Sprinting is a powerful and fundamental movement. It allowed our ancestors to escape from predators and hunt when required. Beyond that sprinting is an amazing exercise for building more muscle, improving your heart health and stamina. In order to sprint better, people use various apps and follow different running programs such as interval training or the useless long-distance running.
Some also spend a lot of money on fancy running shoes thinking that they will help us prevent joint injuries and sprint better. Although the above tools can be useful, we often divulge from fixing the basics for long-term progress and focus more on the quick fixes
Often when we sprint, our patterns are suboptimal which is a major contributor to slow pace and injuries. Our GAIT or human locomotion patterns are altered depending on a wide variety of reasons such as weight transition, previous injuries, mobility issues and posture deformities.
In order to fix the above GAIT cycle, we need to assess the same using manual methods (most feasible) which can be easily done at your nearest physiotherapist. Once we have assessed our GAIT and have got recurring issues fixed by a physiotherapist, we now need to analyze our running pattern for which you will have to record a video of yourself from the side.
Check for below points after recording the video from the lateral or the side view:
Foot contact: Foot contact should be at the forefoot to midfoot which will change depending on your running speed
Torso lean: Torso should be leaning slightly forward with eyes gazing around the horizon
Hand position: Hand should be placed at the side flexed at 90 degrees and should move in coordination with the opposite leg. Think of your arms moving in a pendulum fashion. Left, Right, Left is a useful clue.
Hip extension: Hip extension strength has a direct correlation with running speed and helps you propel forward. Exercises like deadlifts are very useful to create powerful hip extensions.
Use cues such as lean forward, push the ground, swing the arms Left, Right, Left to correct the errors you see in your running pattern. Once you have optimized your running form, you will need to focus on strengthening the muscles involved in sprinting.Mistake Of Following A Generic Strength Program
Running requires you to increase both concentric and eccentric strength. Below are things you need to keep in mind when designing a strength and conditioning program
Eccentrically Strong Muscles: Hamstring and quadriceps.
Heavy assisted leg press with slow eccentrics, single-leg leg extensions.
Concentrically Strong Muscles: Glutes and hip flexor muscle group mainly psoas major and rectus femoris.Romanian Deadlifts & Hip-Thrusts
Perform some strength training with high velocity as well. High-velocity movements will increase stride frequency and thus reduce ground contact time to give better running speed. Exercises which target different muscle lengths such as hip thrust and quarter squats can be incorporated as strength gain is joint angle specific as well.
A full body program thrice a week will suffice the majority of the requirements with running being in the morning and strength and conditioning in the evening time. Your program will have to be periodized especially if you are a competing runner/sprinter.
Summarizing everything we talked above:
Step 1: Fix your current injuries and get your GAIT checked under a specialist
Step 2: Record your running form from the lateral(side) view and fix visible errors and send them to running experts
Step 3: Assess your current levels of strength, power and design a strength & conditioning program or get an expert to do the same for you
Step 4: Periodize your entire running plan to minimize injuries and maximize your performance at any given timeframe
That's it, folks! Even though above is a complex topic and requires super detailed reasoning and planning, I tried my best to explain it briefly. And if you apply even 50% of this, it will make a significant impact on your running performance. Feel free to drop a comment below or mail me for further queries or doubts.
Yash Sharma is a former national level Football player, now a Strength Coach, Nutritionist and Natural Bodybuilder. He also runs a YouTube Channel Yash Sharma Fitness via which he aims to educate all the fitness enthusiasts to maximize their gains by methods that are backed by science and applicable easily. Connect with him on YouTube, YashSharmaFitness@gmail.com, Facebook and Instagram.