Q: During the summer my son, a junior in high school, can train with me at my gym for about six weeks. He’s a running back with a big squat and deadlift, but he needs to improve his ability to accelerate. Are there any specific exercises you would recommend, or should he just do more sprints?
A: I would get him on a program of sled training, as it is a proven method of increasing acceleration. In fact, a new study shows that athletes can become significantly faster after only four weeks of sled training.
Published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, the study involved national-team sprinters and long jumpers who did either weighted sled sprints or a traditional short-sprint program. Both groups also performed their regular resistance-training routines.
After four weeks the weighted-sled group increased acceleration more than the traditional sprint group did. By training acceleration, the sprinters were able to reach top speed faster during the transition phase (between 15 and 30 meters) of a 50-meter sprint.
Training with the sled increases ground contact time so that athletes can apply more force with each step. The weighted-sled subjects also increased stride length by 2.7 percent after sled training and improved their maximal speed (distance from 30 to 50 meters) by 1.3 percent. That may not seem like much, but these were national-team sprinters—your son probably will experience even greater results.
One tip: Keep the weighted-sled runs between 15 and 25 meters, as longer distances will impair your son’s running form. Try pairing a 15- or 20-meter sled run with regular sprinting to take advantage of the fact that the lower-body muscles are already activated. That will also reinforce correct running mechanics. It’s the same idea you’d use if you were going to train heavy partial squats in the gym; you’d need to perform a set of full-range squats at a lighter weight so as not to compromise range of motion.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM