The ABCs of Proper Sprinting Form
"Apparently you just run. It's supposed to be wild."
Well, not quite. Just like any other skill in sports, sprinting requires precise form and mechanics if you want to be great at it.
When we run, our goal is to be as efficient as possible so that we eliminate any unnecessary movements. Most of that has to do with our upper body mechanics and eliminating any twisting or tensing up. As for our lower bodies, we want to generate long, powerful strides by maintaining proper leverage and avoiding any shortening of the leg cycle.
Apply a few of these principles to your sprinting form and watch the tenths of seconds start falling off your times.
Acceleration Mechanics- Lower Body
1.) When accelerating, an athlete should have about a 35-45 degree upper body lean forward to maximize his/her leverage. This applies any time we are changing directions or stop-and-going. Emphasize how important this lean is whenever we are starting to run in a direction. The easiest way to coach proper lean is to have the athlete do a “Falling start.” Standing upright on their tip-toes, tilt forward to the point you would fall on your face if you didn’t take a step. This is the angle we’re looking for.
2.) Drive off the balls of the feet to generate as much force into the ground as possible. The more force into the ground, the more explosive we become. Skips, marches, bounds, and plyometrics help teach to create ground force.
3.) Throw your back knee forward as violently as possible to jump start your leg cycle and drive momentum forward. Knee drive should be about waist-high for the first 5-10 yards of acceleration. The number one thing we yell as trainers is to “drive your knees!” Athletes unable to create strong front-side knee drive need to work on strengthening their hip flexors.
4.) The push-off leg should achieve "triple extension", with the hip, knee, and ankle all fully extended to maximize explosiveness. In the picture above, the sprinter’s back leg is an example of near-perfect triple extension.
Acceleration Mechanics- Upper Body
1.) To run efficiently, keep arms parallel to each other when running (not crossing in front of the body or rotating outwards). This is to prevent unnecessary twisting of the upper body, which is wasted energy and movement. The more still our upper body remains, the more efficient we are as runners.
2.) Arms should be bent approximately 90 degrees at the elbow when running. Do not bend and straighten arms back and forth! Movement comes from the shoulders and should be loose and fluid.
3.) Hands should not go past our cheek or our butt (we call this cheek-to-cheek), otherwise we are wasting motion. The exception is in the first few steps where we are exaggerating our backside arm motion to generate power.
4.) Relax! Don't tense up your face or upper body. The more relaxed your upper body is, the more energy your lower body can use. If you ever watch professional sprinter, it looks like they are barely even trying.