Let me get to the point. Sprinting good times is primarily acceleration development. Basta!. If you think you’ll get faster running cross country, well, maybe I can sell you an analog watch that tells the correct time only twice a day, or real “fake” Gucci bags.
If YOUR top speed is 10 m/s and MINE is 11m/s, I’ll kick your butt because (1) I’ll have a longer acceleration phase (2) higher top end speed and (3) all I have to work on is speed endurance to maintain my speed. You’ll be counting the hairs on the back of my leg.
So with that in mind, other than proper biomechanics, there are a few things you should keep in mind with it comes to assisted and resisted training methods to improve acceleration development. I covered these topics in several articles, but I’ll focus on assisted and resisted training methods.
Downhill running, pulleys and strong tailwinds
In my 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.
These devices should NOT make you run faster, rather they should help you run and reach your top end speed more efficiently.
So there is a place for this in your training, but keep the grades and tensions very mild. Just like Long jumping 30 feet 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 last year 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 Freelap. We live in a world of instant gratification and short attention spans.
Uphill running, Isorobic Ropes, Bands and Sleds
In my article on uphill running benefits, the slight uphill grade keeps their technique in balance, which is the popular term "staying tall". Also, the ground rises to make contact with the feet, so athletes do not overstride, but it does increases ground contact.
Last year, I wrote about Driving Resistance Band Training with Baseball’s Marlon Byrd training with the Driving Resistance Band under the watchful eye of Remi Korchemny. Yes, that SNAC guy. (This was a 6 part general series on How to Improve Acceleration) The purpose of the bands is for improving reactive strength or elastic strength, which is one of the major factors in speed development.
One has to be careful as too much load will severely increase the ground contact time of the runs, as every exercise you choose has its place in the Force-Velocity curve. Just ask anybody doing plyometrics and depth jumps. You can increase the load by adding a weight vest, or you can raise the height of the box. Common sense will tell you jumping off a 48” box is not 4 times better than a 12” box!
From my article 3 years ago on Resistance Running with Sleds and Isorobic Ropes, here are some tips and advice for using sleds and isorobic ropes:
- install the device about half a meter from the ground (18 inches)
- distances anywhere from 10-30m (great for indoor workouts)
- "slowdown" of 5-10% in expected, but no more as technique usually deteriorate when over 10%
- ideally on the track with spikes, and good for indoor training
- belt secured just above the hips no higher than the waist
- keep proper care not to obstruct the runner with the incoming rope
- make sure the sled does not knock over the Freelap transmitters
Developing Acceleration with Proper Sled Use
This section will only deal with sleds.
As a guideline, I always use the 10 percent rule to adding more weight. That is, add 10% of your body weight, but don’t forget to include the weight of the sled! But it’s a bit more complicated that that.
There are four true variables when working with sled sprinting, and that is:
Of course, the best method to determine the effectiveness (or degradation) is actually timing the runs (and a close eye on biomechanics!)
But those who have used sleds will realize that first movement times of normal sprinting may be huge factor because of the jerky motions of the sleds overcoming inertia.
Since I use Freelap for my training, here is a great 2 part article (Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here) that discusses the challenges of using sleds and how to incorporate Freelap into the analysis. In Part 1, the article goes more into detail about the 4 true variables mentioned above on using sleds. In Part 2, it discusses Mixed Loading, Contrast Training, Complex Training and the ever-so-important periodization of sled use.
I hope this quick summary answers a few questions on assisted and resisted training methods.