A new concept for sprint start and acceleration training

A new concept for sprint start and
acceleration training
f r g g i •€• by I M F
7,4: 65-72, 1992
by Remi Korchemny
^ ^ The tradititmat ajyproach to coaching
the sprint slarl concentrates
cm the initial
starling effort. The aulhor proposes a ncw
ccmcepl based on a starling model
stresses the importance
of making the first
few steps of acceleralion
dynamic and of
making the transilion between
starling effort and these steps smoother
fasler. He completes the concept by giving a
of training drills and a sample
training programme
which will help to
develop the skills demanded.
An a n a l y s i s of the a c c e p t e d c o a c h i n g
approach to sprint start training reveals ihat
coaches have taught their athletes to initiate an
explosive starling drive while ihey arc in their
blocks, lo project the b o d y ' s centre of gravity
forward and then lu sprini. In Ihe past, few
people have questioned this approach.
However, a close examination of c o a c h e s '
training instructions s h o w s Ihat often Ihese
i n s t r u c t i o n s are limiled to Ihc m a n n e r and
effort used in leaving the starling b l o c k s as
fast as possible. For example, though coaches
will normally stress:
• either a one or a iwo leg starting effori,
• a vector of effori in ihe 45-50" range.
• vigorous arm movements,
Dr Remi Korchemny
is the Chairman of thc
USA Track di: Field Sprint
He has worked as a sjirinis and
hurdles coach in holh ihe fonner
Union and America. Among the athletes he
has worked with are 1972 Olympic
metres and 200 metres chumpion
Borzov, I9SS Olympic 200 meires
medulli.st Grace Jaek.son and 1991 World
200 metres brcnizc
very few coaches combine these instruciions
with advice on the actions needed during ihe
first steps of acceleralion,
Sludy of the starting action, using v i d e o ,
and e v a l u a l i o n of Ihe force exerled d u r i n g
g r o u n d c o n t a c l , using impulse signal m a t s .
show that athletes who concentrate solely on
Ihe execution of a powerful starting effori are
unable lo control their momentum during the
firsl coniaci with the ground, Hvcn physically
well developed athleles may stumble during
Ihis firsl step and be forced to apply additional
effori to regain horizontal acceleration and
Thc compressive forces over the hip and
knee joints during this phase are .so high that
athleles lacking e c c e n t r i c (elastic) s i r e n g i h
Table I: Compelititin m a r k s for 5S metres achieved using new training concept
Female participants
First meet
Male participants
Last meet
First meet
Last meet '
First meet - after 6 weeks of training; Last meet - after 15 weeks of training; (Male athlete
4 ran his fastest time, 6,56 for 60m, after 16 weeks of training)
there will take longer lo recover from the comp r e s s i o n of the first s t e p s . T h i s i n c r e a s e s
ground coniaci lime and retards acceleralion.
(Elastic slrenglh can be defined as the ability
of muscles lo develop tension while external
forces such as graviiy lengthen the muscle)
T h e main purpose of this arlicle is to propose a revision of the traditional approach lo
sprini slarl Iraining lo a new concept based on
a model which makes the transition belween
the drive from the blocks and the following
sleps during acceleration much smoother and
Starting and acceleration models
For many ye^rs. 1 have experimented wiih
my students {elite, advanced and novice athleles) using differeni models of starling and
acceleration. These include:
1) short choppy strides (greater frequency)
2) long strides, or power drive with a transition
lo frequency at the moment when the siride
L-ngth stabilizes (optimal target length)
3) a c l i \ e firsl siride, similar to ihe depth jump
with rebound, followed by actions similar lo
uphill running (stride lenglh and frequency are
increased concurrently)
Il transpired Ihal model 3) proved lo be ihe
mosl effeclive aclion, especially in terms of
improvemenl of acceleration and better conirol
of effori.
Introducing a new concept
T h e preferred model requires athletes to
learn a new w a y of performing ihe starting
aclion and acceleration p h a s e s . Alhleies are
taught to aim for an extremely active and powerful ground contacl during Ihe first slep, Ihen
i m m e d i a t e l y rebound upward and forward,
m a k i n g better use of muscle clasticiiy (the
ability lo accumulate potential energy during
slrelching and lo relurn this energy during the
following activily) and the ability lo reverse
efforts from ecceniric lo concenlric.
A four month experiment using a new concept of training based on the preferred model
c o n d u c t e d d u r i n g p r e p a r a t i o n for Ihe 1992
indoor season resulted in the achievemeni of
more efficient acceleration. This is shown by
the following dala:
1) The number of steps over the first 10m was
decrea.sed on average by one siride (for males
from 7,5-8 to 6.5-7 steps and for females from
7.5-8.5 to 7-7.5 steps).
2} While stride length was increased, lhc average frequency r e m a i n e d almosl u n c h a n g e d
during Ihe first .^Om (4,2-4,4 steps per second).
3) The 20m lime from blocks was improved by
almosl 0,15 seconds,
4) Nearly as much improvement was also seen
in compelilion results over 55-6üm {see Table
I). Results achieved in lesls of other direci and
indirect characteristics after Ihe experiment
can be .seen in Tables 2 and .i.
Table 2: Test results of indirect characteristics following new training concept experiment
Squat to 90°
(one repetition)
5 fast squats to 90^
with 80% body weight
Clean & Jerk
181-227 kg
140-181 kg
^^^^^ 4 3 ^ ^^^^
under 5 sees
90-5-113.5 kg
54.5-68 kg
Standing long jump
Standing triple jump
Standing vertical jump
(45cm) 6.75m-6-90m
(30cm) 6,30-6.60m
1-step approach vertical
Depth/rebound jump
from box
(landing on one leg and
then jumping horizontally)
Table 3: Test results of direct characteristics following nc« training concept experiment
Vmax {10m flying
from 30m approach)
0,91 sec or better
1.0 sec or better
Vmax ^ Distance
11 .Om/sec
Stnde length
2,35m or longer
2.15m or longer
Stride frequency
4.65 per sec or better
4,70 per sec or better
30m from start
(timed first movement)
3.85 sec or better
4.20 sec or better
Stride length
Stride frequency
4,30 per sec
4.15 per sec
Number of strides
% of V 30m avg
to Vmax
Reaction time
0.130 - 0.160 sec
0 . 1 5 0 - 0 . 1 8 0 sec
4 Practical Application of
preferred model
and skill
In order lo master the skills required for the
preferred starting and acceleralion model, the
athlete should work on the deveiopmeni of:
1) Eccentric strength in the muscles ihat surround the hip. knee and ankle joinls (hip and
knee extensor and especially Ihe soleus),
2) A w a r e n e s s of the e x e c u t i o n of specific
actions during Ihe ' s e i ' position, block clearance. Ihe first ground contacl and thc following transitional steps.
for thc specific
I) Teaching the set position:
The hips should be raised slightly above shoulder level, bringing Ihe angle belween (he front
leg and thc g r o u n d lo 6 5 - 7 0 ° . and the knee
a n g l e o f Iheback leg to 140-150° (Figure 1).
t h e n s l i g h t l y p r e s s the b o d y d o w n w a r d ,
increasing lension in the arms and leg extensors, thus activating elastic resistance.
However, the athlele should keep the elbows
siraighi and avoid o v e r - f l e x i o n in thc legs
(Figure 2).
This eccentric loading will assist the leg
muscles to respond wilh stronger concenlric
efforts during block clearance.
2) During block clearance:
T h e inilial drive should project the b o d y ' s centre of gravity forward ihrough belter utilization
• exiension of the fronl leg and hip,
• c o m p l e l e flexion of the rear leg as il is
pulled through,
• f o r w a r d - u p w a r d t h r u s t of o n e arm and
u p w a r d - b a c k w a r d Ihrusl of the o p p o s i t e
arm. similar lo Ihe arm action used during
Ihe allack on a hurdle (Figure ?•),
140 - ISO'
65 -75•
Figure I
Figure 3
Instead of shifting the body forward, as Ihey
lend lo do when Ihcy adopt the set position,
athleles should distribute Iheir weight evenly
b e t w e e n lhc starlintz b l o c k s and h a n d s , and
Figure 2
Concurrent with hip extension from ihe front
block, lhc well-loaded front leg should drive
the b o d y ' s c e n t r e of g r a v i i y f o r w a r d . T h e
resulting \'ecior of driving efforts (laken by
drawing a line from the athlete's fronl block lo
his head as he makes his firsl starling efi'orl)
should be al about an angle of 40-50° (Figure
3). The dislance between the fronl block and
the projeclion of the body's cenire of graviiy
should be 100-12{)cm (Figure 4 overleaQ.
The rear leg should m o v e forward, in the
mosl economical way p o s s i b l e , lowards the
chest. At this momenl the fool should be dorsif l e x e d ( c o c k e d ) , a b o u t ^-5 cm a b o v e the
deplh jumps, vertical plyometric iumps,
conlrasl jumps (resistance-release).
• fast ground contacl with increased magnitude of foot torque and acceleralion of the
cenire of graviiy from Ihe momenl of fool
c o n i a c i to t a k e - o f f . T r a i n i n g e x a m p l e s
include one leg mulliple hops, leg bounding,
running wilh pop-ups, walking over a box.
Figure 4
ground, wilh Ihe lower leg almost perpendicular lo the ground.
Our experiments prove that Ihe effectiveness of the firsl siride depends upon:
• lhc heighi to which the fool is lified,
• the dislance the cenire of gravity is
projected forward,
• the amounl of leg separalion executed.
See Figure 5, In addilion to these faclors a vigo r o u s arm Ihrusl plays a significant role in
assisting the greal drive exerted upon Ihe firsl
impact with the ground by providing additional
T h e more powerful the fool torque and the
greater the acceleration of lhc centre of gravity, the more ground reaciion forces arc delivered from behind the forward moving b o d y ' s
mass. This leads lo better horizontal acceleralion.
The alhlete who executes efficient landing
a n d d r i v e will h a v e t r e m e n d o u s e c c e n t r i c
slrenglh in the knee joinl muscles, and will be
c a p a b l e of r e v e r s i n g efforts in a very s h o r t
lime (the elapsed lime beiween eccentric and
concentric efforts is within (1.02 sec.) These
strengih and reversibility abililies will permit
very fast and powerful first and following transitional steps.
T h e actions of lhc transitional sieps should
correspond wilh the preferred model of acceleration over the first, second and third 10m
The transitional steps model consists of:
1) Thc number of strides over 10. 20 and .'^(Im.
Elite male spriniers can run .'^Um in 17 steps or
less, and achieve opiimal stride lenglh (23Ü250cm by slep 17.)
Figure 5
2) The frequency of these strides.
3) During firsi slep:
During the ground coniaci phase, the leg is
loaded and unloaded within hundredlhs of a
s e c o n d (the ground t i m e should be close to
0.10 s e c ) . Skills to learn then, should include:
?>) The percentage of maximal velociiy (VTf)
achieved in each 10m segment of a 3()in interval (measured bolh from a starling posiiion andfrom a tlying siari wilh 30m approach).
T h e 'Slick drill' (see section 5.1) with prog r e s s i v e l y i n c r e a s i n g s p a c e s b e t w e e n ihe
slicks, is highly recommended as an exercise
lo masler the requiremenis of the transitional
steps model.
• a loading and unloading impulse, similar to
compression and instant decompression of a
coil s p r i n g . T r a i n i n g e x a m p l e s include
The pursuit
of stun
Although I would advise sprinters to learn
the specific actions detailed above, il does not
m e a n that they s h o u l d i g n o r e other faclors
which contribute to whal I would describe as
start perfection. Relevant actions include:
• double fool force application
• reaciion
• an explosive burst
B e s i d e s these s k i l l s , Ihe s p r i n t e r should
learn ti) make the transition from the reaciion
effori into the first and subsequenl steps and
lo perform acceleralion to the maximal speed
level, gaining speed constantly and progressively. This can be accomplished by increasing bolh stride length and frequency.
Explosive starting actions require Ihe application of c o n c e n l r i c forces ihrough the hip.
knee and ankle joinls. while the execution of
the fast r u n n i n g strides r e q u i r e s tremendous
elastic strength in the h i p a n d knee regions.
Excelleni hip joinl mobiliiy is also required.
Hip joinl mobility will enable athletes lo have
good leg separalion during the knce-lifl phase.
Elastic (eccentric) strength shouki prevent thc
leg from collapsing al the knee and hip during
impact wilh the ground and reduce elapsed time
for the amorli/alion phase,
Concenlric strength in the legs is also a very
i m p o r t a n l c o m p o n e n t of s t r i d i n g e f f o n s ,
Concenlric slrenglh benefils the fast forward
rolalion of the body over the supporting area
a n d thc p o w e r f u l drive off the Irack (ankle
A training p r o g r a m m e
I have d e v i s e d a i r a i n i n g p r o g r a m m e lo
nicel the r e q u i r e m e n t s of the practical application of the preferred starling model. This
p r o g r a m m e w a s followed, wiih considerable
s u c c e s s , by the athletes m e n i i o n e d in section
T h e p r o g r a m m e can l^e a c c o m p l i s h e d in
21) w e e k s b y i n t e g r a t i n g t w o s e s s i o n s p e r
week into the a t h l e t e ' s overall training
s c h e d u l e . I n the f o l l o w i n g s e c t i o n s I will
describe the various drills w h i c h are used. In
T a b l e 4 I g i v e an o v e r v i e w of t h e p r o g r a m m e and the drills which m a k e up each
session for the 2 0 w e e k s .
In addilion. flexibility and joint mobility
e x e r c i s e s s h o u l d be i n c l u d e d in the w a r m up. specific m u s c l e strengih e x e r c i s e s wiih
r e s i s l a n c e can be a p p l i e d d u r i n g w e i g h l
training sessions, and j u m p i n g drills can be
inserted al the e n d of s p e e d related s e s s i o n s .
The stick
As m e n t i o n e d in s e c t i o n 4 . 3 , the ' s l i c k
drill' is an imporlant exercise for achieving
the transitional sieps model. In training, place
a stick as a mark 90-lOOcm from Ihe front
siarling block and add 15cm for each subsequenl mark (first 5 steps). Then add lOcm for
the nexl 5 marks and another 5cm for the next
5-7 marks (15-20 sticks). Run this drill frum
the ' t h r e e p o i n t ' p o s i t i o n ( o n e h a n d o n
ground, similar to Sprint relay take over position) before the alhlete Iries it from blocks.
A d v a n c e d athleles can be c o n t r o l l e d for 7
steps over ihe first 10m segment, for 5 sleps
for the nexl 10m, and for 4.5 following the
10m interval (about 16.5 strides over 30m).
A d v a n c e the d r i l l by a d d i n g w e i g h t e d
shorts (2kg-7.5kg). by running downhill (for
2-3°) or by adding an clastic dragging device.
If pholo liming is nol available, the coach
may test this skill by counting the sleps and
hand liming 20 and 30m s e g m e n t s from the
first m o v e m e n i . If a pholo liming device is
a v a i l a b l e , t i m e can b e d e t e c t e d e v e r y 5 o r
10m, If the r u n n e r ' s fool l e a v i n g the rear
block lands on the 10m line, Ihe number of
steps will be odd (7 or 9). If the runner lands
wilh Ihe fool that has lefl Ihe fronl block, the
number of sleps will be even (6 to M).
It is uncommon in praclice to sprint 10m
in 6 or 9 s i r i d e s . F o r e x a m p l e , o n e c a n
assume a sprinler runs ihe first lOm in more
than 6, but less than 9 sirides. In this case, do
not counl the number of s l e p s . bul look for
Ihe leg which lands closer to ihe 10m line,
and nole whelher it was the rear or fronl leg
in Ihe blocks. Once this is known, add or sub-
tract a fraction of a stride if n e c e s s a r y . T o
further clarify:
If the rear leg lands before Ihe 10m line,
the frequency is more than 7 sleps,
backwards while the front leg drives the body
forward forcibly.
Pull 'escape' drill:
T h e coach or anoiher athlete holds the runner's
• If the rear leg is on lhc line, the frequency
is 7 steps.
hips wilh hands, towel or harness in order lo
• If the rear leg is over the line, the
frequency is more than 6 sleps,
from the blocks. He is ihen released and runs.
If lhc fronl leg lands before ihe lOm line,
the frequency is more than S sleps.
• I f the fronl leg lands on the line, the
frequency is H sieps.
• If Ihc front leg lands over thc line. Ihe
frequency is more than 7 steps.
Similarly, we can deiermine the number of
strides for 20 and 30m using lines.
Crawl + run':
The alhlcle crawls from Ihc set posiiion in the
blocks, he lakes two or three 'steps' wilh the
arms, steps on lo the ground and then runs,
'Rocking run':
In Ihe set posiiion. the alhlete leans forward as
far as possible. He then rocks backward and
forward twice and then runs oul of the blocks.
'Tap-lap -f- run":
In the set posiiion. the athlete moves the shoulders well forward so Ihal a greal deal of weighl
is placed on the hands. He then lifts ihe rear
fool 3-5cm off the ground, pulls the rear leg
t h r o u g h to a m a x i m a l hip flexion wilh Ihe
lower leg perpendicular lo the ground, laps the
ground with the fool 2-3 times and then runs.
"Crack drill':
F r o m the b l o c k s the alhlelc drives forward
from the front leg. with the trunk taking up an
a n g l e of 5 0 - 6 0 d e g r e e s . As the rear leg is
b r o u g h t t h r o u g h , the alhlete tries lo hold il
close lo his chest for a moment before actively
striking the ground (like cracking an egg) The
c r a c k is e x e c u t e d d o w n w a r d s and s l i g h t l y
restrain him while he b e g i n s the firsl drive
Push 'escape' drill:
Similar lo above, but he runner is now held
back by his "partner' sianding in front of him
and pushing against his shoulders.
5.3 Drills from 'three point' starting position
(crouch position with one hand on track)
a) 6-K X 30-40m "slick drill' (see section 4.4).
Progressively increase distances belween
slicks, up Io the target stride length. The first
s l e p is e x e c u t e d s l o w l y and all s u c c e s s i v e
steps al moderate pace. Athletes execute full
hip extension (fronl leg) and near m a x i m u m
hip flexion (rear teg). Practise aciive and powerful fool placemeni on ihe track with a powerful forward pull of the body over the foot.
b) 4 X 30-40m slick drill wilh weighted shorts
-*- 4 x 30-40m wiihout.
c) 4 x 30-40m slick drill with weighted shorts
downhill (2-3" gradient) -1- 4 x 3Ü-40m without.
d) 4 X 30-40m slick drill wilh elastic resistance + 4 X 30-4nm wilhoul .
c) 4 X 30-40m slick drill wilh elastic resistance d o w n h i l l ( 2 - 3 ° g r a d e ) -t- 4 x 3l)-40ni
0 4-(i X 30-4()m long stride/frequency drill
from three point start posiiion (IO-20m of long
strides of almosl Jumping slyle 4- l()-20m al
near maximal frequency) + 2-4 x 30-40m at
near maximal efforts emphasising stride
increase and frequency increase.
c.3) 4 X 30m wilh ankle weighis where 10m
is run in 7 or less sleps + 4 x 30m wilhoul
c.4) 4 X 30ni d o w n h i l l wiih a n k l e w e i g h t s
where 10m is run in 7 or less steps + 4 x 30m
downhill wilhoul
c.5) 4 X 10m lime trial (7 steps frequency)
Table 4: Overview oftraining p r o g r a m m e
for introductory a n d advanced athletes
a) t-a.l)
a) + b.1)
c) + c.1)
d) -f b.2
e) + b,3
C.3) -h C.5)
C.4) + C.5)
d.2) + f.3)
d.3) + f 3)
d.4) + d,5)
f.1) + g.1)
c) + c.1)
b.2) +b.3)
c.3) + c.5)
c.4) + c.5)
+ f,3}
+ f3)
-^ f.4
e.3) + e.5)
e,4) + e.5)
9,2) + f.2)
c.3) +g,1)
f.2) + g.i)
f.2) +1.4)
e,3) + f 4)
Note: codes refer to drills in sections 5.3
and 5.4
g) 4 X 30-40m long stride/frequency drill wilh
ankle w e i g h t s + 4 x 3 0 - 4 0 m sprint w i l h o u l
Drills frt>m starting
e . l ) 6-8 X 5()ni where .^Om is run in 16.5 sleps
or less (moderale pace)
e,2), e,3). c.4). e.5) - same modifications as
c.2). c.3), c.4) and c-5) above
f.l) 4-6 X 3()-40m 'chasing' starts (partner/s
l-3m in front)
f,2) 4-6 X 50m 'chasing' starts (on sound, an
assisiani ' h o l d s ' a s p r i n l e r in b l o c k s for a
moment and Ihcn lets him/her go lo run and
'chase" ihe fronl sprinters)
f.3) 4-6 X 50m 'chasing' starts. T w o spriniers
slarl in the o u t s i d e lane on the bend a b o u l
I ! 5 m -120m from the finish- The sprinler on
the outside stands a little ahead of the sprinter
on Ihe inside, they bolh start together and run
in a siraighi line (aboul 15-20m) towards the
finish- Thc sprinter on lhc oulsidc should outrun the inside sprinter and arrive in Ihe straight
alongside him.
f.4) 6-8 X 50m relay run (outgoing part)
a.l) 6-S X 20m ' c r a w l i n g ' + run
a.2) 6-X X 20m ' r o c k i n g ' (front and back) -irun
a.3) f>-X X 20m ' t a p - t a p ' + run
b, 1) 6-S X 20m -crack' drill + run
b.2) 6-S X 2()m pull e s c a p e " efforts/active
c r a c k ' + run
b,3) 6-S X 2nm push ' e s c a p e ' efforts/active
'crack' + run
d . l ) 6-S X 40m where 20m is covered in 12.5
Sleps or less (moderale pace)
d.2). d.3). d,4). d.5) - same "modifications' as
c.2). c.3), c.4) and c,5) above
c l ) 6-S X 30m where lOm is run in 7 or less
steps (moderate pace) c,2) 6-S x 30m d o w n hill {2-3") where lOm is run in 7 or less Sleps
g . l ) 3 X 30m + 2 X 60m lime trials with pariners (from blocks/full procedures)
This arlicle has outlined a new concept of
sprini slarl a n d a c c e l e r a t i o n training w h i c h
stresses the importance of an exiremely aciive
first slep and of making lhc transilion belween
an athlete's drive from the blocks and the firsl
sleps of acceleration s m o o t h e r and faster. I
have also iried to show how a coach can put
Ihis new concept inlo praclice lo improve alhlete s race times.