MODULE 3.1: Acceleration

Acceleration vs Maximum Velocity?

Sprinting can be broken up into two distinct phases of running: The acceleration, and maximum velocity. Acceleration is the phase where an athlete is accelerating and building towards their top speed. The factors responsible for good acceleration performance are similar but not identical to maximum velocity performance, additionally the technical aspects of each are also significantly different. Hence in this module we will focus specifically on acceleration, while the next module will focus on maximum velocity.

Why is acceleration important?

Acceleration is ​an essential aspect of nearly all sports where getting from point A to B as quickly as possible is important. This is especially true in sports where the distance from A to B is quite short and you're unable to reach maximum velocity. Having a good acceleration ability will allow an athlete to close down these shorter distances faster than an athlete with poor acceleration ability. In most sports, being able to accelerate faster will put the athlete in an advantageous position with either a) more time in that position to make a decision or complete an action without opposition pressure, or b) a greater likelihood of beating an opponent to the ball or other event and therefore controlling the ball or event.

What physical characteristics are required for elite acceleration?

During elite acceleration, an athlete's ground contact times are usually around 200-300ms, hence an athlete needs to be able to apply sufficient force to accelerate themselves during this time period. Hence an athlete needs to be able to produce as much whole body extension force as possible in 200-300ms, whilst also being able to reposition their swinging leg and arms in anticipation of the next step. To be able to produce this extension force, significant hip/knee/ankle extension power is required, which is produced by the glutes, quads, and calves respectively. Strong hip flexors are also required to reposition the swinging leg in front of the body ready for the next step. Arm/shoulder/core power is also essential, however rarely is shoulder/arm/core power a limiting factor of acceleration performance.

What are the technical KPI's of acceleration?

  • Forward lean

    • To ensure our athletes to apply force horizontally

  • Big arm/thigh separation

    • To ensure a complete push and complete knee drive

  • Near-complete whole body extension

    • To ensure a complete push

How can acceleration be trained?

  • Basic acceleration runs MUST always be included

    • Running fast is the best way to get better at running fast

  • Accessory work can include:

    • Resisted sprinting​

    • Hill runs

    • "Slow" Plyometrics

  • Technical development (described below) to ensure that athletes are applying forces as "optimally" as possible


How can we address technical errors?

​Through the use of cueing and constraints

  • Lack of forward lean

    • Cues relating to projecting their hips forward

    • Falling starts​ or 3pt starts

    • Resisted or hill sprints

  • Lack of arm/thigh separation

    • Cues relating to knee/arm drive

    • Limb switching drills​

    • Bounding drills

  • Lack of complete extension

    • ​Cues relating to pushing the ground away

    • Bounding drills​

    • Resisted or hill sprints

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