ACCELERATION: KINDA BIG DEAL (Part 1)

Hey everyone. I hope you are all feeling strong, powerful and super fast. In this post I really wanted to go into depth about how we go about improving our track athletes acceleration phase. In my opinion I believe that way to many coaches emphasize speed endurance way too often (as discussed here)  and under emphasize the importance of acceleration, transition and the affect it has on the rest of the sprint race.

Charlie Francis

The great Charlie Francis and Ben Johnson

So i thought it would be pretty cool to discuss what we are looking for in acceleration, how we teach acceleration, our regressions/progressions and the different methods we use to  coach acceleration. I could really go full nerd but I want to try and make it as simple as I can so that everyone who reads this article “gets it” and understands.

From the Start i want to Define what I BELEIVE the different Phases within Acceleration are:

  • The set position is the position in which the athlete starts the rep. This could be any stance raging from plank stance too roll in, 3 point and block starts.
  • The exit position is the position out of the set position and before the first step.
  • The drive phase is from step 1 too step 8-10 depending on how you coach acceleration, the athlete and your beliefs on acceleration.
  • The transition phase is from step 8-10 too 12-15 steps before hitting max velocity mechanics.

What we are Looking for in Acceleration

When I watch our athletes accelerate I like to start from a side on view of about 10m away. This gives me a clear view of the transitions from the set position, exit position, drive phase to transition phase. This really allows me to get into in depth analysis of the set positions, shin angles, legs movement, body angles and arms movement through out all the above phases.

I also like to watch from directly in front or behind the athlete. This allows me to see any lateral movement, internal (medial) or external (lateral) rotation that may be occurring through out the athletes body.

So that’s great I have just told you how to best see the different points we may be focusing on during the acceleration phase but that still doesn’t answer the question “What are we looking for in the different positions and phases?” In the next section I will break down each phase before explaining what we are looking for. So here we go…lolo_jones_1a-642x250

The Acceleration Positions and Phases:

What we are looking for depends on the type of set position we decide to make use of. We then decide which to use based on what we are looking to develop.

The Roll In Start :
Roll in start position

  • Knee under hip
  • Angle at back knee joint around 120 degrees
  • Straight back
  • tend to see a bigger body angle and knee angle, this is fine and i will explain why later
  • Front foot flat
  • Back foot heel raised with stiffness created at the ankle joint

The 3 Point Start:
3 point set position

  • Arm under shoulder-more advanced
  • Arm in front-Strength issues, younger athletes and beginners
  • Back foots knee under hip
  • Back knee joint angle-120 degrees ish range
  • Front foot knee joint around 90 degrees  ish
  • Straight line from hip to head
  • Hip above to inline with head

The Block Start:
Block set position

  • Back foot knee angle 120 degrees ish
  • Front foot knee angle 90 degrees ish
  • Hip higher to inline with head
  • Line from hip to head
  • Arms are  directly under shoulders

The Exit Position:

Exit positions should share similar key points through all variants of starts

Block exit

  • Triple extension
  • Ankle, knee and hip extension
  • Line from ankle to knee to hip to head
  • Low foot recovery
  • No EXTREME high knee lift up front
  • Back arm driven back
  • Front arm shading the sun

The Drive Phase:

  • This consists of step 1-8
  • Aim to get first step contact behind hip
  • Try and get shin angles of step 2-4 to as close to step 1 as possible.
  • Legs should be moving like pistons
  • Push push push!
  • Aggressive, almost wild, arm drive
  • Climb the ladder-Keep getting slightly more front side with every step of step 1/2

The Transition Phase:

  • These are steps 8-15
  • Don’t rush this phase and keep it smooth
  • Do not force head down or jerk into up right position
  • Keep climbing the ladder
  • Between 12-15 you will be almost upright moving into an upright to position
  • By step 15/16 you should be upright
  • Since each persons steps are different I prefer to use steps and not set distances.
  • This is emphasis is placed on vertical force production into ground
  • like a “hammer hitting a nail”
  • “Explode into the ground”
  • “Snap, crack or switch into position”

The Common Errors Seen In Acceleration:

  • Looped foot
  • Toe drag
  • over striding-too big a stride-through hip or knee
  • Lack of arm use or aggressive arm drive
  • Body position in set, exit, acceleration and transition positions
  • Standing up too early or rushing transition
  • Forcing head down or trying to stay low when instead athlete should be transitioning

As you may, or may not have known, there is a lot to teach and coach in acceleration. If you cant get this part of the race right then you are going to run into problems later on in the race. We need to be teachers and not just baby sitters. Lets teach our athletes how to move correctly and best of all be great accelerators. Part 2 soon to come.

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