Maximum speed sprint mechanics are often addressed during training sessions. Acceleration mechanics, however, can sometimes be overlooked. Acceleration mechanics, in field and court sports, are just as important, if not more important, than max speed sprint mechanics because of the amount of changes in direction one has to make in a single game. Don’t get me wrong, maximum speed is important, but if you can’t reach your maximum speed efficiently and your opponent can”¦ Guess what? Your team will probably lose the game.
To get the most out of each acceleration, a good first step starting angle should put your body roughly 45 degrees from the ground. Focusing on a good knee drive and extension should be next on the agenda. If you don’t fully extend the back leg during the acceleration phase, you’re shorting yourself precious distance that your opponent is covering and not taking advantage of the power of your hamstrings and glutes. With each step, your ground contact times should become shorten and the torso will come to a more upright position. Don’t rush into this upright position, though. Any changes in body position should be gradual and progressive.
There are several great exercises that can be used to work on acceleration mechanics. The first is medicine ball throw starts where the athletes would start with a moderate weight medicine ball at chest level and as explosively as possible; throw the medicine ball out in front of them as they begin the acceleration process.
Falling starts are another great training tool for acceleration. To perform a falling start, the athlete starts in either a bent over (as seen in the video below) or standing position. From this position, they shift their weight forward until they are off balance. As soon as the athlete feels they are going to fall to the ground, they should drive one knee forward and begin to accelerate.
As Carl Valle pointed out in his post on elitetrack.com, “‘Speed kills’ is a quote often used by performance coaches, but acceleration is the mass murderer of sport.”