Sprinting, as opposed to endurance events, places a large emphasis on strength and dynamic power. Even before the race begins, as you position yourself on the blocks, the goal is to be able to explode off the starting line, which requires a huge amount of force generated throughout the body.
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While there are many drills to assist in your starting technique, many experts say that you should also think outside the realm of the track and incorporate strength training into your schedule.In fact, a 2004 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine found a direct correlation between an athlete’s ability to execute heavy squats and their sprint performance.
To build both sustainable strength and explosive power, you’ll need to use a combination of standard weight lifting exercises and plyometrics. For your lifts, choose light weights that only account for about 60 percent of what you’re really capable of lifting. This will prevent you from tiring out your muscles and potentially slowing you down on race day. You’re ultimate goal is also to increase your ability to generate a lot of force quickly, so you want to be able to perform these exercises quickly.
The snatch is a somewhat complex, demanding Olympic lift that primarily targets your quadriceps. However, your glues, hamstrings, back shoulders, and arms are all involved as well. Because of the full-body nature of the snatch your coordination and balance may also improve, which will help you to maintain your form both at the starting blocks and throughout the race.
To begin, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and grip the barbell so that your palms are facing back towards you. Your hands should be slightly more than shoulder width apart. Drop your hips and bend your knees so that you are in a sitting position. Keep your back straight throughout the movement.
Push against your heels to straighten your legs and keep the angle in your back. Once the bar reaches about the middle of your thighs, stand upright and use the moment to bring the bar overhead. Shrug your shoulders for added pull.
Once your arms are fully extended, lock them to keep the bar where it is. At the same time, lower to a squat position. End the exercise by standing upright with the barbell still above your head.
Again, start with low weight to avoid injury. You should also work with a trainer to be sure that your form is correct.
Weight throws use similar dynamics to a squat but include the added element of a plyometric push. With both hands, hold a shot between your legs. Squat down into a sitting position so that your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground. Propel yourself up and out, using the momentum to help send your arms up to release the weight. Your goal is to gradually increase the distance that you throw the weight.
You can also perform overhead weight throws to challenge different muscle groups. The execution is largely the same, except that you throw the weight behind you.
Lunge jumps mimic the movement of a classic lunge but with a plyometric twist. Begin in the lunge position and the explode upward. While in the air, switch the position of your legs and land in this new position. Immediately repeat. Try to increase your jump height and number of sets to exhaustion.
These are just a few techniques that can help to improve your sprinting start. What exercises have worked for you? Please share them in the comments!