Novice 100m sprinter must be able to recognise, understand and train to negotiate five interconnected components of the 100m, each of which has its own distinct technical requirement if he/she is to become a competent performer and maximise his/her true competition potential. Each component must be learned and rehearsed as separate and eventually as integrated functioning parts within the overall framework of the 100m sprint performance.
These five components are:
- Reaction time
- Clearance ability
- Acceleration to maximum velocity
- Maintenance of horizontal speed
Here are the brief overview of these five components to guide the less experienced athlete and/or coach in their approach to training.
The athlete is required to make a conscious but rapid physical response, through appropriate coordinated joint actions, to the external stimulus of the starting pistol which allows a smooth clearance of the starting blocks. Reaction time is measured by the time taken between the introduction of the stimulus and the first muscular reaction or movement performed by the athlete. This ability to react rapidly to a previously known but unexpected signal is an inherited feature which is trainable through specific ‘reactivity training ‘drills and other practices aimed at reducing response time. The impulse may be introduced by means of sight, sound, or touch. Through high repetition the athlete can improve the reaction time.
The ability to clear the starting-blocks cleanly and powerfully is crucial to the 100m sprint performance. Much of this ability depends on the athlete adopting a mechanically sound starting position and generating great power in order to overcome inertial and frictional forces in the opening strides.
Inertial force is greatest against a stationary object (e.g. a sprinter in the starting position) and, to overcome this, the force applied against it must be greater.
Hence, the sprinter must use an explosive driving action to cause an initial, powerful movement. The greater the force applied in driving from the starting blocks, the greater will be the initial velocity produced by the athlete.
Acceleration to maximum velocity:
In the 100m sprint performance, it is essential that the athlete accelerates to maximum velocity in as short a time as possible. However, the longer it takes the athlete to reach maximum velocity the greater the potential for the sprinter to reach higher maximum velocities. Hence the importance of an effective acceleration phase in producing the highest maximum velocity. In the quest to achieve optimal maximum velocity the sprinter must, in the early strides, maintain a low body position with as much of his/her upper body above and forward of his centre of mass as practicable, gradually bringing his/her centre of mass higher until in the upright postural position characteristic of maximum velocity sprinting.
The athlete through a combination of faster cadence and increased stride length produces a greater velocity and should be encouraged to focus on a sense of growing horizontal velocity (i.e., ‘running over the ground’).
In the acceleration phase, there should be an emphasis on work performed behind the body until maximum velocity is achieved (reached) and full running height is apparent.
In a proficient (skill or expert) sprinter, these two features will be seen to occur without abrupt changes in posture.
Maintenance of horizontal speed:
Maintenance of horizontal speed may be achieved through a well-rehearsed striding technique, which allows an equal emphasis on work performed behind and in front of the centre of mass. With the inhibiting factors of braking forces effectively managed by emphasising the maintenance of high stride cadence and an effective stride length, the optimal stride cadence/stride length relationship is maximised. There is a feeling of bounce in the lower limbs as the athlete embarks on a brief period of flight in the recovery phase of each rapid stride.
In this final component, it is necessary for the athlete to resist an inevitable decline in velocity, which is likely to occur in the final 25m of the competition performance. To accomplish this, a further slight modification of technique is required, with an emphasis on work performed in front of the body. The purpose of this technical adjustment is to lighten and reduce the duration of foot-strike and sustain the rate of cadence in the tiring legs. The novice athlete should recognise that relaxation in a state of physical and mental fatigue is not only desirable, but also crucial to the overall integrity of the sprint performance.
In conclusion, the development of the five key individual and sequential components of the 100m outlined above requires specific training and development. The athlete should be encouraged to understand the importance of each component and how to develop the capacity to optimally perform each component.