My first goal whenever I begin working with a new athlete (youth or professional) on improving the 40 yard dash is to teach them how the brain sometimes inhibits speed. There are two basic principles on how the body must operate in order to move more efficiently and effectively for running faster and developing speed. I start by educating them on how we need to overcome our own minds and the ‘false’ messages our brains tell us when we want to run faster.
You see the problem with our brain is it can really work against us if we are not in control of every message we send to the rest of the body. Let me explain… if you want to move forward and sprint as fast as you can, then your brain will logically tell you to do one of two things (or both!):
1. move your legs faster! and
2. cover more ground!
Unfortunately, even though these two thoughts are extremely logical, the way the body interprets these messages is completely incorrect when applied to your first step quickness and acceleration zone.
Addressing message number one: When your body wants to start moving forward by running faster and responds by moving your legs faster, it only accomplishes just that… moving your legs faster! What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what I NEED TO DO you ask? The answer is NO. The problem with just moving your legs faster is that you will not go anywhere (ie. move forward) unless you apply force into the ground. Speed is a function of force application and power, and this ground force application is what provides the needed power to overcome your own body’s inertia and body weight resistance. High frequency (or turnover rate) will not accomplish improved running speed during acceleration.
I often use the Fred Flintstone cartoon character as a good illustration. If you’re not familiar with the cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone, don’t worry… hopefully you’ll still get my point. In the cartoon, every time Fred wants to speed off to get somewhere very quickly, he moves his legs very rapidly. His legs move so rapidly, they become a blur all the while he remains stationary – not moving an inch. It isn’t until after a few seconds of “spinning his wheels” does Fred actually fly off the screen. The point is when Fred is too ‘frequency’ dominated (ie. trying to move his legs super fast) he never actually moves forward and it isn’t until he puts a little horsepower into the ground does he actually go anywhere and run a faster 40 yard dash.
Addressing message number two: What usually happens when your body wants to cover more ground, your brain instinctively tells your lead leg to reach out (or over-stride) to get further down the track or field. Unfortunately, when the foot of the lead leg contacts the ground in this over-striding gait, it acts as a huge decelerator or brake! Wherever the hips are in space at the moment the foot contacts the ground will dictate whether that foot strike is an accelerator or decelerator affecting your running speed. If the foot contacts behind the hips = accelerator; if it contacts ahead of the hips = decelerator. Period. This is a law of “leverage” in Physics and absolutely applies to running speed and explosive sprint mechanics.
Running fast by covering more ground comes from the action of the trail foot – the one that contacts the ground behind the hips projecting the body forward. Not from the lead foot over-reaching to get down the track!
Hopefully this had made you a little more aware of how you ‘think’ can prove very costly to your speed and running efficiency. Think before you sprint if you want to run the fastest 40 yard dash of your life!
For deeper explanations of these principles and training techniques for improving your 40 yard dash speed, please visit http://www.40yardspeedtraining.com or http://www.xplosivespeed.com/store.html