The Link Between Speed and Strength

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The Link Between Speed and Strength

Sprinting makes us think of coming out of the blocks from the gunshot. Being explosive out of the blocks will take us into the first, second, and third steps, setting us up for acceleration. The theory is that the better we are out of the blocks, the better we set ourselves up for acceleration the sooner we will achieve max speed; the only thing left to do is to hold max speed and velocity before deceleration comes about due to fatigue. 


Setting up the start through the first two to four steps is key. A good start helps create a better time because everything is set up for success from the beginning. The start leads to acceleration and allows us to get to max velocity as quickly as possible.


All the principles around sprinting come back to Newton’s laws, the guy who discovered gravity by having an apple fall on his head. Newton’s second law states that there will be changes in an object's state of motion which will be directly proportionate to the amount of force applied relative to the object’s mass. Newton’s third law states that for every force applied there is a reaction force of equal magnitude. A sprinter pushing into the ground will get an equal reactive force back from the ground equal to how much energy they are putting into the ground. 

The Strength Needed

We know that the start is key to setting up the entire sprint. We also know that strength is really important when coming out of the start position. A steep shin angle helps us project forward and put more force into the ground which will in turn help us accelerate rapidly while having dynamic trunk control.


The current issue is that strength is associated with huge bodybuilders, big, immobile powerlifters, and strongmen giants. This leads us to have to create a paradigm shift in how we recognize strength. Think about athletes like Andres De Grasse, Elaine Thompson, and Majinga Kambonji and how strong they are. This is where everything comes back to impulse.


Understand that speed and sprinting are being able to be extremely strong, powerful, and explosive in a very short period with consistent repetitions.

Impulse

We have two types of impulses we like to categorize. There is blast impulse that happens in a half second or less. There is sustained impulse which might happen from a half second to one and a half seconds (think football linemen hitting each other, or being more related to the blocks in sprinting). Sustained impulse has more time to apply force. This is where we can focus on block-based training. Running at maximal velocity we need to be performing blast impulse training.


Let’s look at specific exercises used to train and improve impulse.

1. Single-Leg Squat

I love to use the single-leg squat to improve sustained impulse. In doing the movement we have to focus on two aspects. The first aspect is having a steep shin angle to develop the transfer for coming out of the blocks. Put the front foot snug next to the knee pad to create a steep shin angle when at the bottom of the single-leg squat. We then want to drive up fast. Let the knee track pass the toe.


Another way to perform the single-leg squat is by putting the foot 3 to 4 inches in front of the knee pad. We still want to focus on pushing the knee forward and driving up with good posture.


Both variations help come out of the blocks and drive through the first two to four steps.

2. Pause Squat

A great movement to improve sustained impulse is a paused front squat. The front squat hammers dynamic trunk control and builds those quadriceps to strong, strong proportions to elevate acceleration capabilities.


The pause squat can also be done as a back squat. Back squats typically allow for a heavier load of weight to be handled than a front squat. Another cool trick to do with the paused back squat is to use an auditory cue when to come out of the pause to simulate the start of a sprinting event.

3. Barbell Step Up

Put a barbell on the back, step onto a box, and drive up through that knee. Holding a hip lock with the leg, not on the box is also a good standard to practice. Speed is the name of the game so select a load that is done within the time frame being trained for. 

4. Plyometrics

Improving strength for the blast impulse is targeted extremely well through plyometric movements. Plyometric movements when done correctly hit that time frame that occurs under a half second and allows for the repetition of movements to roll in that same quick timeframe.


Specific plyometric movements that work are double-leg bounds and Gwiz jumps to mini-hurdle hops. Technically not a plyometric movement, but it does wonders to train blast impulse, which is the exercise of hill sprints.

Speed and Strength

5. Reflexive Strength

Strength is needed to optimize positions to have a greater impulse through the execution of sprinting. This can include using exercises like a hydro-weight snatch to a box or even doing skips with a hydro-weight

Recap

We need to shift the paradigm of strength. We need to understand it is not just bodybuilding and it is not just powerlifting. Other forms of strength can lead to an improvement in overall impulse. Understand that there are two forms of impulse, blast and sustained, and comprehend that there are specific forms of strength that can optimize the mechanics and positions achieved while sprinting. That means understanding what movements are key to training dynamic trunk control, sustained impulse, and blast impulse.

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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