Is Sprint Technique Training Necessary?

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  • Mike Young
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    Mike Young on #59590

    Last year he was at this same meeting in Dallas. I assumed he was going to be there again. Either way, I'll give him a call.

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    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #59591

    This was recently posted on Barry's website by Barry's partner Ken:

    [i]We’ve debated the issue of the trainability of running mechanics, specifically front side and backside, on several sites. Many times the debate turned into the equivalent of a silent shouting match (which is the best definition I can think of for Internet banter) as both sides presented their best arguments.

    The following is based upon a series of responses by Ken Jakalski to those who believe that running mechanics must be trained in order to maximize  sprint performance.

    Once again, enjoy!

    Barry[/i]

    After the Kivi/Alexander study of '98 regarding A and B drills, coaches acknowledged that Mach drills were not simulators of high speed leg swing mechanics. In addition, many speed authorities have now modified their position on the “pawback” as a mechanic of sprinting.

    However, they still believe that properly aligning the vectors for landing requires special technique training. This focus is the result of Ralph Mann’s kinematic studies of the early 80s which pointed out that slower athletes (distance runners) land with the foot farther out in front of their body.

    Many believe that the foot landing under the center of mass is a trainable mechanic that can influence speed. The argument: slower guys land farther out in front. Faster guys don't. Hence, to make guys faster, teach them to land under the CM. I don't believe Ralph had presented any protocols by which this landing under the CM could be accomplished via drills or cues.

    Many coaches analyze the swing phase in two parts: front side mechanics and backside mechanics.

    They perceived a direct relationship between the recovery of the leg and the appropriate landing under the CM. The key to an effective alignment of vectors was to avoid what became known as a circular swing. According to their theory, the heel needs to come up under the butt rather than behind the butt, and the leg must be immediately recovered with the hip flexors becoming active to lift the leg so that the heel never travels behind the midline of the body.

    In other words, if the upper leg is vertical to the track, the foot must NOT be recovered near or against the hamstring or behind the butt (hence the term backside mechanics).To them, it was taking too long to recycle effectively so that the foot was unable to land under the CM. A heel landing behind the butt was a wasteful motion that delayed proper recovery of the leg.

    Coaches have remained focused on the swing theory because they see it as a very “teachable” mechanic intervention. Hence, we have a vehement defense of the notion that the PATH the recovering leg takes is of critical importance to optimizing front side landing mechanics. Because they believe it is a teachable mechanic, they perceive that anyone displaying a foot lagging behind the butt as lacking proper training.

    The 2000 Journal of Applied Physiology study, “Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements” by Peter G. Weyand, et al, demonstrated that swing mechanics were a non-factor. Case closed.

    I always believed that modifications to a 'natural' swing (if indeed possible) would be more wasteful, since it seemed–in effect– to oppose the elastic recovery of the leg. In my opinion, this is an unnatural movement that would increase metabolic cost because it requires active muscle work at a time when most of this should be passive transfers.

    Ken Jakalski

    Here's what I had to say in return….

    Ken…you say:

    "The 2000 Journal of Applied Physiology study, “Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements” Peter G. Weyand, et al, demonstrated that swing mechanics were a non-factor. Case closed."

    As far as I know, the article didn't examine the swing phase kinematics in question. How can you make conclusions about something that were not even studied?

    The studies that have examined swing phase mechanics (most notably Ralph Mann's ongoing research on the best sprinters in the world) has shown that it does.

    When I hear your argument (and Barry's) it sounds like you're making unwarranted conclusions from Peter's research and ignoring the other research to the contrary. Mann has almost 25 years of data on this subject…all saying the same thing. How do we reconcile this issue?

    As for the recovery being passive, EMG studies refute this. The hip flexors are VERY active through the swing phase….second in duration only to the adductors (which interesting also act as a hip flexor when the leg moves in to extension as would be seen following toe-off).

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    Mike Young
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    Mike Young on #59592

    Still need to contact Peter…

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    mortac8 on #59593

    Whenever we see sprinters in the Olympic final who never practice sprint technique then maybe they'll have a point.  I pray that the word Allyson does not come up in any rebuttal to my comment :saint:

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    coldshot on #59594

    More questions for Peter:
    *In the case of athletes who have been over-coached early on in their career or who have their own personal misconceptions about what they should do regarding running mechanics, does Peter suggest we completely avoid any type of feedback to these athletes. Will they naturally become as efficient over time as if they received technical feedback?
    *Does Peter think Dr. Mann is wrong when he says that elite level sprinting is not a natural movement.

    stephen francis believes as well, that sprinting is not a natural movement, thus the hams become stressed.  He uses drills to specifically strengthen muscles involved in sprinting.  Drills like high knees and straight-leg bounds.  High knees i'd assume for the hip flexors and straight-leg bounds i'm assuming for lower leg stiffness.  Also, one must pay attention to the back of the body, from the lumbar back to the heel, as he believes these are most stressed during sprinting.  Perhaps it is this approach which allows powell to maintain this low heel recovery he run with for most times, the entire race.
    powell high knee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTi060JSmlw
    powell straight-leg run/bound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-NlTRNbcZw&mode

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #59595

    Thanks for the adds. Those videos are interesting if for no other reason than to see Powell practice.

    Powell doesn't have a low heel recovery though. In fact, it's probably higher than anyone else. He almost looks like he's cycling when he hits top end speed. 

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    jump-start on #59596

    I wonder if Powells low heel recovery is a part of the reason he has had a string of groin injuries; it must place alot of stress on his psoas.

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    mortac8 on #59597

    Powell doesn't have a low heel recovery though. In fact, it's probably higher than anyone else. He almost looks like he's cycling when he hits top end speed. 

    I wonder if Powells low heel recovery is a part of the reason he has had a string of groin injuries; it must place alot of stress on his psoas.

    Comment of the month 🙂

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    jump-start on #59598

    [quote author="Mike Young" date="1193717768"]
    Powell doesn't have a low heel recovery though. In fact, it's probably higher than anyone else. He almost looks like he's cycling when he hits top end speed. 

    😛

    OK, I wonder if powells fast back-side swing mechanics is the reason he incurrs so many groin injuries.

    I wonder if Powells low heel recovery is a part of the reason he has had a string of groin injuries; it must place alot of stress on his psoas.

    Comment of the month 🙂
    [/quote]

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    lrmcdowell on #59599

    Two questions:

    1) Is the amount of force (amount and direction of application) the main or only factor determining amount of forward lean in the block start (of a sprint)?

    2) I know this is impossible but… if I could cut my body weight by 50%, without changing the amount of force I could produce would I be able to sprint faster? Or put another way, If I could double the amount of force I could produce without changing my body weight, could I sprint faster?

     

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #59600

    Two questions:

    1) Is the amount of force (amount and direction of application) the main or only factor determining amount of forward lean in the block start (of a sprint)?

    Yes. It is the primary factor. Or from another point of view…the need to accelerate demands / requires those positions.

    2) I know this is impossible but… if I could cut my body weight by 50%, without changing the amount of force I could produce would I be able to sprint faster? Or put another way, If I could double the amount of force I could produce without changing my body weight, could I sprint faster?

    You would run MUCH faster in this scenario (as long as we're talking about force applied to the ground and not using some secondary measure like pounds lifted in the squat, deadlift, clean, etc).

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    lrmcdowell on #59601

    [quote author="lrmcdowell" date="1196043653"]
    Two questions:

    1) Is the amount of force (amount and direction of application) the main or only factor determining amount of forward lean in the block start (of a sprint)?

    Yes. It is the primary factor. Or from another point of view…the need to accelerate demands / requires those positions.

    2) I know this is impossible but… if I could cut my body weight by 50%, without changing the amount of force I could produce would I be able to sprint faster? Or put another way, If I could double the amount of force I could produce without changing my body weight, could I sprint faster?

    You would run MUCH faster in this scenario (as long as we're talking about force applied to the ground and not using some secondary measure like pounds lifted in the squat, deadlift, clean, etc).
    [/quote]

    Thanks for the reply Mike. Putting questions of the role of sprinting technique aside for the moment, I would like to address the issue of increasing the ability to produce force.

    If it is true that the ability to produce force is a major limiting factor in sprinting speed (as I believe it is) then, it stands to reason that a sprinter should try to increase the ability to produce force.

    Many athletes use olympic lifting or powerlifting exercises in the hopes that these exercises will increase the ability of their body to create force in a way that will transfer to sprinting. If it is true that this transfer of training effect does occur from weighted resistance exercise, then it necessarily occurs via the principle of specificity. For example, Barry Ross maintains that deadlift combined with a plyometric exercise is the best way to make gains in force production which will transfer to sprinting. If this is the case than it must be because deadlift + plyometric trains strength qualities that are more specific to sprinting than are other less valuable exercises.

    I do not doubt the possibility that the deadlift+plyometric is one of the best in the group of commonly used Olympic and powerlifting exercises used to increase force production, since this combination covers both the mass and acceleration portion of Force production in a manner that is biomechanically similar to sprinting.

    However, if it is true that transfer of strength from the weightroom to sprinting is due to specificity then I see several problems with the deadlift (as well as the squat, and all variations of the Olympic lifts). Namely they are not as specific as possible.

    From what I understand most of the forces applied in sprinting are used to counter the vertical pull of gravity via the spring mass mode. In sprinting, power is applied at very high joint angle (around 180 degrees), where as in deadlift, squat and the Olympic lifts a low joint angle is used (closer to 90 degrees at the hip and knee). Also deadlift and the Olympic pulls involve primarily concentric contraction, whereas sprinting has a very important eccentric component. Finally, the deadlifts and Olympic lifts are one step further removed from the force production modality of sprinting in that the resistance is outside of the center of mass (thus requiring the hands to move the weight) whereas in sprinting gravity acts on the center of mass – bearing straight down. (In this respect the squat is more specific to sprinting than the Olympics or deadlift.)

    Also, all of these movements are bilateral, sprinting is a single-legged movement.

    Finally, the Olympic and power lift movements require a highly technical element which negates some of the bodyâ??s ability to produce force

    In my opinion none of these exercises are specific enough to sprinting to effect the maximum transfer of force from the lift to the sprint. Why not use an exercise like the single leg quarter, or 1/8th squat? In this exercise the weight is bearing down directly on top of the center of mass (like gravity does in sprinting). It is unilateral (as is sprinting), and the leg, because of the very high joint angles (as in sprinting) can be loaded with the mass of the athlete + 300-400 lbs if not more. This is a total load of 500-600 lbs on a single leg â?? far more specific to the loads found in sprinting. Furthermore, this exercise is not very technically complex, so all energy can be focused into force production, not technical negotiations. Finally, it contains a very significant eccentric portion, where in the Olympics and deadlift the weight is usually dropped (which totally omits the eccentric portion, as well as the storage of elastic energy in the change from eccentric to concentric action)

    Does this make sense to anyone else, or am I off base for some reason?

     

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    coldshot on #59602

    Thanks for the adds. Those videos are interesting if for no other reason than to see Powell practice.

    Powell doesn't have a low heel recovery though. In fact, it's probably higher than anyone else. He almost looks like he's cycling when he hits top end speed. 

    I was talking about where the heel goes relative to the buttocks. 

    When you compare his heel recovery to mo greene, ben johnson, tyson gay, or wallace spearmon, you notice that the latter sprinters heels recovers higher closer to the buttocks than powell, as well they have that "visual look of butt kick"

    Also, if you watch any front-on-shot of powell in which his lower half is in view, you can see that his heels remain in plain view for the whole 100m as he recovers.  But when you watch a ben johnson, tyson gay, justin gatlin, mo greene, or wallace spearmon from a front-on-shot in which their lower half is in view, their heels disappear momentarily as they recover.

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    coldshot on #59603

    He almost looks like he's cycling when he hits top end speed. 

    i remember reading an article on leonard scott dating to between 2005 season and 2006 season.  But can't fint this article anywhere now.  In it they asked leonard scott what he thought of asafa powells shuffle.  He said his coach john smith told him that powell is gonna continue to injure his groin because he shuffles his stride.

    Wasn't sure what they were talking about when they asked of Powell's shuffle.  At first I assumed they were referring to his shut-downs.  However I'm now thinking they meant his relatively short, powerful, cycling type stride.

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    burkhalter on #59604

    [quote author="Mike Young" date="1193717768"]
    Thanks for the adds. Those videos are interesting if for no other reason than to see Powell practice.

    Powell doesn't have a low heel recovery though. In fact, it's probably higher than anyone else. He almost looks like he's cycling when he hits top end speed. 

    I was talking about where the heel goes relative to the buttocks. 

    When you compare his heel recovery to mo greene, ben johnson, tyson gay, or wallace spearmon, you notice that the latter sprinters heels recovers higher closer to the buttocks than powell, as well they have that "visual look of butt kick"

    Also, if you watch any front-on-shot of powell in which his lower half is in view, you can see that his heels remain in plain view for the whole 100m as he recovers.  But when you watch a ben johnson, tyson gay, justin gatlin, mo greene, or wallace spearmon from a front-on-shot in which their lower half is in view, their heels disappear momentarily as they recover.

    [/quote]

    Yet Powell is faster than all of them. By a long shot. Hhmmmm…..

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