Beyond the track, the explosive burst used in sprinting is vital to many other popular sports (photo credit: Andrew JK Tan/SSC).
MASTER YOUR ATHLETICS TECHNIQUE (1): SPRINTING
Good sprinting speed is essential to most sports. Some people, like Usain Bolt and Jesse Owens, are blessed with great athletic genes. While natural born quicker reaction time makes a world of difference between olympic sprinters and the rest of us mere mortals, getting fast depends on how well you train, and how much discipline you have to master the technique of sprinting.
Whether you dream of winning your school track meet, or representing Singapore at the SEA Games or Commonwealth Games one day, these tips will hopefully help you improve your running time.
Increase Stride Length
Intuitively, the fewer steps you take, the faster you will cover the prescribed distance. Many runners run with high knee lifts thinking that it will lead to longer strides - but this is wrong. Drive your legs back as you run, keeping your knees high but not overly so. Use your hamstrings in addition to your quadriceps. This will lengthen your stride, and improve your speed. Hill sprints or sled drags are best to help you train for this.
Strengthen your core
Good posture depends on having strong core muscles. If you find yourself swinging your arms from side to side, or if you find that you’re swinging one arm more than the other, chances are you need to work on those back and abdominal muscles. Keep the core of your body upright, leaning forward only when you take off and straightening slowly as you cruise through the rest of the distance. A quick way to strengthen your core is to remind yourself constantly not to slouch, even when doing daily errands.
Tips on good sprinting posture (photo credit: http://blog.bsxathletics.com/)
As you run, your shin should be at a 45-degree angle when lifted up. Imagine this to be like loading a spring. Once your foot hits the track surface, it will spring up, cause you to accelerate, and increase hip flexion efficiently.
Hit the gym
Sprinting is an anaerobic activity, requiring explosive bursts of speed. One quick way to increase your strength is to lift weights in the gym, and do explosive plyometric exercises as well as medicine ball throws on the field. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be training to be a weightlifter - these exercises are meant to build strength in the muscles needed to improve your running. Make sure you contact a trainer at the gym for suitable exercises to build that explosive speed.
Strengthen your hip flexors
Research has been done comparing the fastest runner from Japan with Asafa Powell from Jamaica. The difference between the two? The size of the cross section of the iliopsoas, also known as the hip flexor. The bigger the muscle cross section, the more force it can generate.
Exercises like sprinting up hills, weighted spread eagle sit-ups, and leg raises with elastic bands will all strengthen your hip flexors. Stronger hip flexors will improve your running performance, and protect you from injury.
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