Regulation of Sprinting
One of the most captivating aspects of sports in all of the world, understanding speed and sprint performance. The concepts and mechanics behind high-speed running is something of incredible interest because of the impressive fashion behind movement but also because of the complexity behind sprinting physiology. To get fast, you need to have some idea on how the body works, find out the nitty-gritty!
Regulation of Running
Running is entirely regulated by the central nervous system. The full regulation of running is extremely complex, direct control from the brain fires the running processes and this effort is interwoven with sensory receptors educating the body on its surroundings, both contributing to performance. Our entire understanding of how the CNS works regarding constant feedback from the loops of training is still not fully understood but a basic comprehension of the sensory system can aid in comprehending programming entirely.
Understanding the Nervous System
If we can recall back to our video on muscle spindles and the golgi tendon organ, we can remember that afferent bundles send signals to the spinal cord. These signals are sent by means of feedback from the spindles and GTO and include recognition of muscle length and tension in the joints. During that same video, we covered that efferent signals came back to the motor units via the interneuron junction. Motor units are recruited under various loads to stimulate force from the muscle fibers. This is done to regulate the timing and the amount of force applied during movement.
During running, our proprioception and sensory systems are very tightly tied to the neural drive that charges locomotion. The first ignition provided by the body is based around a “motor proposition,” this plays with feedback provided by sensory receptors. This information is digested rapidly and contributes to movement through various levels. This plays along with re-afference which is information stemming from movement itself. More information coming from sound, the skin and even the inner ear for balance will contribute to performance of speed.
The motor proposition plays along with exteroception, or information coming from outside of direct movement. This could be data or information the body sees like a hilly terrain or unstable ground and to a point, guidance by a technical coach.
When athletes are learning to run very efficiently, the body uses both types of sensory feedback. While sprinting down a track or running a smooth surfaced hill, the individual can gain exteroceptive comprehension from their technical coach to alter their movement pattern. The key to constantly improving running mechanics is to take those corrections and to mold it effectively with the re-afferent system because running is such a cyclic, smooth motion, the body needs to be allowed to correct itself without extensive rigidity.
Rewiring the Body
Using simple drills, such as Vince Anderson’s wicket drill along with various skipping and footwork drills can improve front side AND backside mechanics. It’s extremely important to educate athletes on the importance of the starting position, the drive phase AND top end mechanics and to differentiate between each phase of running and how those mechanics are different.
From the perspective of a non-track based athlete, 85-90% of competition will be utilizing the mechanics of the drive phase. This style of running requires a bit more of a forward lean where vertical force is incredibly important but the center of mass is in a different location when compared with top end speed. If you are a track coach, it’s important to be aware of these technical differences and to be well prepared to fix these technical issues when dealing with athletes from field sports that rarely utilize top end speed!
Understanding how running is regulated and how the body is interwoven with various forms of feedback and receptors can help coaches understand what the athlete needs from a cue/drill perspective. Take the background of the athlete into consideration as well because it may predict any strengths or weaknesses the individual holds in their form at top end speed. This will not only help with regulating the sprinting but it will shorten the time to get the athlete to fully comprehend top end mechanics!
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of elite athletes building comprehensive programs for strength and sports performance. Several times a year he leads a seminar for coaches, trainers, and athletes.
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