Everything begins with a start. In sprinting, you begin with acceleration (drive phase) which is going from not moving, or moving very slow, to flying like a bat out of hell. Nearly every sport that requires running, requires doing this well. In most sports, if you can start fast, it doesn’t matter how fast you are over a longer distance as 10-30min is all the all-out running most athletes do.
If you can win a 1:1 match up in the first 10 steps, you will likely beat them in whatever you are doing unless it’s a race over a +100m distance.
In track, how hard you can accelerate at the beginning can make or break your performance in the 60m & 100m dash. And for the 200m the more competitive you are in that race.
Acceleration is coached in a specific fashion. We spend a full session every week specifically on this skill and reinforce it all of the other days. Why? Because it is fundamentally different from every other aspect of running. Make sure you’re doing it right. It can completely change your performance in every sport to have a powerful burst.
Let’s take a quick look at how you can accelerate better:
Key 1: Pushing yourself forward
Going from stand still, you need momentum in the direction you want to go. You may often hear “push!” when coaching acceleration. You need to “push the ground behind you” to launch your body forward. Strength matters a lot, being strong for your size, as you need to be able to have large strides.
Compared to being at top speed, these initial steps are slower and progressively increase in speed as your body becomes upright to get to top speed.
Get a good forward lean of the body - it’s very hard to go forward from stand still while standing up - and push the ground behind you to launch forward.
Key 2: Create large angles
As you launch forward, you need to be able to create large splits in the arms and legs as a result of the amount of power you are using. Large arm angles at the start help your legs push harder and create a large stride length.
Remember, speed is stride length x stride rate.
The drive phase, start, is made more efficient by being able to create large stride lengths that progress into your top speed stride length at a later phase - which in track is very important! The later you hit your top speed, the less time you spend slowing down at the end.
A big powerful start sets up the later part of the race to be fast. And in a sport like ultimate or basketball, you can cover a lot more ground in your initial steps, giving you an advantage.
Key 3: Low heel recovery
Now what is speed without, well, speed. Something that is often undercoached is a low heel recovery.
Get up and walk right now. Notice how your heel comes up toward your butt, that’s heel recovery. When you are running at full speed, having a high heel is key.
When you are leaning forward, pushing behind you, it’s FASTER for your heel to pass just over your other foot rather than come all the way up to your butt. This is how you stay horizontal and how you get your feet on the ground faster.
Remember you’re leaning forward so this back foot is coming forward, and a lower heel will come back down faster, to push you to explosive angles.
If you want a better understanding of this, come to our Trackside sessions! Haha or you can just send me a reply and we can chat more.