How to get faster: sprinting mechanics [ARTICLE SUMMARY]

For an athlete to get faster, it’s important to understand the mechanics of sprinting. To do that, a physics refresher is needed. Here goes…

The “ground reaction force” is the force exerted by the ground when something comes into contact with it. This is important for running, because it’s the mechanism that propels the body forward when an athlete exerts force into the ground with their legs.

If you remember Newton’s third law (and. I don’t so thank goodness for Wikipedia), a force or action results in an equal and opposite reaction. The force from the sprinter is the action, and the ground exerts a reaction. Hence, ground reaction force.

Ok, since you’re here to learn how to get faster (not to study physics) let’s talk about how to actually apply this concept. Sprinting is made up of two phases, both which utilize ground reaction forces in different ways:

Let’s use the 100m dash as an example. A sprinter’s goal is to accelerate as efficiently as possible to reach max speed as quickly as possible.

Think of an athlete’s form in the first third of the race. The body is tilted forward. Research has shown this directs the ground reaction force horizontally, helping to accelerate. This is why a starting block is advantageous to use for short sprint events.

As the athlete hits max speed, body position becomes more upright. This shifts the ground reaction force vertically, helping to maintain top speed.

To get faster, it’s necessary to train BOTH vertical and horizontal force production. Learn more below.

source: Strength & Conditioning Journal, November 2019