The Greatest Speed Drill for Top End Mechanics
Off the line you have decent speed, after 8-10 yards, you start to get hawked down. You can seem to find that top end groove. Acceleration is a key component to transfer of speed to the field but there is still something missing. Why do you feel so slow when running full speed? Is there some way you can improve your mechanics that will lead to greater speed production? Let’s do some quick investigation!
Top End Speed
Many athletes are successful because they have a rapid first step. They are fast off the line, they accelerate rapidly and because of this, they are successful athletes with good game situation presence. This is very important in the realm of athletics but in the world of sprinting, it’s not that easy. These athletes might be the same individuals who can break open a long run, only to get caught within 3-4 steps after what looks like might be a huge gain!
In speed training, there are three key elements behind proper training. The first two elements are focused on the first step and acceleration. Speed and strength transfer very well during these first two elements, BUT the third element is an entirely different animal. The third element is focusing on maximal mechanics or top end speed!
Top end speed requires different positions of the torso, different reactions from the lower limbs and a different feeling while running. Many athletes struggle with this transition from acceleration to top end speed. The feelings and positions are different and just trying to run “harder” isn’t that easy. There needs to be a clear cut manner used to educate the athlete on top end mechanics.
One of the easiest ways to improve top end mechanics is through the use of Vince Anderson’s wicket drills. This drill is incredible for enhancing movement patterns at high speeds. Oftentimes, athletes that are untrained in the realm of sprinting struggle with auditory cues. They struggle to feel the positions they should be holding. By using simple drills like the Wicket Drill, the field athlete will be forced to engage with this new positioning and will be able to recognize the difference between top end mechanics and acceleration based mechanics!
What the hell is the Wicket Drill?
The “wickets” can be used to teach the athlete how to optimize their Ground Reaction Force. That is the force the ground provides back to the athlete! The more upright the torso is during top end speed, the more GRF will transfer and the faster the athlete will be capable of running!
At Garage Strength, we use very GENERALIZED layouts for our wicket drill. Our preferred “wickets” are simply mini-hurdles. These mini-hurdles can be upright or turned over. We have found most athletes tend to utilize the drill properly no matter how the hurdles are sitting. The entire goal of this drill is to teach the athlete to engage with three keys.
1. Upright posture running at top speed.
2. Dorsiflexed grounded on the front foot directly under the torso.
3. High heel recovery at top speed.
By laying out these mini-hurdles in proper lengths from one another, the athlete is forced into engaging with all of these aspects behind sprinting. We recommend laying out 7-12 hurdles that are about 6 feet apart for men and 5 feet apart for women. These are generalized distances that will vary with age and ability of each individual athlete.
Enter the Drill
We like to utilize 3-4 key drills through the entire wicket layout. The first recommendation is based around entering the drill with 5-7 steps of momentum. Hitting the drill at nearly full stride will ensure greater carryover to actual high speed running. Remember, the goal is to be upright with dynamic trunk control, the knees will be high because of the cue behind high heel recovery and the foot should be grounding in a dorsiflexed position.
The first drill we like to use is sprinting with long zombie arms. The zombie drill teaches the athlete to remain much more upright during running. The upright position will spark greater GRF! This is similar to our prayer position drill. When hammering the prayer position, the athlete learns how to control their upper back and to coordinate their trunk control with all of the muscles throughout their legs. These two movements are excellent for an individual who tends to lean forward at top end speed. Remember, a forward leaning torso is great for acceleration but not so much top end speed!
One of the more difficult movements behind the wicket drill is executing the drill with the hands on the back of the head. This position is very difficult and can cause awkward coordination. BUT, when the athlete is able to execute 5-7 reps with their hands on their head, they will immediately notice a more powerful movement at top end speed.
We have found utilizing the Wicket Drill once a week with 8-12 reps will dramatically improve the athlete and their running capability. Over 5-6 months, the individual will notice a significant difference between the mechanics of acceleration and the mechanics of top end speed. This will dramatically improve their execution and lead to more precise sprinting!
By having a true grasp on the elements of running, the athlete will start to function on a more technical plane. They will see what technical improvements do for their power output and their mindset will also change over time. This drill is something that can be executed consistently over very long periods of time. Even the best sprinters in the world like to use the Wicket Drill all the way to prepare for World Championships. Make sure you follow simple guidelines, express the goals of the drill and constantly work forward to improve sprint mechanics!
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