as a Master’s Sprinter.
- Jensen K. Principles of Exercise Selection that are based on the needs analysis. Beyond Functional Training. Periodization of Exercise Selection. Chapter 3, p 30. www.yestostrength.com. 2015
- Dobbs CW, Gill ND, Smart DJ, McGuigan MR. Relationship Between Vertical And Horizontal Jump Variables And Muscular Performance in Athletes. Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research. 29 (3): 661-671. 2015
- Okkonen O, Hakkinen K. Biomechanical Comparison Between Sprint Start, Sled Pulling and Selected Squat Type Exercises. Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research. 27(10):2662-2673. 2013
- Keogh JWL, Newlands C, Blewett S, Payne A, Chun-Er L. A Kinematic Analysis of A Strongman Type Event: The Heavy Sprint-Style Sled Pull. Journal of Strength And Conditioning Research. 24(11): 3088-3097. 2010
- Lake JP, Lauder MA. Kettlebell Swing Training Improves Maximal and Explosive Strength. J Strength Cond Res 26(8): 2228-2233. 2012
- Otto WH, III, Coburn JW, Brown LE, Spiering BA. Effects of Weightlifting vs. Kettlebell Training on Vertical Jump, Strength and Body Composition. J Strength Cond Res 26(5): 1199-1202. 2012
- Hartman H, Wirth K, Kluseman M, Dalic J, Matuschek C, Schmidtbleicher D. Influence of Squatting Depth on Jumping Performance. J Strength Cond Res. 26(12): 3243-3261. 2012
- Wright GA, Delong TH, Gehlsen G. Electromyographic Activity of The Hamstrings Duri ng Performance of The Leg Curl, Stiff-Leg Deadlift and Back Squat Movements. J Strength Cond Res. 13(2): 168-174. 1999
- Malliaras P1,Barton CJ, Reeves ND, Langberg H. Achilles and patellar tendinopathy loading programmes : a systematic review comparing clinical outcomes and identifying potential mechanisms for effectiveness. Sports Med. 43(4) 2013