Sec.1 - Overview & Intro | Sec. 2 -
Push Phase Muscles |
Sec. 3 - Swing Phase Muscles | Sec. 4 -
Return Phase Muscles
Speed Training Lessons
Lesson I – Sprint Speed
Identify and Properly Train the Correct Muscles to Improve Your Sprint Speed
Section 1 - A General Overview and Introduction
Understanding the Running Process
In order to improve your running speed, it will be very helpful to understand the ‘Running Process’ and the muscles involved in each phase of the running process.
The Running Process consists of three major phases:
1. The Push Phase
2. The Swing Phase
3. The Return Or Pull Phase
These three phases constitute a complete leg sequence for each leg during the entire time one is running. For example, the right leg will sequence as follows:
Push phase > Swing phase > Return phase > Push phase > Swing Phase > Return Phase etc. etc. etc.
The left leg follows a similar pattern; however, the phases of running for the left leg are, of course, not in synch with the phases of running for the right leg.
Many people associate the push phase with the first few steps at the start of the race, where your body is lowest to the ground (as in the starting blocks) and where this phase is most dominant. However, the push phase occurs throughout the entire running process even while your body is upright, at which point it shares in importance with the other two phases. Since your body is upright for most of the time and distance you spend running we will address each phase of the running process as it happens while your body is in this upright position.
Each phase of the running process uses a distinct set of muscles to propel the body forward. By focusing on each phase individually, you will learn which muscles are involved in sprinting and how to properly train them to gain the maximum speed possible from each set of muscles.
You will also see that muscles work as a group; in other words, a single muscle rarely does its job in isolation. This is important to understand in order to condition them in a similar manner as to how they are used when you are performing an athletic skill (and not as individual isolated muscles).
How each phase of the running process is defined:
To help us identify and define each phase of the running process, let’s start out by taking a look at photos of an athlete running. In Figure 1 we see the toes of the left foot only still touching the ground. In Figure 2 we see the entire body off the ground. And in Figure 3 we see the right foot about to strike the ground.
Figure 1 – Left foot on the ground
Figure 2 – Both feet in the air
Figure 3 – Right foot on the ground
In the figures above, we can observe three things:
1) Most of the time, there is one foot in contact with the ground;
2) Sometimes, no feet touch the ground, and;
3) There is never a time when both feet are on the ground together.
All of these provide us with important information regarding the running process, for now, we are only going to focus on the running phases when there is one foot in contact with the ground.
4 general rules for determining which phase of running an athlete is in.
By studying the thigh, lower leg, and foot position when one foot is on the ground and when the other is not, we are able to create 4 general rules for determining which phase of running an athlete is in.
The first 3 rules relate to the foot that is on the ground. The last one relates to the foot that is in the air.
Rule #1 - In regards to the foot that IS touching the ground:
Any position where the thigh of the foot touching the ground is in flexion (that is in front of your hips or waistline) you are in the Return phase. This figure shows the right foot on the ground with the right thigh in flexion. Therefore, you are in the Return Phase.
Quick Tip: Foot touching ground + thigh flexion = return phase.
Rule #2 - In regards to the foot that IS touching the ground;
When the knee and thigh of the foot touching the ground is perpendicular to the ground (or directly below your hips or waist line, anatomically know as a neutral position), this is where the return phase transitions into the push phase for that leg. The figure shows that the right thigh and knee (not lower leg and foot) are perpendicular to the ground and is transitioning from the Return Phase to the Push Phase.
Quick Tip: Thigh straight down = transition from return phase to push phase.
Rule #3 - In regards to the foot that IS touching the ground:
Any position where the thigh of the foot touching the ground is in extension (that is behind your hips or waist line), you are in the Push Phase. This figure shows the right foot on the ground with the right thigh in extension, or beyond the perpendicular position. Therefore, you are in the Push Phase.
Quick Tip: Foot touching ground + thigh extension = push phase.
Rule #4 - In regards to the foot NOT touching the ground:
Any position where the foot is not touching the ground (while the other IS touching the ground) is part of the swing phase, This figure shows the right foot not touching the ground. Therefore, you are in the Swing Phase.
Quick Tip: Foot not touching ground (while other is) = Swing Phase for the leg not touching the ground.
The Push Phase
The Push Phase begins when the thigh and knee of the same foot touching the ground are perpendicular to the ground and ends when the toes of this same foot are barely touching the ground behind you. See the figures below for the right leg:
Notice the right thigh/hip is in extension throughout the entire push phase
Figure 1 – Start of Push Phase
Figure 2 – Middle of Push Phase
Figure 3 – End of Push 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:
Notice the right thigh is in flexion throughout the return phase
Figure 1 – Start of Return Phase
Figure 2 – Middle of Return Phase
Figure 3 – End of Return 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. Training to improve your stride speed is not very difficult however; it is perhaps one of the greatest oversights athletes make. Improving this phase of running can make a big difference in your running speed.
See the figures below for the right leg:
Notice the right foot is off the ground and moving forward throughout the swing phase
Figure 1 – Start of Swing Phase
Figure 2 & 3 – Middle of Swing Phase
Figure 4 – End of Swing Phase
This completes the motions of the running process in their most basic form. Athletes have different styles of running that best suits their needs, however the muscles involved all remain the same.
Conditioning each of the muscles groups in the running process for speed is one of the keys to sprinting faster.
Next we will cover which muscles are involved in each of the sprinting phases and how to train them for speed and faster sprint times.
Section 1 - General Overview and Introduction
Section 2 - Muscles for running and training of the Push Phase
Section 3 - Muscles for running and training of the Swing Phase
Section 4 - Muscles for running and training of the Return Phase