Acceleration Training Program for Sprinters & Speed Athletes

Acceleration Training Program

For Sprinters & Speed Power Athletes

3 Fundamental Aspects

Sprint Training

sprint training acceleration program

Your acceleration training program needs to be centered upon some amount of sprint training. Improving your technique through proper sprint training will have a huge positive impact on your acceleration training program.

Plyometrics & Power Development

Plyometrics Acceleration Training Program Sprinting

Plyometric training and power development exercises are another core aspect of any acceleration training program. By training to be more powerful and explosive, you can improve your acceleration.

Strength Training

strength training acceleration program

At the core of all your athletic capabilities is the ability to produce force. By increasing your maximal strength capabilities, you can learn to be more forceful in your sprint training, plyometrics, and power training, ultimately making your acceleration training program more effective.

The Foundation of an Acceleration Training Program

SPRINT TRAINING

The sprint training aspect of your acceleration training program can make or break your ability to sprint fast and ultimately improve to your maximal potential. The best way to get better at something is to do it - so if you want to sprint faster, you need to sprint regularly and aim for optimal technique. There are a variety of adaptations which occur when you perform sprint training, and for the sake of this tutorial we will discuss those related to your acceleration training program. When you sprint fast in your training, you a variety of changes:

Optimal sprint training in your acceleration training program will allow you to improve your acceleration and prevent injury, promoting better sports performance and allowing you to spend more time perfecting the skills specific to your sport. The structural changes which occur in through sprint training are similar to those of drop jumps and plyometric activities. Generally, changes in muscle & tendon architecture are seen, including changes in the stiffness of tendons, muscle fascicle length, and inhibition of golgi tendon organs.

Neurologically, sprint training will enhance your ability to accelerate by improving the ability of your nervous system to coordinate movement and produce force. Rate coding increases occur with sprinting, which is essentially the frequency at which you can send individual nerve impulses. Additionally, neurological changes related to the coordination of movements at high speeds are very impactful, such as the ability for individual muscle fibers to coordinate contraction relative to one another. Lastly, sprint training helps improve your motor unit recruitment, which a shift toward higher threshold motor units being activated with a higher rate of force development. Sled training is a particularly effective sprint training modality for increasing rate of force development.

Implementing Sprint Training in your Acceleration Training Program

To incorporate sprinting into your acceleration training program, you need to play around with a variety of distances and starting positions, with every repetition emphasizing optimal sprint technique. These are some basic guidelines for acceleration sprints:

  • 5m to 40m in distance
  • 95% or greater intensity
  • No more than 300m in total session volume

You can use a number of starting positions. Some commonly used sprint starts include:

  • Drop-in or Skip-in start
  • 2 point stance
  • 3 point stance
  • 4 point stance
  • Block starts

Some common coaching cues and points of focus for acceleration sprint training:

  • Knee brings the leg forward, foot brings the leg back
  • Strike back into the ground
  • Push the ground away behind you
  • Be big with your elbow and knee drive
  • Minimize/eliminate forward foot swing during early acceleration
  • Aim for longer, bigger pushes which get quicker after 10 to 20 meters.

Example Sprint Training for an Acceleration Training Program

  • Example A
    • Warm-Up
    • 2-4 easy strides
    • 2-3 drop in 20m accelerations
    • 2x 2 point stance accelerations
    • 4x 20m block starts
  • Example B
    • Warm-Up
    • 2-4 build-up accelerations
    • 4x acceleration complex
      • 10m Sled Pull
      • 20m drop-in acceleration
      • 30m block start

Recommended footwear for acceleration sprints:

Recommended training equipment for your acceleration sprints:

Power & Plyometric Training

Improve your acceleration with increased explosive power

PLYOMETRICS & POWER DEVELOPMENT TRAINING

The plyometric and power training aspect of your acceleration training program can be a powerful tool for increasing your ability to produce explosive power. Athletes who launch out of their start and run fast times have likely performed some amount of power development work and plyometric exercises. Similar to sprint training, these exercises have a number of effects:

Optimal plyometric training in your acceleration training program will train your body and brain to be more explosive and more resilient overall. Depending on your current physical state and training age, a variety of plyometric options exist for you to include in your acceleration training program. Some types of jumps include:

  • Lower Intensity
    • Rudiment hops
    • In-place jumps
  • Moderate Intensity
    • Jumps for height & distance
    • Skips for height and distance
    • Bounds and Speed Bounds
    • Countermovement jump
  • Most Intense
    • Drop Jumps
    • Repeated jumps for max height or distance

Beyond plyometric exercises, a number of exercises exist that could fit well in an acceleration training program. These exercises include:

  • Olympic lift derivatives
    • Clean grip high pull
    • Snatch grip high pull
    • Mid-thigh high pull
    • Power Clean
    • Power Snatch
  • Weighted Jumps
    • Hex Bar Jump Squats
    • Barbell Jump Squats
  • Heavy Sled Pulls (30% to 80% body weight)
  • Push-Press
  • Many more

Implementing Power Development and Plyometric Exercises into you Acceleration Training Program

Generally, you want to incorporate exercises which have a horizontal force vector component, are relatively high velocity, and are done with optimal form and quality. Because acceleration performance is dependent upon horizontal force and an optimal ratio of force, using exercises which train these qualities is imperative. Generally, you want to either perform these exercises directly after your sprint session, or on a completely separate day depending upon your specific acceleration training program.

Example power development and plyometric program:

  • Example A
    • 10x Jumps for Distance
    • 6x10m Heavy sled pull
    • 4x3 Mid-Thigh High Pull
  • Example B
    • 8x SL Drop Jump for Distance
    • 6x DL Drop Jump for Distance
    • 4x3 Hang Snatch
    • 10x Med Ball Toss for Distance

You can apply many variations to these programs, but the key factor to keep in mind is that you do work which is appropriate to your current state. If you can't run a 10.9 in the 100m, I doubt you will be best served doing high volumes of drop jumps. On the flip side, someone who runs a 4.3 40yd dash probably will elicit minimal benefit from some in place hops, and need to be more strategic with their implementation of plyometrics and power development in their acceleration program.

Strength Training

The foundation of all force production capabilities

STRENGTH TRAINING 

Strength training is training to produce more force. Plain and simple, strength training relies on producing large amounts of tension in muscle to produce structural and neurological changes which lead to the ability to produce more force. In and of itself, strength training is not massively effective for improving acceleration. More importantly, strength training is an underlying factor which will help your other methods of training be more effective for your acceleration training program. For example, someone who is not strong will never be very explosive. I'm not saying you need to deadlift 600lb to accelerate well, but you should surely have no problem lifting your own body weight on a bar in any number of lifts.

By developing strength, your body will be able to produce more force in faster, more explosive movements, and also be more resilient and resistant to injury. Because strength training builds the ability to produce large amounts of tension in the muscles, injuries that are caused by abrupt changes in muscular tension are less likely to happen or be severe in nature. Some examples of strength training exercises which can be included in your acceleration training program:

  • Squats
    • Front Squats
    • Back Squats
    • Hatfield Squats
    • Goblet Squats
    • Safety Bar Squats
    • Box Squats
  • Deadlifts
    • Conventional Deadlifts
    • Hydrid Deadlifts
    • Sumo Deadlifts
    • KB Deadlifts
    • Banded Deadlifts
  • Overhead Presses
    • Military Press
    • Push Press
    • Strict Press
  • Horizontal Presses
    • Bench Press
    • Incline Bench Press
    • Decline Bench Press

Implementing Strength Training Exercises into your Acceleration Training Program

I tend to separate my lifting days based on a specific goal. One day the focus will be on near-maximal strength, while another may be focused on power and high velocity strength. You can also combine max strength and explosive strength, but I find that separating the days can elicit a greater response from your training.

Example strength training program:

  • Example A
    • Deadlifts - 5-5-3-3-1-1
    • RDL -  4x4 with slow eccentric
    • Eccentric Hamstring Curls - 4x5/5
  • Example B
    • Hatfield Squats - 5x6
    • Bench Press - 5x3
    • Isometric Rack Pull - 4x4sec

In general, I choose 4-8 exercises for my strength training day and I try to get the most out of those exercises. Spending hours in the gym is not very effective, and I'd rather have a very solid 1-hour session where I leave feeling strong, then spending 2 hours there with me leaving incapable of working out the next day. Get what you can out of the session, then leave and relax so you can live to lift another day.

Recommended strength training shoes:

Conclusion

Putting it all together, a holistically complete acceleration training program should include:

  • Sprint Training
  • Power Development & Plyometrics
  • Strength Training

If your focus is strictly on acceleration, than you can get away with a week that looks something like:

  1. Short accels (0-15m), Heavy Sleds, Heavy Deadlifts/Squats, Heavy Bench, Jump Squats, Single jumps for distance
  2. Recovery
  3. Long Accels (30-40m), High Velocity Lifts, Drop Jumps for Distance
  4. Recovery
  5. Medium accelerations (15-30m), High pulls, repeated jumps for distance, power snatch, speed bench

For someone who was training for speed and speed endurance as well, I would shift the acceleration work to one day per week where you hit some power or strength work, move high velocity lifts and intense jumps to the speed day, and add repeated effort lifts such as high volume deadlifts on to the speed endurance day.

To get the most out of any sprint training program, it would be wise to work with a coach who can help you optimize your technique. Technique is a key determinant of your acceleration and sprinting capabilities, so it would be imprudent to avoid focusing on the honing of your technique. If you need additional help, contact me about coaching and sprint training programs.

REFERENCES

References

  1. Technical ability of force application as a determinant factor of sprint performance. (n.d.). Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21364480
  2. Martínez-Valencia, M. A., Romero-Arenas, S., Elvira, J. L., González-Ravé, J. M., Navarro-Valdivielso, F., & Alcaraz, P. E. (2015, June 27). Effects of Sled Towing on Peak Force, the Rate of Force Development and Sprint Performance During the Acceleration Phase. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4519204/
  3. Energy conversion rates during sprinting with an emphasis on the performance of female athletes. (n.d.). Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11055819
  4. Effects of sprint and plyometrics training on field sport acceleration technique. (n.d.). Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24149762
  5. Duchateau, J., & Baudry, S. (2014). Maximal discharge rate of motor units determines the maximal rate of force development during ballistic contractions in human. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001023/
  6. Bohm, S., Mersmann, F., & Arampatzis, A. (2015, December). Human tendon adaptation in response to mechanical loading: a systematic review and meta-analysis of exercise intervention studies on healthy adults. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4532714/
  7. The Relationship between Lower Body Power and Sprinting Ability in Recreationally Trained College Men. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1123&context=etd