Speed is as much a skill as throwing or catching. (Learn more ways to get faster.) But many times, athletes have to run fast while performing another skill (like catching a pass), and their minds are focused on another goal (like evading a defender). It’s important to master the fundamentals of sprinting so thoroughly that they become second nature.
Technique is one of the most trainable factors with regard to speed. A single technique tip can instantly improve how fast you can run. (Try 3 speed ladder drills to improve technique.)
Below are eight mental checkpoints to go through when you train for sprinting. Focus on one at a time and master it before moving on to the next. Once you master all eight checkpoints, you will be close to reaching your speed potential.
Checkpoint 1: Head and Eyes
When sprinting, focus your eyes straight ahead.
Checkpoint 2: Shoulders and Back
Pull your shoulder blades back and arch your lower back.
Checkpoint 3: Hands
Your hands should be relaxed—but not loose—with your thumb pinned to your forefinger. You can alter your grip to whatever is comfortable, but make sure not to create tension.
Checkpoint 4: Arm Swing
The path your hands travel is easily taught using the “chest to hip pocket” cue. Neither hand should cross the midline of your body, and your elbows should remain at a 90-degree angle. On the back swing, your hand may end slightly higher than your hip pocket, but it should travel back far enough so that it is slightly behind your body.
Checkpoint 5: Wrists
At the end of each upward motion of the arm, your wrist should be cocked as it comes up to sternum level. As your hand travels back past your hip, your wrist should be “cracked” backwards as if cracking an imaginary whip.
Checkpoint 6: Glutes
Your glutes must be underneath your upper body, not rotated back and out of alignment with your spine. (Do this exercise to build glute strength.)
Checkpoint 7: Foot Placement
Your foot should make contact with the ground directly below your hips. Draw a line from the bottom of your pelvis to the ground. Your foot should contact the ground less than a foot in front of that line (depending on your size.)
Checkpoint 8: Foot Strike
When your foot strikes the ground, your ankle should be slightly extended, then fully extended during the pushoff. Flex your ankle after the pushoff and keep it flexed as your knee drives up. Your foot will roll slightly from the outside to the inside as it contacts the ground.
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