Sprinting is an important aspect of several sports, including soccer, but how does one do this safely and effectively? Acceleration. Acceleration is a key phase of sprinting. The focus of our acceleration phase is exerting as much force and power as we can to get up to top speed as quickly as possible. To do this there are four key points to focus on: Knee Drive, Leg Extension, Body Lean, and Foot Contact.
Knee Drive + Leg Extension: These two focus points go hand-in-hand because we cannot get a full leg extension without a quality knee drive. Getting our knee drive up high allows us to generate as much power as we can when we strike the ground as well as allowing our other leg adequate time to extend fully. We want to get our leg fully extended through all three joints in our lower body: hip, knee, and ankle. Having our leg extend fully when we contact the ground is what propels us forward and if we don’t get it fully extended we don’t use our maximum amount of power.
Body Lean: Having an aggressive body lean allows us to drive ourselves in the direction we are trying to go: forward. During our acceleration phase, we are primarily driving ourselves forwards which is what gets us up to speed quickly. If we are upright during this phase, our lower body motion becomes cyclical which is not an efficient movement for building speed and exerting force through the ground. A simple way to think of this movement is like an airplane taking off: we lean hard forward as we accelerate and as we get up to speed we rise up into our normal running form.
Foot Contact: When our feet contact the ground there are two important points we are focusing on: the ball of our foot is hitting the ground and our foot is contacting the ground underneath our body. If our heel or full foot hits the ground first we are not in a position to drive forward. If our foot hits the ground out in front of us that tells us that we are reaching and pulling (cyclical) our body forward which is not as explosive. Our foot contact combined with a good forward lean is what allows us to drive forward as opposed to up (which is not where we want to go).
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