THREE KEYS TO AN EXPLOSIVE SPRINT START
As an athlete, being able to get to the play first, is something that can set you apart from the pack on a grand scale. Many sports have some type of linear speed test where you have the chance to show your ability to get there first. Yet, not many athletes understand how even to initiate a sprint, let alone how the technique can make them faster down the line. I am going to give you three clear keys to set yourself up for success from the start. If you can use only one of these keys to help your start, you will see dramatic improvements in your overall sprint. Every step in your sprint is set up by the preceding one; therefore, the first step can arguably be the most important. So let's get to improving it!
1. The Stance:
From my experience working with youth athletes (grades 6-12), some athletes can improve their first step by merely improving on their starting stance. Most athletes will start in a “receivers stance,” with a straight back leg and upright torso, this may work for your sport, but not in improving your 40 times. Two significant issues arise from using this stance to start a sprint. The first main problem this stance creates is you cannot push off both feet, which, right off the bat, will shorten your first step. Simply shortening up your position to a heel to toe relationship, at hip-width and squatting straight down will even up your weight on both feet and allow for a forceful push-off both feet.
The second major issue with this stance is the upright torso angle it creates. To get a proper acceleration angle with your torso, you MUST shorten your stance to shift your weight forward and stay balanced. By achieving a forward lean with the trunk from the start, you will be able to maintain your acceleration angle for longer, instead of popping up right out the gate.
2. Push With Both Feet!
Now that we have established our stance, we can start to look at actually sprinting. The second most common thing I see with our athletes is a false step or a step in any direction other than forward. As I mentioned above, getting your weight distributed evenly over both feet will help you get a more significant push out the gate. This position will also help us eliminate any false steps. You cannot step back or to the side if you push off both feet going forward. In a game situation of any type, a step in the wrong direction can be the difference between an interception or catch, a block or a layup, if we can eliminate a false step we can be more efficient in our movement and cut down on time and energy wasted.
One of my favorite exercises to practice pushing off both feet is a split stance broad jump. Set yourself up in the same stance as we went over above, and then jump OUT as far as you can, this will help you find pressure on both feet to drive out of your start. Once you feel comfortable pushing with both feet, you can then transfer that to an effective first step.
3. Arm Drive:
The arms feed the legs. If your arm drive does not mirror what you are trying to accomplish with your lower half, you will only get half the results. What you want to achieve with the arms is as you push off both feet, you drive one arm out and up while the other pulls back. This action should create a big split with your arms to help you push back into the ground with your first step. As you begin to accelerate, your arms need to be continually working to help create leg drive to climb out of your starting position.
Taking each of these three keys into consideration when preparing for any sprint, will help give you a reference for what you need to improve. Everyone can find one thing to develop, and that one thing may be the difference in getting to the play first or missing it altogether. If you have any questions on more ways to improve your speed, feel free to reach out, and we will be more than glad to help.
Check out the video below and compare the two different techniques and tell me which one you think is better!