Specific Strength & Power Training For Sprinters | ATHLETE.X
Every training stressor has a range of adaptations and effects which are unique to the specific input. Improving a quality such as maximal velocity sprinting is challenging to say the least, and this becomes even more challenging when the training program sends conflicting signals to the athlete’s system.
To get the most out of the time and effort put into a sprint training program, it is important that athletes send consistent signals for their body to adapt to. Any lifting or jumping performed on a speed development day needs to be targeted and highly specific to the demands of high velocity sprinting. To learn more on this topic, check out this article or this video below by ATHLETE.X!
What makes an exercise specific for speed?
While we could look at a number of qualities, the following is a brief and simple list of the qualities of movement that we see in over-ground sprinting:
- Force is generated by swinging the leg forward through the air, quickly reversing the leg into an abrupt and violent ground strike (i.e. a whipping or striking motion).
- Force is applied through a unilateral base of support.
- The duration of force application is very brief, with ground contact times as low as 80 milliseconds.
- Force is generated as a blend of horizontal and vertical force
If you have ever watched an elite level 100m dash race, you know how rapidly these athletes are moving, getting on and off the ground, and how violent these movements can be. While explosive and forceful, the best sprinters also have the ability to perform these movements with fluidity and relaxation.
When we compare these characteristics to those of a typic lift in the gym, we quickly see how problems may arise with regards to the applicability of any weight-room lift to sprint performance on the track or field. Typical exercises in the gym tend to exhibit movement characteristics such as:
- Movements are completed with the feet in constant contact with the ground.
- Movements take multiple seconds to complete a single repetition.
- Movements are generally a pushing motion, lacking any whipping or striking motion.
If we truly want to develop the ability to sprint fast, we must look past traditional weight room exercises such as back squats and power cleans, and instead focus on exercises that are more specific in their nature.
Specific Strength & Power Exercises For Sprinters
Below is a list of exercises which have a greater level of specificity for sprinters compared to typical strength and conditioning exercises:
- Split Squats
- RLE Squats
- Low Box Step Ups
- Split Drop Jumps
- A-Box Strike Jumps
- Weighted Strike Jumps
- Single Leg Back Extension
- Smith Machine A-Switch
- Short Contact SL Depth Jump
- Band Glute/Ham Cycle
- Band Hip Punch
- Band Assisted Strike Jump
While not a complete list, these are some great exercises which can be added to the program of an athlete who already has a good base of training under their belt.
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Think power cleans and back squats are sprint specific? Think again! 🤭 As discussed in my latest YouTube video, traditional strength and power exercises fail to develop the very action which makes sprinting unique – the STRIKE💥 To sprint fast, athletes must wind up their leg into an aggressive ground strike. In contrast, traditional lifts never exhibit this very action. Furthermore, most exercises fail in that they do not require a highly rapid generation of force. With sprint stride ground contacts taking approximately 80 milliseconds to complete, a 1500 millisecond power clean is not going to be relevant when it comes to improving force production at maximal velocity. While not useless, these traditional exercises will need to be left behind when it comes time to preparing for competition. General lifts can be used in the off season, but eventually the tides must shift toward the shores of specificity. To learn more about exercises to use and how to pair them together for the best effects, check out my latest YouTube video. The link is in my bio and story. Make sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe!
Choosing Exercises For Your Sprint Training Program
When it comes to selecting exercises to add to your strength & conditioning program, there are a few things you can keep in mind.
Cover Your Bases
First of all, the program should include exercises which exhibit postures and positions that we see both in acceleration and at maximal velocity. For example, an athlete can benefit from using both split squats and low box step-ups in their programs. The split squat is more akin to acceleration sprinting, whereas the low box step-up is more akin to upright sprinting at maximal velocity.
Consider The Aspect Of Time & Movement Velocity
Since sprinting movements occur rapidly both in the air and on the ground, it would be wise to include a large proportion of exercises which exhibit rapid force generation, high contraction velocities, and short ground contact times. Not every exercises should be a high velocity movement, but some should be. If you utilize split squats, split drop jumps, and acceleration strike jumps in a workout, you have hit every point along the force-velocity spectrum.
Target The Whip & Strike
Elite sprinters and jumpers exhibit an important and unique quality of movement – they whip their leg forward and back into an abrupt and aggressive strike into the ground. It is absolutely imperative that exercises performed in the gym are programmed with this in mind. An exercise like the single leg back extension will prepare an athlete to perform this whipping/striking motion, while something like a banded leg cycle will mimic the movement itself.
While athletes must first build a base with general training means early in their career or training year, eventually athletes must shift toward utilizing more sprint specific strength and power exercises in order to maximize their performance. If you need help with making your own training program more specific, make sure to check out ATHLETE.X sprint training programs and coaching options.
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