Short to Long Sprint Training

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The two primary goals when training to improve speed and acceleration are 1) to make consistent improvements; and 2) to minimize the risk of injury. According to “authorities” in the field of sprint training, the best way to accomplish these goals is to work “short to long”, i.e., start with short, simple runs and progress to longer distances and more complicated patterns. Players should start with and become proficient at running 10-yard sprints before progressing to 20-, 40- and 60-yard sprints. The reasons for using this progressive format are two-fold. First, it helps prevent acute injuries caused by doing too much too soon, and second it increases speed and acceleration by improving neuromuscular coordination and running efficiency.

The mechanics involved in sprinting shorter distances are different from those in longer distances. Sprinting and acceleration are skills and each distance in the short to long program requires a slightly different set of skills (posture, knee angle, stride length, etc.).  The short to long progression ensures that players develop the appropriate movement skills at the right time. Acceleration is the most important component of running fast, and asking a player to achieve top speed by running all-out 60s before he develops the skill of acceleration is like asking him to pass calculus before taking algebra. Likewise, asking him to sprint correctly for 60 yards before he has learned to sprint correctly for 40 yards is equally foolish. Most players can’t sprint correctly for 40 yards until they have learned to sprint correctly for 20 yards and they can’t sprint for 20 yards until they have learned to accelerate for 10 yards. Each distance in the short to long program has a specific set of skills that must be developed before you can safely progress to the next distance.

Why start at 10 yards? Safety! The odds of injuring a hamstring when doing ten 10-yard sprints (10×10 yards) are far less than when doing five 60-yard sprints (5×60 yards). Why? First, it’s one-third the volume, and the higher the volume, the greater the risk of overuse injury. Second, the movement skills in shorter sprints are different that those in longer sprints. Ten-yard sprints combine acceleration, starting strength, maximal strength, power and explosiveness, and because they start with the body in a static position, momentum is not a factor and ground contact time is longer. Finally, because most movements in game situations are performed in a 5-10 yard box in all directions, 10s are sport-specific. Ten-yard sprints are all about overcoming inertia (body mass), and the fastest 10s are run by the strongest players, i.e., those who have the highest strength to body weight ratio.

20-yard sprints. The 20-yards sprint is a continuation of the 10-yard sprint, with two distinctions. First, because it takes approximately 10-yards to move from a 45-degree take-off angle to an upright position, the running posture changes from a “lean” to an “upright stride.” Second, hamstring activity increases to assist in hip extension, momentum, stride length and stride rate increase and ground contact time decreases.

40- and 60-yard sprints. The final stage of sprinting for baseball usually involves 40- and 60-yard sprints. The mechanics and skills required of each are very similar, and because most non-Olympic level sprinters reach top speed around 40 to 60 yards, both can be used to improve top speed, acceleration, power and anaerobic conditioning. The primary mechanical changes that occur at these distances include an increase in momentum, a decrease in ground contact time and an increase in the rate of force production.  The hamstrings are very dominant at these distances and help determine the difference between faster speed and slower speeds.

Flying sprints. Flying sprints improve the transition from acceleration to top speed and do a great job at helping increase speed. Stride rate and length are increased, ground contact is minimal, horizontal force is increased and the hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) exert more force and power.

The following is a 6-week short to long sprint program designed to help improve acceleration, enhance the transition from acceleration to top speed and improve top speed. Train for speed two times per week with two days between sprint sessions. Work on acceleration for 4 weeks and then switch to flying sprints to transition from acceleration to top speed. Give max or near-max effort on each rep and recover completely between reps and sets. Rest 30-seconds between reps and two minutes between sets.  Accelerate for 10 yards when performing flying 20s and for 20 yards when performing flying 40s.

Perform tempo runs, i.e., run longer and slower, twice per week on non-sprint days to facilitate recovery from the more intense sprint workouts. Do tempo runs at 70-80% max speed resting 30-90 seconds between reps and 2-3 minutes between sets. After four weeks, switch to 80 and 100 yard build-ups in which you jog, sprint, ease down and jog again. Use build-ups to help maintain good mechanics while increasing speed.

 

Week

Mon

Sprint (Yds)

Tues

Tempo (Yds)

Wed

(Off)

Thurs

Sprint (Yds)

Fri

Tempo(Yds)

1

2x(5×5)

2x(3×100)

Off

2x(8×5)

3×75; 3×100

2

2x(5×10)

2x(4×100)

Off

8×10

4×75; 4×100

3

2x(5×20)

2x(5×100)

Off

3×20; 3×40

5×75; 5×100

4

(5×10); 5×20

2x(6×100)

Off

5×40

6×75; 6×100

5

5x Fly 20*

2x(4×100) build-ups

Off

3x Fly 40*

2x(4×80) build-ups

6

8x Fly 20*

2x(5×100) build-ups

Off

5x Fly 40*

2x(80x build-ups

 

Loren Landow is Director of Sports Performance, Steadman Hawkins Clinic – Denver.

http://www.speedandagilitycoach.com/

Gene Coleman was the Head S&C Coach for the Houston Astros from 1978-2012 and is currently a strength and conditioning consultant for the Texas Rangers and Professor in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

 

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