Thursday, January 29, 2009

Does Sprint Technique Matter?

This was the topic of my presentation at the National Strength & Conditioning Associations Sport Specific Conference. Instead of a presentation that just gave coaches a bunch of speed drills, I looked at the path I have gone trough as a coach and how I view the importance and application of sprint technique to team sports. We have a number of different camps today although these are stereotypes we all have seen them (and I've been in all of them at one point)
1 - Pure Strength Coach - "technique doesn't matter wothout strength"
2 - Classic Track Coach - perfecting technique is essential.
3 - Sports Performance coach - do it. "the athlete will figure it out if you work them hard in the drills"
As I have grown through the years I can see there is some degree of truth in all of these. The key is what you take from each, and how you apply it. We'll get much more indepth in this in the February webinar, but lets focus on one question for now.

Of Course It Does! If we want to really break it down, there is no coach out there who is going to same that an athlete take 15 steps to cover 10yds, who is up on a planter flexed ankle or on their heels, with a frontal plane arm action, is using the optimum technique. Now thats an extreme example, but haven't we all seen that athlete?

A better question would be, "Can We DO Anything About It?"

Can we change technique?
Of Course!In the video below we have a visually subtle difference, but one that makes a world of difference. This athlete is preparing for the NFL Combine and Draft. This was part of a Max velocity mechanics coaching session.

In the second part you can see the blocking angle of the leg in front is slightly higher and the angle between the lead and trail leg is also slightly greater. Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant for this discussion. Its changed. And it changed because of different cueing and focus by the athlete.

There are some that argue about whether technique changes matter or whether its just about ground reaction forces. Silly question because how do you seperate the two? This particular treadmill is self propelled and it measures both the vertical and horizontal forces produced.

So now we can quickly answer the question; did changing the technique change the forces into the ground?
This athletes forces changed a little vertically, but a lot horizontally. This in turn led to greater power output and higher top speed.

So YES, we can change technique and alter ground reaction forces, the the question becomes "Can We Make the Change Last?"