Two Cues for Better Acceleration

If we compare acceleration and top speed, acceleration is much more of a force-dependent activity. It's really about driving it into the ground. While top speed is more reactive and elastic. The further you sprint, the lower the relationship between strength and speed. Whereas the opposite is true for reactivity, the further you go the more important it is to be reactive, elastic, and quick off the ground.

As we run faster contact time decreases and performance is much more about reactivity and musculotendonous elasticity. Acceleration is much more force and strength dependant
As we run faster contact time decreases and performance is much more about reactivity and musculotendonous elasticity. Acceleration is much more force and strength dependant

As we run faster contact time decreases and performance is much more about reactivity and musculotendonous elasticity. Acceleration is much more force and strength dependant

Remember back to the video where I tweaked my quad? And the idea of the sprint unification theory: stride length and stride frequency, they tend to take care of themselves if you put more force into the ground in the right direction with a short ground contact time.

Force + Direction + Short contact time = Increased velocity

When it comes to acceleration, particularly the first four to five steps of acceleration (which are the most important for team and chaotic sports). The goal is to break your body's resting inertia and build as much momentum as quickly as possible.

Cue #1: Push the Ground Away

Whenever the goal is to improve performance, external cues are better than internal. So first think about pushing the ground away underneath you. If you want to run faster or jump higher, think about what your legs are doing to the ground, not what your joints or your muscles are creating internally (max effort sprinting is not the best time to be focused on your glute activation).

With acceleration, words like push and drive are particularly beneficial because they allow the athlete to focus on the force component of the movement, that ability to generate force, put it into the ground, and break inertia.

Cue #2: Short and Choppy

Shorter more frequent strides in the first 0-10m help you keep your foot under your centre of mass and maintain what's called a positive shin angle (where the knee is further forward relative to the ankle. This shin angle and shorter faster stride rate allow you to direct as much energy backwards to send the ground back, driving your body forwards as a result. A higher stride rate also allows you to create more total force (and well-directed force), breaking inertia and building momentum quicker out of the start.

Positive Shin Angle. The goal in acceleration is to strike the ground directly under the centre of mass with the foot driving the ground backwards, miniming ground contact and maximising horizontal force.
Positive Shin Angle. The goal in acceleration is to strike the ground directly under the centre of mass with the foot driving the ground backwards, miniming ground contact and maximising horizontal force.

Positive Shin Angle. The goal in acceleration is to strike the ground directly under the centre of mass with the foot driving the ground backwards, miniming ground contact and maximising horizontal force.

For more on sprinting and speed development videos and articles check out our YouTube playlist or the rest of our blog articles on the topic

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