We ask each athlete what their goals are, and 9.5 out of 10 tell us they want to become faster. Whether they play football, soccer, lacrosse, even baseball, they all want to increase their level of speed. Speed Kills, is the saying that always to come to mind for me and I couldn’t agree more. Speed does reign supreme in athletics; some sports more than others; however, it still is an important aspect.
-If you are fast in soccer, you can chase down a ball and beat your opponent.
-If have speed for baseball, you steal more bases or beat out a throw to first base.
-We’ve all seen the fast guy in football blazing down the sideline.
You get the point I am trying to make when it comes to the importance of speed in sports. When we look at speed from a teaching/coaching perspective, we need to view it from a physics window. I am going to keep it as simplistic as possible, because to be quite honest, my physics knowledge is limited to the application of sports performance.
When we are talking about sprinting we must talk about Force Application, and we can’t talk about Force Application without acknowledging Newton’s Laws, in particular the 3rd Law. Sprinting is one of the most powerful and explosive movements to be done in sports, therefore force application into the ground is where a lot of our speed derives from.
We always say: “Put force into the ground, take force out the ground.”
You’ll often hear coaches talk about knee drives, or front side mechanics, but you can drive your knees up all you want but that doesn’t make you faster, if anything it causes more vertical displacement which can be detrimental because there also needs to be horizontal force. Your knee drive should come from the reaction from ground force. For instance, if I drop a basketball it will bounce, but if I slam that same ball it will go high into the air. Its the same when you are sprinting.
This is the basis of Newton’s 3rd Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, when we are teaching/coaching sprinting, “pressure” is the term that we should be thinking about. When sprinting, you want to put pressure in the floor/ground. The levels of pressure of change as the you go through the different phases of sprinting. For instance, the pressure is greater during the acceleration phase when the shin is angular to the ground and then as you get to the Max Speed Phase there still needs to be pressure but at this point it is more ground reactive (think of dribbling a basketball).
You must note, that you have to be strong in the right ways and right areas. You can’t be weak if you want to be fast. Pairing a good strength program with sprinting will give you the best results.
Here is a quick 1 minute video explaining all this: