[This is a guest blog by Matt Hunter. Matt was a two-time collegiate All-American Decathlete for Ohio Wesleyan and is currently both a sports performance coach and athlete at Athletic Lab Sports Performance Training Center. ]
After Athletic Lab recently posted a video to their Instagram feed (see the full video below), some questions began to follow… Is this the latest gimmick in the world of “high performance”? Will it make you run 30mph if you pay large amounts of money plus your first-born child to buy the “elite package?” Has Coach Young lost his mind and achieved mad scientist status?
First, lets talk about assisted sprinting to better understand what we were doing in the training session featured in that video. Assisted sprinting, also called over-speed training, or supra-maximal running, is a widely used method of developing speed. And when I say speed, I mean maximal velocity upright sprinting. Some examples would be towing devices, or downhill running. If you want to learn more about these training methods, give this a read. And to further elaborate on considerations to be taken when downhill running, check this out here.
“Wait a second Matt, in the video you guys were sprinting on a flat surface, not downhill. And the band only would have assisted you in the first few meters. So were you using the band for acceleration development?”
“Then what were you doing?”
The training session we were doing when that video was shot was a max velocity session. We were doing fly sprints. Fly sprints are when you have a set distance to sprint for, but allow for a running start into that set distance.
The main thing we care about during fly sprints is the speed achieved during the fly. Now, say you allow 20m to run into a 10m fly. It takes a significant amount of energy to accelerate up to speed in those 20m before the fly. Over the course of the session, energy spent on acceleration will contribute to the fatigue of the athlete, and fewer quality reps can be done in the session as a result.
To solve this problem we used band assistance to be able to accelerate up to speed more easily. We were timing our fly sprints throughout the session. And if using the band had simply allowed us to maintain the quality of the sprints throughout the session, that would have been enough to consider it a useful weapon to have in our arsenal of speed development. But it was better than that… a lot better…
We began the session with a 20m run in (with no band assistance), into a fly sprint of about 13m. We did not measure the distance of the fly exactly because we were not using the times of the fly sprints to compare to any of our benchmark times. We were simply comparing each rep to the previous reps so we could see when fatigue was setting in and know when to call it quits for the session. Aaron Port and I did our initial reps with no band assistance at around 1.42, and 1.45sec respectively. We then started experimenting with band setups, and as we dialed in the technique, we got faster, and faster, and faster.
You could attribute faster fly times in the first few reps to simply getting warmed up, but we continued to improve our times well past when we expected them to begin to drop off. For both Aaron and myself, our fastest times came on the 11th rep at 1.32 and 1.31 sec respectively.
“WOAH! Your top speed got so much faster in just 1 workout!”
Before we get too excited, let’s think about why this worked the way it did. What the band is doing, is allowing us to get up to a faster speed during the 20m run in than we could have achieved without it. If you look at the 10m splits over the course of a 100m race, they are still getting faster well past 20m. So we probably could have achieved these times for our fly sprints if we had taken a longer run in, say 30m or longer. But that would have cost more energy per rep. So, to speak more completely…
What the band is doing is allowing us to get up to a faster speed during the 20m run in than we could have achieved without it, and allowing us to spend less energy doing so.
Want to give it a try?
You can either use the method we used, or if you are fortunate enough to have access to a banked track you have another option. Downhill sprinting into your fly sprint.
By using the downhill bank of the track to aid in your acceleration, you can achieve the same effect that we did using a band. Specifically, running down the bank will allow you to accelerate up to speed using less energy than if you had started on the flat.
I personally have done workouts on banked tracks using this method before. An advantage that is has is to offers is an opportunity to practice transitioning off the banked turn onto the flat straightaway. Additionally, you can do it even if you are training on your own. For anyone who is going to be racing on banked indoor tracks, and has access to a facility where this can be done, I definitely recommended it.
On the other hand, even though the band-assisted method can’t be done on your own, it can be done anywhere. And from my personal experience using both methods, they are both excellent options.
So is this the latest gimmick? Nope, just good training. Will you have to pay me one million dollars to use it? You don’t have to, but feel free! But definitely keep your first-born child. And has Coach Young lost his mind? Well that’s for you to decide…