There are 4 areas in sports performance where training will enhance speed.

1.Reaction to a signal (i.e. the gun)

    Reaction times:-

outstanding Under 0.13 Under 0.13
above average 0.13-0.15 0.13-0.16
average 0.15-0.17 0.16-0.19
below average 0.17-0.19 0.19-0.23
substandard 0.19+ 0.23+


2.Capacity to accelerate

    Acceleration practices up hill running, harness running


3.Capacity to maintain maximum speed once it is reached - In the 100m this is determined by co-ordination rather than endurance and as the distance increases the greater the effect that endurance plays.

    Top speed - All athletes training exclusively for sprints will inevitably reach a limit or speed barrier but practices such as forced speed with an  elastic rope, and assisted speed (wind assisted, down hill, altitude sprinting) may help overcome this barrier, rolling starts


4.Capacity to limit the effect of endurance factors on speed - the rate at which fuel reaches the working muscles and waste products are removed

    Speed is a product of stride length and stride frequency, as the high intensity fuel sources are depleted stride frequency drops. Also as co-ordination is lost the stride length can drop.   


Studies sponsored by the US Olympic committee identified the following significant variables in a successful full-speed sprint:-

-Greater stride rate

-Lesser support time

-Minimal upper-leg extension at takeoff

-Greater upper-leg rotational speed during the support phase

-Greater lower-leg rotational speed at touchdown

-Short foot-to-body distance at touchdown

-Greater backward foot speed relative to the body at touchdown



 If using blocks the foot plates should be set so that the ankles are at 90 in the set position. This allows the ankles to work at their best. The block positions should be set so that in the set position the front knee (driving leg) is at 90, and the back leg is at 120.


The positioning of the feet relative to each other can be split into 3 categories, bunched, medium, and elongated. All 3 styles can be used whilst maintaining the joint angles mentioned above by varying the hip height and forward lean.

Using a bunched start (feet 11in/28cm apart) allows the athlete to leave the blocks sooner (gun to front foot leaving) than if using other styles but the forward velocity is lower and times to 10, 50m are slower.

Using an elongated start (feet 26in/66cm apart) allows the athlete to leave the blocks with a greater forward velocity but they are in the blocks longer and any advantage is lost within 10m.

Using a medium start (feet 16-21in/41-53cm apart) creates medium forward speeds out of the blocks in medium times from the gun but it produces the best results to 10 and 50m.


In the 'set' position the hips should be above shoulder level, with your back flat. The shoulders should be slightly past the start line and the eyes should be looking about 1 metre ahead. The feet should be in contact with the full length of the block with slight pressure applied, if this is not the case time will be lost when you start to push as the foot will move back before you move forwards.

When the gun goes you want to achieve a long rangy thrust off the block, to help achieve this drive the elbow right back. The back knee should come through and then be driven back to generate maximum forward, some people make the mistake of bringing the knee forward and stabbing their foot down on the way forwards. Once you have left the blocks you want to maintain a forwards lean for 20-30m, this allows you to accelerate more effectively.



The energy for sprinting comes mainly from anaerobic metabolism, the 100m is 99% anaerobic and 1% aerobic. As the distance increases so does the aerobic contribution, and it is not until you get to 1500m that the energy supply is 50/50. It is anaerobic metabolism that causes a build up of lactic acid and an oxygen debt.