On my way back from Sarasota today I came up with a list of the top ten myths I hear about sprinting mechanics. Check it out and let me know what I left off.
The elbow angle must stay at 90 degrees. Who came up with this? What’s the rationale? What’s the benefit? Ask someone to provide answers to those questions next time you hear that ridiculous idea. Not only is it not beneficial, it simply doesn’t happen. EVER. Even those who try to do it simply cannot. The body is smarter than the brain sometimes.
- Sprinters should paw back at the track. This myth came about as what has been observed in elite sprinters. The problem is that they aren’t actively doing it and attempting to do so could cause a load of problems.
- Technique doesn’t matter. Extreme points of view on anything (training, political, socio-economic, etc) are rarely ever correct.
- Technique means everything. As above. See HERE for discussion on myths 3 & 4.
- Sprinters should run on their toes. Save that for horses, cows, and other hooved animals. The human body is just not structured appropriately to benefit from running on the toes. Athletes should make ground contact either with a mid-foot contact or on the ball of the foot.
- Sprinters should attempt to lean forward. On the surface, this makes sense because it would appear to be a good position to apply horizontal forces to the track which would seemingly be the limiting factor in sprinting. Unfortunately this isn’t the case because not only is the body not anatomically structured to apply greater forces from this position but more importantly, horizontal forces are not the limiting factor in sprint speed.
- Sprinters should actively kick their butt. This one comes about as a result of a misunderstanding of what actually causes the joint actions that one sees in good sprinters. More specifically, we see the athlete flex their knee and ‘kick their butt’ and think that it must be active knee flexion. In reality, the ‘butt kick’ is likely a result of active hip flexion that naturally causes the knee joint to close.
- Arms control the legs. We’ve all heard it. The reality is that everyone can more their arms as fast as an elite sprinter. Arm swing is a contributor to sprint performance but in most athletes it likely isn’t a limiting factor.
- Complete triple extension is necessary for maximal performance. Many have the misconception that more extension at the ankle, knee, and hip joint is better. In reality, research evidence indicates that the best sprinters have less hip and knee extension at toe-off. Also, many believe that a powerful plantarflexion at toe-off is extremely important. Similar to the ‘butt kick’ myth, this one stems from the belief that any additional horizontal propulsive force generated will be of benefit. In reality, emphasizing toe-off may just extend ground contact times with very little positive effect.
- Increased turnover is the key to sprinting speed. In reality, it is vertical force production that is the limiting factor in sprint performance. Attempting to artificially manipulate turnover could lead to maladaptive firing patterns of the muscles necessary for producing force at ground contact.