If you're a sprinter trying to improve your running economy, you need to focus on more than strength and stride length. Biomechanics, ground contact time and rate of force development are all important components of sprinting. Let's take a look.
Biomechanically, the body is meant to be placed in certain positions that allow for greater efficiency when performing certain movements. Many of the same positions and movements that allow you to jump high also influence your ability to explode from the blocks. But these positions may need a little tweaking or readjusting.
Good biomechanics means using force to your advantage while sprinting. Overstriding creates more counterforce, requiring you to work harder to propel your body. Understriding diminishes propulsive forces, so you don't get the most out of the force you apply to the ground.
Proper body and torso angles help you hit positions that allow you to apply force into the ground correctly. A torso angle of around 45 degress and a front knee angle of 90 degrees are ideal. Torso angles should gradually increase as you reach top speed and shift to top-end running mechanics.
Biomechanics can be reinforced in all training areas—during warm-up routines and basic drills before actual practice begins. Video feedback can be a great tool to help you hit certain postures and positions.
2. Ground Contact Time
As you accelerate from the blocks, the amount of time spent on the ground should gradually decrease as you reach top speed. This means that as your speed increases, your footstrike becomes a little shorter and your time spent airborne increases slightly.
Ground contact time can be reduced in several ways. The ability to apply more force into the ground allows you to propel your body forward more, producing slightly less ground contact time. Striking with a firm or powerful front leg also reduces ground contact time.
As you develop greater strength in your lower limbs, you will be better able to handle the force associated with exerting your foot into the ground. This will allow your lower limbs to hold their positions longer and not fold under pressure, thereby decreasing ground contact time.
As biomechanics improve, footstrike improves and resembles distinct phases of sprinting. Ground contact time is highly influenced by force output. As you reduce your ground contact time, applying more force is a must. Strength and conditioning coaches can help with this.
Learn more about how to reduce your ground contact time.
3. Rate of Force Development
Rate of force development refers to the rate at which you produce your maximum amount of force during an athletic movement. It does not denote the total amount of force you can produce, but rather your ability to develop force more quickly. As you learn to develop more force through strength and conditioning training and improved biomechanics, you improve your chances of succeeding against opponents who cannot create such powerful movements.
To increase your rate of force development, perform Medicine Ball Throws. They emphasize the triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles. Do them for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps. Weightlifting movements such as the Mid-Thigh Pull, Clean and Snatch derivatives, and eccentrically loaded plyometrics can also be performed for 3-5 sets/3-5 reps. To develop rates of force quickly, lower your training volume and focus on intensity of effort.
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