Sprint Series, Part 1: Starting Stronger

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The First Step

During the start and continuing acceleration, we will be looking for complete extension: triple extension at the ankle, knee and hip! This allows for maximal force application — you push the ground, the ground pushes back = you go faster!

On the first step, we will look for the complete extension through the ankle, knee and hip. This should look as close to a straight of a line as possible. The first step should land underneath the sprinter and slightly behind the center of mass, landing on the ball of the foot. We don’t want to land too far forward, as this will create braking forces and make it harder to accelerate efficiently on the next step. Think that you are aggressively driving the knee forward, landing on the ball of the foot.

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Copyright © 2016 CompuSport LLC

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Jadeveon Clowney hitting an excellent position on his first step to running a 4.48 (handtimed) 40-yd dash. Photo Credit to Lorenzo Reyes, @ Sportswire


As the foot from the first step contacts the ground, it lands on the ball of the foot underneath the center of mass. This allows for the effect development of horizontal speed. As the foot lands, the athlete is trying to “paw” the ground as fast as possible to efficiently maintain speed over the duration of the ground contact and minimize braking forces.


During the entire sprint — with the exception of the foot takeoff on the ground phase — the athlete should strive to keep the toe dorsiflexed so as to allow an efficient lever for ground contact forces, as opposed to letting the toe “point” into plantar flexion, which creates inefficient ground contact forces and more than undesirable breaking mechanics.

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Copyright © 2016 CompuSport LLC

Don’t Rush It

It is important during the ENTIRE acceleration that the ground contacts are not rushed! Too many times you will see athletes try to be “quick” and run “lightly,” but what this accomplishes is short-changed extension from the joints and less than effective force application to the ground. Comparably to the rest of the race, the acceleration is shown to have longer ground contact times as the athlete accelerates. As they reach top speed later in the race, the shorter ground contact times will occur as a result of the high vertical forces. Don’t be afraid to allow for big, powerful pushing steps on that acceleration. The shortened ground contact times are a RESULT of high forces being exerted into the ground. When cued properly, the short ground contact times will occur as we achieve a top end speed, but typically shouldn’t be cued to avoid less then optimal force outputs. This will add up to higher top end speeds down the line.

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Copyright © 2016 CompuSport LLC

We will finish this two-part series in a later article, covering maximal velocity mechanics.

Mann, Ralph V.  “The Mechanics of Sprinting and Hurdling”, 2013 Edition.
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