Baseball Pitching Velocity Training

Enhancing Performance: Decoding the Mechanics of a High-Speed Sprint

As a strength and conditioning professional, I frequently encounter a common question: "Can I improve my 40-yard dash speed, and just how fast can I become?" The answer is clear – speed is teachable, and an athlete's potential depends on their unique genetic makeup. Brent McFarlane (1987) explains that sprinting speed can be learned through motor educability, where skills and techniques are honed at slow speeds and eventually transferred to maximum velocity sprints. The equation for speed is defined as stride frequency multiplied by stride length, and McFarlane adds that sprints at 95 to 100 percent intensity for up to 60 meters (or 6 seconds) represent the maximum speed phase.

Unraveling the Phases of a Sprint

According to Luis Cunha (2005), a sprint can be broken down into several phases: start, acceleration, transition, maximal running, and deceleration. While each phase plays a crucial role, this article will primarily focus on the 40-yard dash, a commonly tested metric in the field. Comprising approximately 36.576 meters, the forty-yard dash measures speed, particularly acceleration.

Mastering the Start

The initial phase of a 40-yard dash hinges on explosive power, propelling the athlete from a static position into the drive phase. Modern coaching often employs a 3-point stance, where the athlete's front foot stands 2-6 inches from the line, and the back foot is 2-4 inches behind the front foot, toes facing forward. The proper stance entails a nearly 90-degree bend in the front knee and approximately 120 degrees in the back leg, with hips slightly above knees, back flat, and chin tucked. As the athlete leaves the static position, they enter the acceleration or drive phase.

Emphasizing the Drive Phase

Michael Gough (2006) defines the acceleration phase as the time from initial ground contact until the athlete reaches top-end speed. A powerful triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints is crucial for maximum power development during the drive phase. Forward body lean with shoulders always above the hips aids in acceleration. Coaches aim for a 35 to 45-degree angle of drive, with elbows bent at 90 degrees and heels driving up over the knee, foot dorsiflexed, striking under the hips. Research by Weyand, Sternlight, Bellizzi, and Wright (2000) reveals that the force applied at ground contact is the most significant determinant of running speed. Therefore, proper dorsiflexion of the ankle plays a pivotal role in optimizing performance.

Achieving Maximal Velocity

The final phase, maximal velocity, spans the last 12.66 yards. Michael Young (2007) explains that this phase focuses on preserving stability, minimizing braking forces, and maximizing vertical propulsive forces. Maintaining stability in perfect posture is crucial during this phase, as any disruption can lead to a loss of elasticity. Additionally, minimizing braking forces entails avoiding ground contact too far ahead of the athlete's center of mass. To maximize vertical propulsive forces, athletes must enhance distance traveled in the air before ground contact. This contributes to effective ground contact positions and increases negative foot speed, allowing athletes to accelerate through the finish line. Leg stiffness, acting as a spring during contact, also aids in maintaining momentum developed during acceleration.

Correcting Mechanics for Optimal Performance

Posture and mechanics are vital components of successful sprinting. Many young athletes face issues with posture, often arising from tight hips, glutes, hamstrings, and the gastrocnemius, soleus, and Achilles complex. Additionally, internally rotated shoulders and everted feet, a result of prolonged sitting in classrooms, can impact mechanics negatively. Corrective exercises, including arm circles for internally rotated shoulders and foot circles for eversion and supination, can help improve posture and overall mechanics.

Drills for Improving Technique

Gerard Mach's A, B, & C drill series, which focuses on components like knee lift, foreleg action, and push off, can help athletes enhance their sprinting technique. Furthermore, explosive Olympic lifting and plyometrics offer performance benefits. Lower training frequency in plyometrics, as found by Eduardo S¡ez, Gonz¡lez-Badillo, and Juan Jose Izquierdo, produces greater jumping and sprinting gains compared to high frequency.

The Complexity of Sprinting

In conclusion, sprinting encompasses multiple intricate mechanics and considerations. While mechanics play a pivotal role, aspects like strength, muscle fibers, breathing, and others also influence an athlete's performance. A well-rounded understanding of sprinting mechanics can lead to significant improvements in speed and performance. Remember, both the start and finish of a sprint are equally important, and with dedicated training, proper mechanics, and a focus on individual athlete needs, improved 40-yard dash times are attainable. As the adage goes, "Many roads lead to Rome," so find the drills and training methods that work best for your athletes.

Program to Enhance and Optimize Sprint Mechanics

Incorporated within all Top Velocity programs are the methods discussed in the article above. Olympic Lifting, Plyometric routines, and Sprint drills. Few athletes are capable of creating their own training program that properly incorporates these techniques, which is why I am giving you this opportunity to utilize my 16+ years of experience helping athletes just like you enhance their performance and see drastic improvements in their sprint times, mechanics, and overall athletic performance. Get the #1 baseball player development program today by clicking the link below and start sprinting down your dream of being the fastest on the field.3X Fastpitch Velocity Program