What Are the Three Stages of Sprinting?

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Sprinting events are the fastest competitions in track. Championship sprinters like Usain Bolt are track and field legends because of their insane speed and kinetic wonder. Sprint events happen so quickly, they may seem like a single sprinting stage. But sprinters -- including hurdlers and relay runners -- all go through three distinct biomechanical phases: drive, maximum velocity and maintenance. These different phases require different sprinting techniques, even during straight line sprints, in order to run faster than your opposition.


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The first of the phases of sprinting is the drive, when the sprinter bursts from a dead still starting position into a sprinting form. Reaction time is important here as the sprinter must get into an upright position and head for the finish line as soon as the starter signal goes off. The sprinter begins in a crouched position, in the starting blocks, and pushes forward while leaning ahead with their center of gravity above the lead foot. To make efficient use of his energy, the sprinter should lean with his whole body rather than bending at the hips. In this stage, the foot hits the track below or slightly behind the hips. This begins the acceleration phase of a race.

Maximum Velocity

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After the drive phase, the runner transitions to the maximum velocity phase. At this point the runner becomes fully erect in his posture, standing tall without his hips lowered. As the name suggests, the runner achieves his maximum speed in this phase, maintaining it for as little as 10 to 30 meters in the 100m sprint, or as much as 200 meters in the 400-meter sprint. Sprinters need maximum force production while having minimal ground contact time in this stage.


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The final phase of a sprint is the maintenance phase. Sprinting is not thought of as a speed endurance sport, but even sprinters cannot maintain top speed for the entire race. In the final stage, the sprinter begins to start their deceleration phase. In this stage, the goal is not to continue accelerating, but to minimize deceleration. The runner should be careful in this stage not to increase his stride length or arm swing, which can have the inadvertent effect of slowing him down further.

Using the Stages

To achieve the best sprint performance possible, runners should follow these three stages. The runner should always gain speed, maintain speed and then gradually slow down. Changing speeds throughout the race wastes energy, and re-accelerating late in the race can damage the hamstring. To make the most of a run, a sprinter should train to accelerate as quickly as possible, then maintain the maximum velocity stage as long as possible before inevitably slowing down.