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Speed Training Video Series
4 Part
Video Series

How to quickly become faster and better in any sport by conditioning the right muscles for speed.

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Lessons to Improve Your Athletic Performance

Lesson I – The Running Process
Identify and Properly Train the Correct Muscles to Improve Your Sprint Speed

Section 2 – Muscles and Training Of The Return Phase


The Return Phase

The Return Phase begins when the foot strikes the ground in front of you and ends when the knee and thigh of the same foot are perpendicular to the ground directly beneath you.  This is the shortest of all the phases and is often overlooked.  However, it has a huge impact on your speed and when a 1/10 of a second can mean the difference between winning and losing, training for this phase properly will help give you an extra advantage. See below for the right leg:

Start of return Phase of Running Stride
Figure 1 – Start of Return Phase
Middle of Return Phase of Running Stride
Figure 2 – Middle of Return Phase
End of Return Phase of Running Stride
Figure 3 – End of Return Phase

Notice the right thigh is in flexion throughout this entire phase

This is the return phase of running in its most basic form.  The muscles involved in the Return Phase:

1 – Thigh Extensor muscles.  

These include your 1) gluteus maximus, 2) semimembranosus, 3) semitendinosus, and 4) biceps femoris (long head). 
Note: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris (long head) are also known as the hamstring muscles.


Hip or Thigh Flexors
Figure 1 – Thigh Extensors

What’s the most common way to train these muscles?

These are perhaps one of the most misunderstood muscle groups among today’s athletes.  Here’s why:  What’s the most common way to train these muscles? 

On a leg curl machine, with weights, right?  That’s correct.  It is a very popular exercise.

But as you may have picked up here in these articles, the hamstring muscles have two functions:

1) leg flexion, as seen during the Swing Phase, and
2) thigh extension, as seen in this Return Phase as well as the Push Phase. 

And between the two, the ability of the hamstrings to extend your thighs plays a much more significant role in athletics than does their ability to flex the legs.  (Remember, the leg is the portion between your knee and ankle, while the thigh is the portion between the hip and knee.)

Thigh extension, along with thigh flexion (Swing Phase), are your power generating motions, and improving these will enable you to reap huge rewards in your performance.

Leg flexion (Hamstrings), on the other hand, is a motion that typically follows after the power moves, sort of like a recoil, or a change in the momentum, after the muscular energy is spent.  This was seen in the Swing Phase where the leg was flexed behind the thigh.

Now take a closer look at our athlete in the picture above.  You will notice that the position (angle) of his right leg relative to his right thigh in Figure 1, doesn’t change all that much in the rest of the figures.  In other words, the leg does not really flex all that much behind the thigh while the foot is on the ground throughout this motion. 

The real change is seen in the position of the right thigh.  As shown in these figures above, the right thigh is really extending, a function of the gluteus maximus and hamstrings.  

By going through extension, the thigh (since it is in front of you) helps to pull your body forward.  That is why the Return Phase is sometimes referred to as the Pull Phase, because of the pulling effect the hamstrings have on the thigh.  It is also where the phrase “pulled a hamstring” comes from, since it is during this motion or during the transition from the swing phase to the return phase that the hamstrings are often injured.

Though it's importance in speed is limited, keeping your hamstring muscles strong and flexible will help prevent injury to this muscle.


Section 1 - General Overview and Introduction
Section 2 - Muscles and training of the Push Phase
Section 3 - Muscles and training of the Swing Phase
Section 4 - Muscles and training of the Return Phase


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