Get Faster With This Sprint Form Checklist

April 6, 2012

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You could spend weeks developing lower-body power without seeing the speed results that you could achieve after just a few hours of sprint mechanics practice. Develop your sprint form by working through this simple checklist.

1. Head

  • Keep your head still and naturally in line with your spine
  • Relax your jaw and neck muscles
  • Focus your eyes down the track

2. Shoulders

  • Relax your shoulders to keep from shrugging, which will lock your hips
  • Power upper-body movement with your shoulders, not your arms

3. Arms/Hands

  • Balance leg movements with your arms; the arm on your lead leg side should go back, and vice versa
  • Swing your arms forward to a closed place at a 135-degree angle in front of your body and backward to an open place behind your body. Bringing your arms too far forward or backward will throw off your balance and waste energy
  • Keep your arm movements smooth, and don't let your arms cross your body
  • Lock your elbows at a 65-degree angle and hold your wrists straight
  • Extend your fingers to increase the lever of the arm; clenching your fists and moving them as fast as possible disrupts the arm swing pattern

4. Posture

  • Maintain a neutral posture. A forward or backward tilt at the pelvis will decrease range of motion in the hips, adding injury-causing pressure to the hamstrings

5. Front-Side Mechanics

  • Raise your lead leg to a locked horizontal position with your hips held high
  • Adjust the angle between your shin and foot to 90 degrees or more
  • To start a forward swing, extend your lead leg at the knee
  • Prepare for contact by stabilizing your ankle and keeping your toes up
  • Land with a flat, mid-foot strike
  • Swing your landing leg two to four inches in front of the hip to apply force on contact. If you swing too far, your body will naturally brake. If you don't swing far enough, you'll lose stability

6. Backside Mechanics

  • Start backside mechanics when your recovery leg is even with your support leg on ground contact
  • Keep your hips tall
  • Contact the ground with your foot bent toward your body, and push off with your toes
  • Bring your toes off the ground with your ankle bent toward your body under the gluteal muscle
  • Maintain "triple extension" with your support leg, keeping your ankle, knee and hip extended; stand on the balls of your feet with your heel slightly raised
  • Shorten your recovery leg as it goes up and over the knee on your support leg and rises to a locked position; think of the cyclical motion of pedaling a bike; bring your heel as high as possible, up and over your support leg knee

Use your warm-ups to really focus on mechanics. Correct form may feel unnatural at first, but once it becomes second nature, you'll start seeing real results from your training.

Once you've mastered form, check out these three tough speed workouts:

Speed Sand Training
Hill Sprint Drills
DeSean Jackson's Speed Workout

Raymond Tucker, CSCS, a Level 1 Track Coach certified by the United States Track and Field Association, holds a doctorate in sports management, with honors, from the United States Sports Academy. He has published several articles relating to speed and strength training and has been a presenter at Frank Glacier Football Clinics. He was a strength and conditioning coach at Coffeyville Community College, and he interned at Texas Lutheran College under Coach Tom Mueller. A former junior European Karate champion, Tucker was also a competitive, drug-free powerlifter.

Raymond Tucker
- Raymond Tucker, CSCS, a Level 1 Track Coach certified by the United States Track and Field Association and Level 1 FMS certified by Functional Movement...
Raymond Tucker
- Raymond Tucker, CSCS, a Level 1 Track Coach certified by the United States Track and Field Association and Level 1 FMS certified by Functional Movement...
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