As we learned in part 1, speed is determined by stride length and frequency, one way to improve this is maximizing the bodie's ability to generate force. In part 2 we will examine how your posture and joint alignement directly affect how fast you can go.  Joint alignment is bascially how well your joints are stacked to endure the stresses imposed upon them.  The less centrated or 'centered' the joint can stay the more efficient the muscles above and below that joint can operate and the less wear and tear is placed on the joint itself.  So as you can see it is a win, win for the body.  There are three areas of the body generally negatively affect posture and running mechanics: the ankles, hips, and shoulders.

 Ankles/Feet- It is commonly agreed upon an athlete should have close to 15 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion to be within normal limits. Poor dorsiflexion or the inability for the foot to flex towards the shin bone is one of the most common movement limitations athletes have. When we lose ankle dorsiflexion we lose the ability to cushion and absorb the shock that is sent through our bodies' every time we land. This causes excessive stress through the joints above the ankle namely the knees and/ or low back. Ultimately stiff ankles can severely limit an athlete's range of motion and leave them compensating through almost all athletic movements not just limited to sprinting. It has also been shown that poor ankle dorsiflexion inhibits or shuts down the ability to fire the glute muscles which are kind of important for speed as I will discuss in the next section. Therefore it is important to maintain adequate ankle dorsiflexion. Here is a very common ankle mobilization we perform.


Hips- The glutes are the strongest most powerful muscles in the lower body capable of producing tremendous amounts of force. When these muscle shut down or are put in a position of mechanical disadvantage where they cannot contract optimally we lose our ability to accelerate, stabilize the torso, control the knee from collapsing or even stabilize on one leg.  Our goal mechanically speaking during a sprint includes fully and forcefully extending the hip of one leg driving the foot back and through the ground, while rapidly recovering the opposite leg into a flexed position so that we can quickly yet forcefully repeat that cycle. If an athlete is unable to fully extend one hip while flexing the other you will see all types of compensatory patterns which always yield slower outcomes.  To go fast the hips must be unlocked; here is one of my favorite 1-2 combos which get the hips both opened up and then turned on and ready for sprinting. {videobox}ej3-PNfwJz4{/videobox}

Shoulders- The shoulders just like the hips must be able to fully flex and extend.  Similar to the hips as one shoulder drives back into extension the opposite needs to explosively flex forward.  If you watch a sprinter with quality mechanics you will notice how much arm swing that occurs during the drive phase or first few steps of their sprint. The shoulders flex and extend as much as 180 degrees during that time to stabilize the torso and increase stride length. If an athlete lacks full shoulder range of motion they will 1) significantly shorten their arm swing which will leads to shortened leg drive, or 2) they will compensate by letting their shoulders glide forward which pulls the chest down leading to a loss of posture and force production. The take home point is that the upper body is just as important as the lower body if you want to get everything out of your speed training. Here is a quick and easy modality we commonly use to gain shoulder range of motion.


So far we have agreed that 1) Speed is linked to our ability to produce force, which is developed by consistent and planned strength training and 2) speed is severely limited by poor alignment and the loss of posture during high velocity movements. This can be prevented by increasing joint mobility and decreasing areas of high-tone such as the achiles/calves/ hip flexors and anterior shoulder. In part three we will take a closer look at how body composition affects speed.

Sprint Mechanics

Take home message

  • Your ability to maintain optimal sprinting posture and joint alignment during high velocity movements ultimately dictates what percentage of your absolute strength and power you are actually using.  In other words how efficient you are.
  • Your ankles, hips and shoulders are probably them up.
  • You are only as strong as your weakest link.  Every joint effects the other during movement.