Linear sprinting speed is a highly coveted physical quality by team-sport coaches. Clocking a fast 40 yard dash at the combine can move up an athletes draft status and earn them higher salaries. Therefore, training to improve linear speed is a high priority for many teams. A common way to train for sprinting speed is by having athletes perform assisted and resisted sprinting. Assisted sprint training is intended to have the athlete run slightly faster than they’re capabilities by having them pulled via harness during repetitions or by sprinting on a slight decline (downhill). This is thought to improve stride frequency and train the nervous system to move faster. Sprint resisted training is intended to develop acceleration speed by improving force production. This is accomplished by having athletes tow a weighted sled during repetitions or simply sprint on a slight incline. This method is thought to improve stride length.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research sought to determine if combined uphill and downhill sprint training was superior to traditional sprint training on a level surface for improving performance markers. A sample of 20 college-aged males with an athletic background were divided into a combined training group (uphill and downhill sprinting on a 4 degree incline/decline) a traditional training group (level surface sprinting only) and a control group (no training). The training sessions were held 3 days’s per week on non-consecutive days over an 8-week period. Overall training volume was similar between groups. Before and after the training period, 100 m sprint time, running velocity, stride frequency, and stride length were tested among all participants.
The results showed that overall 100 m sprint time was improved by an average of ~4% for the combined group and ~2.4% for the traditional group. Running velocity showed similar improvements for both groups (~4.1% for combined and 2.4% for traditional). Stride length and stride frequency improved in both training groups in the 60-90 m phase with improvements being slightly greater for the combined group. These results suggest that both traditional sprint training on level surfaces and uphill and downhill sprint training can lead to improvements in linear sprinting speed, but that combined training may be slightly superior. Therefore, coaches should consider incorporating combined sprint training with their athletes.
Cetin, E., Hindistan, I. E., & Ozkaya, Y. G. (2017). Effect of Different Training Methods on Stride Parameters in Speed Maintenance Phase of 100m Sprint Runningmel. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. In press.