Resisted Sprint Training To Get Faster
Get Faster And Improve Power With Resisted Sprint Training
There are many methods to improve an athlete’s force output and make them faster but aside from overloading compound movements like squatting and deadlifting, one method that is regularly used to bridge the gap between the weights room and the field is resisted sprint training. This has a very specific force application so it shouldn’t be used all of the time but it can be a great tool to increase the horizontal ground reaction forces produced whilst accelerating and translating the strength gains from your movements like squatting and deadlifting into force production whilst sprinting.
What is resisted sprint training?
Resisted sprint training involves wearing a harness over the shoulders or around the waist and a form of resistance is applied backwards as you propel yourself forwards. This can be in the form of a parachute, sled, bungee or a partner with a resistance band. The idea is that you need to overcome the inertia of your own body plus the external load from your method of resistance. Therefore, creating higher forces with each step than if you were unresisted. Research has shown mixed results with different methods but as a rule, resisted sprint training has been shown to improve an athlete’s acceleration over the first 10-20m of a sprint when performed properly.
This external load creates a requirement for increased force production with each step to propel yourself and the additional load. When you take the harness off and sprint with no external load, you have the potential to produce the same forces during each step but the resistance will be lower, resulting in further distance travelled with foot contact.
Let’s look at the kinetics, mechanics, and kinematics, forces, of acceleration. Everybody has seen sprinters come out of the blocks with their head down and a huge knee drive. This is to increase the forward lean of the body from their foot all the way to their head. This forward lean puts their centre of mass (COM) in front of their base of support (BOS). Ehen they apply force into the ground behind them, their body is propelled forwards. As the athlete gains speed, their lower body will start to catch up to the upper body and the angle in relation to the ground will increase, creating a more upright position. This transition from a forward lean to an upright position happens when the athlete can no longer accelerate any faster. The upright position then is to maintain the speed created in the acceleration phase and apply force into the ground vertically to keep the body “up” at the given speed.
When you accelerate, the horizontal force is being applied backwards to propel you forwards. This is the same with the resisted sprint. When you reach maximum velocity the forces become vertical. For this reason, resisted sprinting should not be attempted with maximal velocity running, it just doesn’t apply.
Ground reaction forces (GRF) during the acceleration phase, are very high with each step during acceleration. This is the biggest marker of performance, the higher the forces produced with each step, the further distance is covered with each step and the faster you can accelerate. However, because of the requirement to produce high amounts of force, the contact times for each step are slow compared to maximum speed running. On contrast, the GRF during maximum speed running, is much lower than during the acceleration phase because the contact times are much shorter. Remember the force velocity curve. When force is at its highest, the time to produce the force is at its longest and vice versa. Again, this is another reason that resisted sprint training should not be performed with maximum velocity running. This will not increase the vertical GRF during top speed running but has the potential to slow down the ground contact times drastically.
THE VIDEO: Get Faster + Improve Power with Resisted Sprint Training
What are the downsides to resisted sprint training?
Do it wrong and it will make you slower. If you have seen videos of Instagram athletes towing half bodyweight on a sled sprint, this is exactly what we’re talking about. Let’s go back to the force velocity curve. Higher forces take a longer time to produce so if you load the sled up too heavy your force production will become slow. Force production is the underlying performance marker here but if it takes you half a second to apply that force with each step your opponent is already gone. The research states that around 10-30% bodyweight is optimal resistance for sled resisted sprints but this can differ massively from athlete to athlete, equipment and playing surface. When you are training with resisted sprints, remember that it is only a tool to translate the force production from your static compound movements into linear speed, monitor your progress by speed at a relative load rather than the amount of weight that is on the sled. Start small and be very strict with your progression, don’t allow yourself to become slow.
Are there any alternatives to resisted sprint training?
Hill sprints train the exact same thing. You are required to produce higher force outputs to propel yourself with each foot step to cover the same distance as if you were on flat ground. However, just like with the sled, you can go too steep, the forces will be high but this will also inhibit the rate of force development and the reactivity of your foot on the ground.
Transfer to get faster with resisted sprint training
Remember that resisted sprint training should only be used as a tool to bridge the gap between weight room training and speed work. If you train with resisted sprint training only, it will not make you stronger and it will not make you faster. You need to lift heavy loads to become strong and you need to sprint at fast speeds to become fast. A solid progressive strength and power training programme and intense sprint speed work should form the basis of your training. This is just a tool to use to create that transfer. When performing resisted sprints, sprint no further than 30m at an absolute maximum. We recommend starting with around 10% load and performing 6 x 20m sprints with around 2 minutes rest. You can increase the load as you progress but keep those foot contacts fast as you add the load.
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