Speed Development Part 3- Posture
After power development training, the next place we can find extra speed is improvements in our sprinting posture. The root of proper technical sprinting lies in maintaining the correct postures in each sprinting phase to allow us to apply maximal force into the ground. Proper pelvic positioning is the most important aspect of proper sprinting posture and this can be improved through mobility training, strength training, and awareness.
In the gym, we intentionally rotate our pelvis forward to achieve a safe lifting posture in many exercises. Because of the time spent in this position and the strength built holding this posture, it is not uncommon to see athletes locked in anterior pelvic tilt when they perform any movement. The best posture for lifting heavy weights is not the best posture for running. To run fast, we must maintain a neutral pelvis to maximize the flexion and extension of our hips and contact the ground under our center of mass. If your are inflexible in the hips, not only is it a huge challenge to sprint with a neutral pelvis, but it might not be possible at all.
The first method of improving posture should be basic flexibility/mobility training. Dynamic stretching is wildly popular, but you should not forget about the great benefits that static stretching has to offer. It is my belief that if you have been chronically tight in an area such as the hip flexors, you'll need to do some static stretching to make improvements at a fast rate. Some basic lunge position stretching to gain some length in the anterior side of the hips goes a long way. If your hip flexor tightness is a problem, than you need you need dedicate time to stretching them every day. If they have been chronically tight, then they need chronic stretching. Don't miss a day until you've seen some range of motion improvements. Foam rolling prior to the static stretching could help to mobilize and warm the tissues some to help you reap better ranges of motion during the stretching. I like to end any static flexibility session with some dynamic stretching to help the nervous system recognize the new end ranges of motion through active stretching. I've often heard the cliche in physical therapy that structure dictates function. Stretching is a great way to make some structural change to resting muscle length, which you can then carry over to more functional corrective methods.
The next step is to get strong in the right places to hold your improved hip posture. Strengthening the glutes will help you maintain any newly acquired ranges of hip extension, and a strong midsection may help to keep your hip flexors supple. While they seem pretty rudimentary, things like single-leg hip bridges and L-sit holds are easy movements that can have great benefits. They allow you to start building a little bit of awareness of what a netural pelvis feels like, while also building some strength in key areas to improve sprinting posture. These movements do not replace the real exercises that build great hip and midsection strength, but are good supplements that you may not already be doing. I generally progress much of this supplement work by starting with isometric/static holds and then moving on to dynamic motions while still working to maintain a neutral pelvic position.
The final step in building sprinting posture is what I call awareness training. This could encompass form running and technical drilling, however I like to spend the bulk of training time sprinting. Once an athlete knows what a neutral pelvic posture feels like, they should then just be given cues and feedback during training to maintain this position. This may sound like I am just stating the obvious, but many ahtletes shut their mind down when the intensity of training is running high. Long-term, the proper posture should be automatic and not require any thought, but in the early stages of coaching, an athlete will need to be less concerned with sprinting fast and more concerned with maintaining an ideal posture. As a coach it is your job to make the athlete aware of the objective of your workouts, in our case running in an ideal posture, so that the athlete's need for speed does not interfere with their movement re-education.
Up next, Speed Development Part 4- Sprint Programming