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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 Swing Phase


The Swing Phase

The Swing Phase begins where the toes of the foot that is behind you have just left the ground and ends where the same foot strikes the ground in front of you.  Since one leg is always off the ground and moving forward, there is always one leg that is in the Swing Phase while the other leg may be in the Return or the Push Phase. The distance covered by the swing phase is what many people call your stride. See the figures below for the right leg:

Start of Swing Phase of Running Stride
Figure 1 – Start of Swing Phase
Middle of Swing Phase of Running Stride
Figure 2 & 3 – Middle of Swing Phase
End of Swing Phase of Running Stride
Figure 4 – End of Swing Phase
Notice the right foot is off the ground and moving forward throughout the swing phase. Also notice the movement of the right knee and thigh during this phase.


The 3 Muscles Groups Involved in the Swing Phase:

The muscles involved in the swing phase are:

1 - Thigh Flexors (also known as Hip Flexors)

These include 1) psoas, 2) iliacus, 3) sartorius, 4) vastus rectus, 5) adductor longis, 6) adductor brevis, and 7) pectineus.  These muscles flex the thigh on the pelvis as shown in the images above.

Hip or Thigh Flexors
Figure 1 – Hip or Thigh Flexors

Collectively as a group, the thigh flexors are among the strongest muscle groups in the body.  They are responsible for performing such functions as controlling posture, sitting, standing, walking, running and jumping.  Ironically, in spite of their incredible inherent strength, they are still found to be developed far below their full potential in most athletes. 

This is simply because many people are unaware of their importance and function plus there is really no good way to train them on a weight machine at the gym, and therefore they go unnoticed.  Maybe it’s also because you really can’t see them since they are located deep in the anterior hip region further adding to their obscurity.  Or maybe people think they are training them when they really aren’t. But for whatever reason, since they go untrained in the gym, they go untrained altogether.

Therefore, if you are looking to make an immediate difference in your running speed, training your thigh/hip flexors would be a good place to start. 

2 - Quadriceps muscles:
These include 1) vastus rectus, 2) vastus medialis, 3) vastus lateralis, and 4) vastus intermedius. 

Figure 1 – Quadriceps

The quadriceps function to extend the leg, or knee extension.  Observe the lower right leg in Figure 2 as it is flexed behind the thigh and then look at this same leg as it is extended on the thigh in Figure 3. 

While leg extension is important during this phase, the relative strength of the quadriceps is not fully appreciated here since leg extension during this motion takes place with the leg off the ground, or in a non weight-bearing position. 

The quadriceps, therefore, contribute more during the Push Phase when the foot is on the ground, than they do during the Swing Phase when the foot is in the air.


3 - Hamstrings:
These include 1) semimembranosus, 2) semitendinosus, and 3) biceps femoris (long and short heads).

Figure 1 – Hamstrings

The hamstrings play a verylimited role in the swing phase.  Their only function during this phase is leg flexion (or knee flexion).  Observe the right lower leg in Figure 1 and watch how the leg flexes behind the thigh in Figure 2.  There is no other function of the hamstrings during this phase.

It is interesting to note that the majority of one’s training, with regards to the hamstrings, revolves primarily around leg/knee flexion exercises, such as those performed on a leg curl machine.   However, as you can see, leg flexion (leg flexing behind the thigh) has very little to do with running.  The real value of your hamstrings, with respect to running, is their ability to provide for powerful thigh/hip extension, which makes up a big part of the push phase and return phase.

So, if you go to the gym and really hammer out your hamstring on the leg curl machines, you shouldn’t expect to improve your running speed all that much.  Take a look again at the movement of the lower right leg from Figure 1 to Figure 2.  This is a non-weight bearing movement, and so, simply exhausting your hamstrings on a leg curl machine won’t make much difference in your running speed, though keeping this muscle as well as all of your muscles well conditioned and flexible will help prevent injury and aid in athletic coordination.


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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