Quick Thoughts: 002 – Sprint Drills

Sprint drills are a common choice in warmups as they suffice for the general rules of thumb of a warmup if placed toward the end: general to specific, small to large ROM, and low to relatively higher intensity, but sprint drills can be much more than a basic warmup exercise.

Sprint drills such as high knees, butt kicks, and a-skips are commonly included in sport warmups, but almost at the same rate, butchered entirely. Even if butchered, they still suffice for increasing joint range of motion and offer slightly higher intensity contacts than skipping and jogging. But, don’t settle for this as sprint drills can do more for you than being just a “warmup”. If done well, consistently, and with detail, sprint drills can reinforce proper posture of the hips, limb positions during upright sprinting, and appropriate foot contacts on the ground relative to the COM. 

Sprint drills are certainly not a panacea for sprinting fast as you still need the physical qualities to do so, but I’ve found just 3 or 4 sprint drills performed very well consistently can clean up big faults at max velocity.

As said before, sprint drills with no coaching can still be of use, but knowing what to look for and alter is where real change can happen.

Here are 3 of my most commonly used sprint drills and as you can see general posture, limb locations, and ground contacts are all quite similar and resemble specific positions in max velocity sprinting.

I have used additional sprint drills to this as athletes become more competent, but I don’t stray too far away from these as mastery of these basic ones at slow speeds heighten the likelihood of these similar positions showing up at higher speeds.

Sprinting is fast and sprint drills are slow. With the speed slowed down and the number of contacts high, this provides a prime teaching environment for athletes to practice certain technical positions. The goal is to allow the athlete to feel the posture in a rather slow and controlled environment to then apply this is in the more rapid environment of sprinting. Once you move into intense sprinting, athletes can still think about one, maybe two technical cues and still be able to perform the sprint intensely. Generally, use similar or the same cues while athletes are sprinting as you would when they performing sprint drills. Cues that the athlete understands in a slow environment can be processed and used more quickly in a fast environment.

Sprinting is fast and sprint drills are slow. With the speed slowed down and the number of contacts high, this provides a prime teaching environment for athletes to practice and feel certain technical positions.

This is also the reason you may find that some athletes that are technically good at sprinting in an intense, controlled environment are sometimes not as good at applying it to the game, a relatively uncontrolled environment where sprint mechanics may not actually be the most important aspect of the play. They prioritize other decisions and thoughts over sprinting with better technique. This transfer to game play can take time and all you can do is to continue to teach and coach until it sticks.

Published by John Grace

John is a performance coach, specializing in the development of speed, power, and strength, with experience coaching in professional soccer at the national and international level and in weightlifting at the junior, university, and senior national level and masters international level. Along with this professional and national level coaching, he has coached athlete's in a variety of semi-professional sports as well as Division I, II, and III athletics. With more than a decade of extensive coaching experience, he aims to provide an unparalleled training experience.

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