Sprint Workouts for Speed
Sprinting is not just a faster version of running. It is almost a different kind of discipline altogether. It requires the sprinter to learn a different body form and build specific muscle fibers. Therefore, sprint workouts also must be specifically tailored to train the legs in a very unique way.
The goal of sprint training is to build explosive burst, which will allow you to accelerate quickly and achieve an even greater top speed. This begins with stride length. According to professional sports coach Brian Mackenzie, your stride length should start at 50 to 60cm near the beginning of the race and increase progressively 10 to 15cm each step until you attain an optimal length of 2.3m.
You should sprint tall and erect, running on the balls of your feet with a high forward knee drive and extended back leg. As you train, you'll build fast twitch muscle fibers, which are large muscles that supply quick bursts of energy.
Sprint workouts utilize short bursts of high-intensity sprint intervals of more than 20m and up to 400 or 600m in length. Each sprint interval is chosen from increments of 10m between 20 and 100m and every 50m after that; for instance, intervals can be done at lengths of 70m, 80m, 90m, 100m, 150m, 200m, etc. This is somewhat similar to high-intensity interval training, but the ultimate goal is quickness rather than sheer physical exertion.
Each day you should do a specific number of sets that contain several repetitions of short sprints with rests in between. For instance, you may choose to do 5 repetitions of 50m sprints and then 3 sets of these 5 repetitions for a total of 15 50m sprints.
The longer the distance, the fewer sets and repetitions you should do. It is possible to construct your own workout, though it is probably more advantageous to follow the structure laid down by a professional.
There are many variations upon the standard sprint workout. Resistance sprints, for instance, involve some kind of resistance from a sledge, tire or an uphill incline. Assisted running is defined as running downhill or with the wind. Intensive tempo involves running at 75 to 95 percent effort with the aim of building up lactic acid. Extensive tempo is similar, but the aim is to run slow enough so that there is no buildup of lactic acid.
Plyometrics, which are exercises specially designed to target and improve explosiveness and nervous system reaction time, are also advantageous to sprinters. Plyometrics are highly dynamic exercises and come in different forms, but most of the routine includes some kind of hopping, jumping or skipping. After all, you want to improve the ground contact time of your feet. An elite sprinter will make contact with the ground for 0.08 to 0.1 seconds. For an average person it’s about 0.2 seconds. This in turn will increase your ability to push off from the ground faster and build even greater speed.
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