Naturally, the goal of any strength program is to get….stronger.

One way we can do that is to lift heavy things repeatedly over and over again.  Over time, that heavy weight ain’t so heavy anymore.

Let’s imagine you are in a bit of a training funk, a plateau, on your squats.  You seem to be stuck at the same training loads for a few weeks.  What to do?

Well, if we look at how long it takes to perform a maximal squat, you could be looking at a time frame between 3-6 seconds.  However, the amount of maximal muscular force when lifting heavy weights usually occurs around 300 milliseconds.  After that, the muscles are simply grinding through the contraction.

Another option would be to find a way to create loads of force in a shorter amount of time.

Operation Overload

Let’s imagine you weigh 200 pounds.

Now,  let’s imagine you want to recreate 800 pounds of force…on 1 leg…in 90 milliseconds….  I challenge you to find one movement in the weight room that can recreate this amount of force in this short window of time.

Sprinting is just such a movement!  It’s one of the best lower body overload exercises you can do.

There are two components to training speed:

  1. Acceleration
  2. Max Velocity Running.

Given the more technical nature of max velocity running, today’s post examines the benefits of acceleration work and the positions and patterns teaching you how to safely accelerate.

Benefits of Acceleration Work

  1.  No real special equipment is needed.  All you need is a comfortable pair of running shoes and a safe surface on which to run (a track is best, but a flat even road is a great option, too.)
  2. Develops muscular power.  Unlike max velocity running which can also rely on passive mechanics and stored elastic energy from tendons and fascia, acceleration work relies more on pure neuromuscular abilities.
  3. Improves coordination between upper and lower body.  High power output requires strong arm and contralateral leg drive.
  4. Increased mindfulness.  Given that acceleration efforts are usually over in 3-6 seconds, the mind must be focused on the task at hand in order to move the body in the manner to generate maximal power.  Distractions and daydreaming take away from your performance.

Acceleration Basic Positions and Patterning

The first part of acceleration is understanding how the body positions and patterns itself during acceleration.

In the video below, we start by becoming familiar with how to lean with a connected upper and lower body.  Start by stiffly shifting forward and backward.  Imagine that someone is trying to slide a piece of paper under your heels.  Another way of thinking about the forward lean is by leading with your belt buckle.

Ideally, the first step in acceleration work should attack the ground with as close to a 45 degree angle as possible.  This angle will be dependent on the athlete’s leg strength.  Weaker athletes will have larger angles of attack.).

Wall drills are a simple way of teaching the basic patterns of acceleration.

Start by placing yourself up against a fence or wall, angled.  Bring the knee up to the hip with the ankle dorsiflexed.  At this position the angle of the shin should mirror the angle of the body; each should be parallel to each other.  To return the foot back in the right pattern the leg is driven down AND back.  At the finish position the foot should be behind the body’s center of mass.

You can rehearse this pattern with one leg at a time with an eventual pattern involving both legs, alternating.

A “Load and Lift” pattern is the next progression.  Keeping that same starting angle, sit your hips down and back and then drive and explode up into the finish position with one leg driving high and up and the other leg pushing down into the floor.

The Start

Now we start getting to the nitty-gritty.  While static starts are the end goal, for folks new to acceleration, I recommend dynamic starts i.e. a start with some movement preceding it.  These start variations are a bit more gentle on the body and allow the body to slowly acclimate to the sudden explosive nature of acceleration.

Walking Start

Skipping Start

Fall-In Start

Note the subtle forward fall before the start occurs.

Static Starts

Once you have a better feel for the dynamic start variations, you should be ready to give static starts a try.

There are a couple of options you’ll see in the video below.  You can begin with a 2 Point Start where only the feet are touching the ground.  The next progression would be the 3 Point Start.  Here one arm is in contact with the ground while the other arms is up and back, primed and loaded to be driven forward.  The final progression would be a 4 Point Start.  Now, both arms are down on the ground, mimicking an actual start from blocks that you might see in track and field sprinting.

As previously stated, there are many benefits to including acceleration training in your weekly workouts.  Not only do they provide enormous physical and mental benefits, but they are great way of adding variety to a home program that might be getting stale from the many months of COVID-19 restrictions.

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