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    Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #1
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    From The Days Best Reading article, Jimson Lee says he has found the most common questions about sprinting are the following:

    Q1. Is sprint running primarily an acquired skill or innate ability?

    Q1a: Are sprinters born, and not made?

    Q2. What are the mechanical requirements for achieving fast running speeds?

    Q3. Which muscles or muscle actions should a coach focus on while training away from the track?

    Q4. What is the relative importance of stride frequency vs. stride length for top speed running?

    Q5. Is dorsiflexion of the ankle joint prior to ground contact beneficial and if so, why?

    Q6. What is the importance of arm swinging in sprinting?

    Q7. Does the action of sprinting involve more of a pushing action or a pulling action against the ground?
    Given the undoubted expertise on this forum I think it would be interesting to see the responses and opinions from forum members .
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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #2
    Q1. Is sprint running primarily an acquired skill or innate ability?

    I'm not sure that there's one answer to this. If an adult male goes all-out and hits 18 seconds for 100 meters, no amount of training is going to make him a 10-second man. However, there's a good chance a year of training could lop off 4 or 5 seconds. Is that a sufficient improvement to indicate "acquired skill"

    The simple fact that two guys can work equally hard on equally sound programs and have drastically different results is enough to show that some guys have a better proportion of certain muscle fibers, etc., than others. The incredible rarity of sub10 sprinters shows that anyone who has that sort of speed is a true anomaly. Does that indicate it's an "innate ability"? Well, yes and no - there's not going to be a sub10 sprinter who doesn't practicing sprinting.

    I think it's an overbroad question.



    Q1a: Are sprinters born, and not made?

    see above

    Q2. What are the mechanical requirements for achieving fast running speeds?

    Force into the ground.

    Q3. Which muscles or muscle actions should a coach focus on while training away from the track?

    Sprinting is a total-body activity. As such, I think it should be trained holistically, though with an emphasis on the largest muscle groups and on areas of relative weakness. That is, the hamstrings of the average person today are going to be weak in relation to the quads because of our generally sedentary lifestyles.

    We focus on just a few core lifts - bench press, squat, deadlift, powerclean. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy working on my beach muscles too though.



    Q4. What is the relative importance of stride frequency vs. stride length for top speed running?

    False dichotomy. They are interrelated to such an extent that there's no reason to single them out. Artificially lengthen length and you will unfailingly detract from frequency. Artificially increase frequency and you will unfailingly decrease length.

    Both are a function of force into the ground during the running motion for Joe Sprinter. Push harder into the ground and you'll go farther; push harder into the ground and your legs will swing more quickly. There's some variation - some guys will have slightly faster leg recoveries than others - but it's not enough to be significant for training purposes, imo. The only way to improve either frequency or length in a "non-artificial" manner is holistically; improve force into the ground, generally, and you will see improvement in each.
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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #3
    The improvement in frequency will be less noticeable prima facie, as you will be covering more ground in less time. That is, a guy who runs a 10.5 in Year One of training may take 45 strides to cover 100 meters. In Year Five, he runs 10.0 and now takes 42 strides. In Year One, he averages 4.29 strides/second. In Year Five, it's 4.20. That seems insignificant, but combined with the necessary improvements in stride length, it's quite a bit faster turnover.




    Q5. Is dorsiflexion of the ankle joint prior to ground contact beneficial and if so, why?

    I honestly have no idea.

    Q6. What is the importance of arm swinging in sprinting?

    Important. Another element that's impossible to isolate. The arms move in conjunction with the legs; if they're swinging slower than the legs, you'll be running REALLY funny.

    Q7. Does the action of sprinting involve more of a pushing action or a pulling action against the ground?

    Subjectively? Depends on the guy. For me, it doesn't feel like either when I'm at top speed. When I'm coming out of the blocks, it feels like pushing. When I'm losing steam and overstriding, it feels like I'm pulling.

    Objectively? Well, ideally you're striking the ground directly under your center of mass and leaving the ground shortly thereafter...I suppose that counts more as pushing than pulling.

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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #4
    "World Class" speed you are born with. Sure, coaching/training will help but without sprint genes forget about it. You cannot teach speed, it's like rhythm, ya either have it or ya don't.

    Try to teach a running back how to fake and cut and......nay!!!!!!!!
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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #5
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    Is sprint running primarily an acquired skill or innate ability?

    I find this question disturbing because of the agenda that often goes with it.

    In response to this question, it is often asserted that elite physical skills are nothing but freebies in the genetic lottery while academic skills are earned virtuously, by hard work. Often, people dismiss physical brilliance and embrace intellectual/academic brilliance. Sorry to say, non-physical skills -- thinking, analyzing, writing, parsing equtions, and such, are freebies too. Intellectual gifts are gifts, earned no more than one earns being 6'10" tall. DNA yields aptitude in every possible dimension of human endeavor. We are all given unequal amounts of everything. There is no morality in the way these gifts are distributed in the gene pool.

    So, there are born sprinters, but there are "born" everythings. Ted Williams was a born hitter. he had 20/10 vision in his hitting eye and the hand-to-eye coordination to be the self-proclaimed 'best fly fisherman in the world'. That is a potent skill set for a bat swinger.
    The lead physicist for the ground phase of NASA's Mars project was a born mathmatician/physicist. As a skater boy with no prior interest in math, etc., he took physics in Community College, in pursuit of a girl. He made such astounding scores in a class where the average grade was 40, that his instructor recruited him into the physics community. He just 'had it".
    Alexander Solzsynitsyn (sp?) was a "born" writer. he had the ability to get out of bed and type for eight hours a day, seven days a week, for over forty years of his life. Writing takes a certain pace and stamina, and will. AS had it.

    All of them honed and trained their remarkable aptitudes into immortal skills, with virtuous work. Consider Jordan's six year acquisition of a mid-range jumper, after he went to the NBA. Elite talent, plus hard training equals miracles of acheivement. Michael Jordan is no less remarkable than Glenn Gould or Steven Hawking. They were all born great and trained with historic diligence, hence their excellence.

    This is where it gets good. Any athlete can be trained to sprint faster. One can train a 17.2 sprinter to run 16.6. Average pianists, with with limited physical skills (i.e. poor dexterity, small hands) can practice devotedly and become better players. One can become a better writer by writing and, in time, become better at it. Every skill set can be stretched and made better with applied practice, good coaching, or preferably both.
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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #6
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    You are born with the ability to run just so "fast"... you can be trained to run "faster"
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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by houstonian
    Fantastic post by houstonian.
    What I was trying to say, only better.
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    Re: Sprint Coaching Questions - Scientific Answers
    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Tuariki
    Q5. Is dorsiflexion of the ankle joint prior to ground contact beneficial and if so, why?
    "A muscle can generate greater shortening if it has been prestretched before tension generation begins." That's according to Peter Coe and David Martin.
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    #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by houstonian View Post
    Is sprint running primarily an acquired skill or innate ability?

    I find this question disturbing because of the agenda that often goes with it.
    I completely agree. What is Usain Bolt had decided to sit around and eat chips all day - would he be a fast runner?

    Also, like mentioned above - if someone can train to knock 4 - 5 seconds off their 100m - I would call that an acquired skill.
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    #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprintquicker View Post
    I completely agree. What is Usain Bolt had decided to sit around and eat chips all day - would he be a fast runner?
    Also, like mentioned above - if someone can train to knock 4 - 5 seconds off their 100m - I would call that an acquired skill.
    Yes, Bolt would still be very fast with zero training (assuming same body weight), maybe even 11.0 fast. Remember Houston McTear's 'sneakers on a dirt road' story?

    Genetics is the killer app, but given that many talents are similar, great training can make a good sprint-talent great, good training will make him/her good, but average training can also make a good sprinter.
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