The new speed formula prioritizes ground contact force and ground contact time. In a previous post I discussed how to decrease ground contact time. In this post I'll discuss how to increase ground contact force.
The new speed formula states:
Speed = Ground contact force / Ground contact time
Simply increasing ground contact forces without regard to the direction of the force will result in less than ideal results. Fast speeds require forces in the right direction. When the foot strike is in front to the center of mass, breaking forces are introduced. See my this post on running form. In this situation ground contact forces are high, but in the wrong direction. So we want to eliminate the breaking forces and maximize the vertical and horizontal propulsive forces. During acceleration, the direction of the ground contact force will be more horizontal and transition to a more vertical direction as the sprinters gets into a maximum velocity phase.
Here are 4 ways to develop more ground contact force in the right direction.
If the fastest sprinter was simply the one who could develop the most ground force then all we need to do is develop strength. While strength is a necessary component, it is not sufficient. The fastest sprinters are able to generate the greatest ground contact forces in the appropriate directions in the least amount of time. This is truly a skill, and just like any skill, it can be taught. To develop this skill we will use a combination of strength and coordination exercises.
1. The most direct way to increase the bodies ability to produces forces is to get stronger. A certain level of strength is fundamental to sprinting fast, and there are different types of strength. USTAF identifies the following types of strength;
2. Olympic Lifts start to incorporate greater forces applied in specific directions at high speeds and can be a critical component to a sprinters training plan. My favorite are the clean and snatch. The technique of these lifts in this post and this post.
3. Different types of plyometric exercises are also excellent in developing big forces in very specific directions at high speeds and minimizing ground contact time. If olympic lifting isn't an option, multi-jump and multi-throw units are a great option. An example of different plyometric exercises can be found here and in my Skills and Drills DVD.
4. Sprint drills are probably the most sprint specific drill (other than sprinting). Special attention should be paid to performing these drill with proper sprint mechanics. Also, instead of teaching athletes to drive the knee or lift the leg, emphasize driving the foot down into the ground. Remember Newton's third law, a force driven into ground will produce an equal and opposite force and if this force in directed in the correct direction, it will propel the sprinter faster. Specific sprint drills can be found here and in my Skills and Drill DVD.