Resisted sprint training

Training sprint technique has been discussed previously in the Conditioning for Youths online learning module. Resisted and assisted sprint training are more advanced methods that can help develop speed and acceleration. However, as with resistance training these methods should be used with players who have appropriate training experience. Remember that chronological age should not determine when someone is ready for more advanced training methods.

Resisted sprint training, also known as sprint loading, uses resistance to improve explosive acceleration activities. The main aim of resisted sprint training is to increase the force required to accelerate the body and thus improve the strength and power of the leg muscles. This increase in strength and power should transfer to increased stride length and as a result increased speed (Jeffs, 2014).

Resisted sprint training methods can be varied:

  • Gravity-resisted sprinting, e.g. uphill running or running upstairs/steps
  • Increased load, e.g. with a harness, parachute, weight sled, partner hold, weight vest

Resisted sprint training is also extremely useful for highlighting good aspects of acceleration technique (Jeffs,2014). Resisted sprinting allows the athlete to get more comfortable in the correct biomechanical position for acceleration as the resistance allows for an increased body lean which is ideal for acceleration (Jeffs, 2014; Petrakos et al, 2015). With resisted sprint training the player can feel the ideal body position and this should transfer to better technique when there is no resistance.

An important point to note when using resisted sprint training is that the player should maintain a sound technical model, i.e. not change the biomechanics of acceleration. The ideal load to use in resisted sprint training is debateable, with weighted-sled training loads ranging from 12% of body weight to 43% of body weight showing improvements in sprint performance (Petrokas et al, 2015). It is also thought that heavier sled towing might be ideal for developing acceleration while the lighter sled loading may be more useful when trying to develop maximal velocity (Petrokas et al, 2015).

If using a gradient resistance (such as up-hill training), too steep a gradient will affect the movement mechanics of the player and slow the movement significantly (Jakalski, 2002, Faccioni, 1995). A gradient of 5-10 degrees or a slight slope will provide a good training stimulus for the players (Jeffs, 2014)

Sprinting using weighted vests with loads of 15% to 20% of body weight has been shown to increase sprint times for 10m and 30m (Hansen et al, 2005). To maximise the benefits associated with resisted sprint training, the coach should emphasise:

  • Explosive arm and knee punching action
  • Explosive leg drive off the ground