In the world of sprint training, each athlete’s needs are going to be unique to their position in their sport. For awhile, there was a misconception that field athletes (i.e lacrosse, baseball, soccer) did not have to train for maximum velocity sprinting. Coaches cited that these athletes “never had the time to reach top speed” and that “track athletes required 50-60 m of sprinting to hit top speed.” I am here to tell you that training a 100m sprinter is totally different than training for a field sport.
When someone is training for the 100m dash, one big pillar of that race is who can fatigue the slowest. Once top velocity is achieved, it’s a race to maintain that velocity! Sprinters who achieve max velocity early in the race are continually out performed by those who hit top velocity later in the race. According to World Open Indoor Track & Field Records, top sprinters have completed 50-60m races faster than their 50-60m split in a 100m race. The mindset behind these two races are different, and while sprinters are not running “submaximally” until the 50-60m mark, they take a longer time to achieve max velocity to prevent premature fatigue.
Field athletes often sprint for 20-30m, much shorter than their track athlete counterpart. If we apply the same mindset of attaining max velocity in a shorter period of time, they have no need to fight off fatigue in a long distance run, and they are encouraged to reach peak ability in a shorter distance. Another difference between the two categories of athletes is starting position. 100m sprinters start from a 4 stance out of blocks, while the field athlete is often starting their sprint from a rolling position (walking, jogging) allowing them to reach top velocity in a shorter distance.
When training the field athlete to improve sprint ability, neglecting to prescribe max velocity training is a flawed prescription. Field athletes are able to attain 95%+ of their top velocity in 20-30m runs. If their body is not exposed to those speeds, or trained to improve their top speed ability, you are not getting the most out of your athlete. Clark et al. looked at the NFL’s 40 yard dash times during the combine. The goal of these observations was to determine how important max velocity ability was during the 40 yard dash. What they discovered was max velocity is extremely important! The majority of all position athletes had similar acceleration ability. In the first 10-20yds, the majority of athletes achieved at least 75% of their top speed. What separates the fast from the slow was their top-end speed. The faster times were completed by the athletes with a higher maximum velocity.
All phases of sprinting are crucial for improving speed. The ability to accelerate, improve top-end speed, and maintain it are all a must for athletes. The difference lies in the requirement of the sport. What does their starting stance look like? When do they need to hit top-speed? How long do they need to maintain that speed? These questions will answer what your speed development training should look like.
Thanks for your time!
Coach Nate Garcia