which they produce their force. These four points are what we teach during a session to increase technique and alignment. I will address each of these four points in detail below. These four factors are the guidelines we will bring our athletes through in a typical acceleration phase training session
This is where the rubber meets the road. Body position is hard to teach an athlete who has a weak core, poor hip mobility, and posterior muscle insufficiencies. However, as strength and mobility will come with further training, the force that can be created in the acceleration phase needs to be taught. Newton’s third law states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” For acceleration purposes I like to think what we put into the ground is what we get out of the ground. The action needs to be aggressive, powerful and explosive. The action needs to be generated at the hips, working the hip flexors and driving the knee forward. In the fully flexed up position the lower tibia should have the same angle to the extended back leg, foot should be dorsi-flexed and hips drawn in with the back flat. The back leg should strike down and behind the hips, fully extended hitting the ground on the ball of the foot with the heel just above the ground.
Angle refers to the body’s alignment at take off. After a successful push-off, the angle and the athlete need to be committed, to the direction in which they are sprinting. Next to learning how to walk, allowing the athletes body to fully commit is going to be the hardest thing they do. This is why acceleration is difficult to teach, because without a committed acceleration phase power production is lost and the body mechanics are typically incorrect. Ideally, the body’s position should be at most a 45 degree and at least a 60 degree lean. The range is in part due to the nature in which they are sprinting. I tell my athletes of all ages, the acceleration start phase is a controlled fall; you want to be as close to falling on your face without actually doing so. This typically gets my athletes in a controlled falling position as they try to push themselves to the limit of falling, but they soon
get the point and understand the angle that we are trying to teach.
You want to see the athlete’s body while doing wall drills in an optimal body lean: their hips are drawn in, eyes forward, and a ultimately fully- committed position.
Now the wrong way. If the knee and ankle joints are aligned during the drill you will start to see improper body angle. With this alignment you will notice the athlete during the drill have their power output going vertical rather than the optimal horizontal while accelerating. If the ankle and knee are parallel the force generating each step will go up rather than forward. If the force the athlete generates goes vertical then the body position will likely go vertical during the acceleration. When the athlete starts to straighten their body positions during the acceleration it could end the acceleration prematurely.
In terms of arm movement, we like to keep things simple using two cues: Stay relaxed and drive with the shoulder. If an athlete becomes too tense while accelerating the position can get too restricted thus taking away movement from the upper body. The next cue is drive with the shoulder, meaning all the movement from the arms originates from the shoulder. If the shoulder is the key point of movement the elbow will fall into the correct alignment while accelerating. The elbow to shoulder position we like to see is a 90 degree angle relatively. Relatively meaning if there is no bend at the elbow joint then the shoulder is not creating the movement. We tell the athletes it should not look like you are beating the drums while running. The elbow should not be going into flexion and extension while accelerating; if it does the athlete is wasting force production that could be better used to propel the body.
With these techniques the overall athleticism of the athlete will increase. We are looking to make better athletes through increasing the ability for them to move during sport. The better the technique, the better the movement pattern, with better movement patterns it give the athletes the tools to perform in their sport.
Anthony Passamonte is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and a Certified USAW Sports Performance Coach. He is the Director of Sports Performance at the Fieldhouse Sudbury, Massachusetts (www.fieldhousesp.com) Anthony has trained athletes at all levels and has sparked a performance revolution in the Northeast area. Anthony's knowledge of the sports performance industry has brought success to thousands of athletes – including Division 1 scholarship and professional athletes –and is certain to get his athletes mentally and physically prepared to achieve their athletic goals.
Ben Butterfield is in his 3rd season at Northeastern University as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the men’s ice hockey team. He is currently the Sports Performance Director of Dan Boothby Sports Performance located in North Andover. Ben is currently a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA), Sports Performance Coach(USAW), and Certified Personal Trainer(ACSM). Please don’t hesitate to contact Ben Butterfield at firstname.lastname@example.org