As humans, we're constantly searching for ways to become more efficient. This is exactly what the fastest sprinters in the world do. With simple running form drills, they save energy by being more efficient with their technique, facilitating faster times. (See Get Faster: Sprinting Technique.)
The theme of efficiency dominates each training session I lead. As an athlete growing up, I used quotes to visualize goals and stay focused. Now, as a coach I continue to use quotes when training athletes. One of my favorites is: "Efficiency is doing better what is already being done." When applied to sprint training, even the smallest improvement can have a big impact on speed.
So, how do you become more efficient in your running form? (See Sprinting Form Checklist.) When you ride a bicycle, your feet move around in a circle when you pedal. This is how you want your legs to move when you sprint. If you try to skip any part of the circular motion while pedaling, the bike slows down. True also for sprinting technique. Skipping a step will cause your form to break down and cause you to move more slowly.
These running form drills are broken down into four simple steps:
While standing tall on the balls of your feet, bend one knee, bringing your heel up directly underneath your butt.
Stay tall. Bring your knee up to hip level. Keep your toes flexed up towards your shin, which prepares you to apply force into the ground.
Stay tall. Don't kick your foot out in front of you. Simply release it toward the ground. Keep your toes flexed up toward your shin. Remember the bicycle analogy. Think about where this would be in the pedaling circle.
Stay tall. This is the moment of truth, for which the previous three steps prepared you. If you did them correctly, you're in position to push back on the ground with all the force you can muster, sending you forward with blazing speed. Make sure your leg is fully extended. One big thing to remember here is that the ball of your foot pulls from directly underneath or just slightly in front of your hip.
Take these four points and visualize them. Don't move your legs fast at first. Just place your hand on a wall and work on the motion, one leg at a time, standing in place. Become efficient with this cyclical motion, and you'll be able to sprint faster.
Learn how to master the four points of good form.
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