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Improving Mechanical

Effectiveness During
Sprint Acceleration:
Practical
Recommendations and
Guidelines
Dylan Shaun Hicks, MSc,1 Jake George Schuster, MSc,2 Pierre Samozino, PhD,3 and Jean-Benoit Morin, PhD4
1
Exercise Science Department, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia; 2Vald Performance and Florida
State University Institute of Sports Science and Sports Medicine; 3Univ Savoie Mont Blanc, Laboratoire
Interuniversitaire de Biologie de la Motricité, Chambéry, France; 4Université Côte d’Azur, LAMHESS, Nice, France

ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION During the stance phase of a sprint


trength and conditioning coaches action, a ground reaction force (GRF)
Sport scientists and strength and
conditioning coaches are showing
growing interest in the magnitude,
S are interested in understanding
the limitations in mechanical per-
formance during activities involving lin-
is produced, which includes both hor-
izontal and vertical components of the
GRF (referred to as horizontal and
orientation, and application of ground ear and multidirectional speed. High- vertical forces for simplicity), along
reaction force during acceleration ac- speed running (sprinting) is the funda- with the resultant GRF. The stance
tions in sport, as it can identify the key mental component of many team sports or contact phase can be divided into
mechanical determinants of perfor- and involves 2 key phases: acceleration braking and propulsive phases in the
mance. Horizontal force-velocity pro- and maximal velocity (7). The ability to anteroposterior direction, followed by
filing or sprint profiling helps accelerate and reach the highest velocity a flight phase when the limbs are re-
practitioners understand the capacity possible in the shortest period is under- positioned in the air before contacting
of the mechanical force production pinned by the mechanical components of the ground again (58). This ongoing
during the acceleration phase of the neuromuscular system, force, velocity, exchange of kinematic positions de-
a sprint. This review examines the and power, and specifically the force- fines sprinting as a ballistic action
methods used in the field for deter- velocity (F-v) profile (73). Within the (58). In comparison with various track
mining horizontal force-velocity (sprint) strength and conditioning literature, and field events where only linear
profiles. It also includes recommenda- methods to identify these mechanical speed is required, in team sports such
tions for practical training methods to components during acceleration have as Australian rules football and rugby,
address individual force-velocity char- been limited, making it unclear the most jumping actions followed by a sprint
acteristics, mechanical effectiveness, appropriate training prescription that
acceleration in multiple directions are
thereby optimizing acceleration per- should be used to improve these qualities.
common. These constant changes in
formance. Therefore, if a resistance training pro-
velocity require athletes to accelerate
gram is designed to enhance sprint accel-
eration, should strength and conditioning
KEY WORDS:
coaches select exercises, which focus on
power; force; velocity; acceleration;
Address correspondence to Dylan Shaun force, velocity, and power, or prioritize
sprinting; resistance training
Hicks, dylan.hicks@flinders.edu.au. one variable over the other?

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Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration

or decelerate their body mass (24,72) limb force in a horizontal direction as by mechanical sprint profiling including
and can include rapid changes in direc- velocity increases has been referred power and force orientation provide prac-
tion to chase down or evade an oppo- to as mechanical effectiveness (75). titioners with superior means to objec-
nent. Although achieving maximal This mechanical description is under- tively evaluate, effect, and monitor sprint
velocity is important in many team pinned by the force applied by the qualities.
sports (33,39), the ability to accelerate athlete across the acceleration effort Although sprinting is the most spe-
(and decelerate) can be of far greater and describes the ratio of the net hor- cific and highest velocity training
assistance to an athlete’s on-field per- izontal component and resultant method used to improve an athlete’s
formance (4,27); therefore, coaches GRF across the acceleration (61). linear speed, strength and condition-
must place a large emphasis on One “simple” macroscopic method ing coaches will often look to other
improving this quality. used to determine mechanical effec- resistance training methods to com-
To accelerate in the horizontal direc- tiveness across a sprint acceleration is pliment speed training. These meth-
tion in the shortest period, the athlete horizontal F-v profiling, also known ods are used to further elicit
has to develop the highest net hori- as sprint profiling. Across a sprint adaptations to F-v characteristics
zontal force possible, averaged across acceleration effort, sprint profiling and to address various mechanical
each step during the sprint effort. An models the step-averaged mechanical qualities contributing to perfor-
individual’s ability to perform this task outputs (force, velocity, and power) mance. The selection of exercises to
are characteristics of both the mechan- in the horizontal direction. This inno- improve physical performance in
ical and neuromuscular systems (44), vative method provides a detailed a sport should be based on factors
however also influenced by the ath- “roadmap” for understanding the that demonstrate the highest transfer
lete’s technical ability to apply the mechanical components underpin- to that sport. Because horizontal and
force and the propulsive impulse (force ning acceleration. As a means of vertical components of the GRF are
3 time) produced by the athlete. The accurately assessing the horizontal produced while accelerating, yet in
constraints of applying force over force produced by an athlete, sprint different magnitudes, there is often
increasingly shorter periods of ground profiling assists coaches to calculate conjecture on where the focus should
contact as the athlete moves through the degree of horizontally directed be placed from an exercise selection
the sprint acceleration identify how force applied over any distance or perspective when producing force: in
impulse can affect performance. Accel- velocity across the sprint effort (62). the horizontal or vertical direction?
eration performance will be limited if It also identifies the athlete’s mechan- Two concepts, which will be dis-
the impulse is high due to force pro- ical strengths and weaknesses when cussed in this review regarding exer-
duction occurring over a longer ground accelerating, specifically their ability cise selection, are dynamic
contact time. Therefore, the ability to to apply horizontal force and accel- correspondence (90) and the force-
achieve a high net external force erate toward maximal velocity. vector theory. These concepts
applied in the opposite direction to Sprint profiling helps coaches and ath- describe that the biomechanics, force
the center of mass displacement, as letes understand the F-v and power- production and orientation, and
the running velocity increases, and velocity (P-v) relationships, along with velocity of training movements
ground contact decreases, is of primary how horizontal force production should be similar to those used in
concern. In many team sports, rapidly capacity changes across the accelera- the athlete’s sport. Both concepts
changing one’s velocity and momen- tion, and provides a global view of provide a framework for exercise
tum to evade opponents is crucial the likely morphological and neuro- selection. Yet, when selecting resis-
(35); however, applying force in a more muscular properties involved (21). Fur- tance training exercises to improve
horizontal direction is a major factor in thermore, when attempting to acceleration performance, should
differentiating between rates of accel- understand the mechanical variables strength and conditioning coaches
eration (13,40,60,61,66). that contribute to acceleration perfor- select exercises based on specificity
During the acceleration phase, the mance, it raises the question of to the sprint action or maintain
ability to apply horizontally oriented whether the conventional approach a broad approach when attempting
force has been shown to be one of of manually or electronically timing to change F-v characteristics?
the key determining factors to per- a 40-yard sprint should be used in con- This review aims to provide back-
formance (61). This is in contrast to junction with the more in-depth sprint ground information on the F-v rela-
maximal velocity running where profiling. Moreover, can this informa- tionship, determinants and
Weyand et al. (91) showed that the tion be effectively used to individualize biomechanics of acceleration perfor-
magnitude of GRF production, ori- a resistance training program to target mance, and sprint profiling, as well as
ented vertically over the contact the mechanical strengths and weaknesses discussing exercise selection and train-
phase, was the limiting factor to per- of the athlete, thereby improving ing programs for improving athletes’
formance. Effectively applying lower performance? Additional details provided mechanical effectiveness during

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power (18,46,83,92); however, other
investigators have suggested that
loads, which are above and below
optimal load, develop P MAX to
a greater degree (37,52) warranting
further exploration to determine
whether an “optimal load” exists
and leads to comparatively greater
training-induced improvements. It
has been shown that ballistic activi-
ties are determined by the P MAX of
the lower limbs and impulse but are
also strongly influenced by the indi-
vidual’s F-v capabilities, which is also
known as the F-v profile (76). Train-
ing status and relative strength also
Figure 1. Changes in horizontal force and power as running velocity increases.
influence force expression, and there-
fore, evaluations of F-v profiles
acceleration. The practical recommen- shortening velocity of skeletal muscle should be highly standardized to
dations in this review could be used to are constrained by morphological maximize reliability of data (38,43).
address F-v characteristics and hori- factors such as fiber type, fascicle Understanding an athlete’s strengths
zontal force application and devise length, pennation angle, and neural and weaknesses in terms of their
individualized training programs for mechanisms such as motor unit mechanical output assists a strength
teams and individual sport athletes. recruitment and intramuscular coor- and conditioning coach to devise an
dination (21). Each of these variables appropriate training program based
DETERMINANTS OF FORCE AND has a direct effect on the ability of on the specific needs of the athlete’s
VELOCITY skeletal muscle to exert maximal F-v profile.
Mechanical variables such as force power (P MAX). High-power outputs
and velocity play a vital role in bal- are considered critical performance BIOMECHANICAL DETERMINANTS
listic activities such as sprinting and characteristics for success and will OF SPRINT ACCELERATION
determine overall neuromuscular often differentiate between ability Newtonian laws show that sprint accel-
performance (75). However, these levels in sport (84). Practitioners have eration in a forward direction is deter-
variables are in a sense limiting given long argued that athletes should be mined by the horizontal and vertical
that the force produced and the training at loads, which maximize components of the resultant GRF, the
horizontal and vertical impulse, and the
displacement of the center of mass
(CoM) (64). Force and impulse are vec-
tor quantities, which include direction
and magnitude, and depend on the
phase of the sprint action, along with
the position of the athlete’s body. These
vectors are oriented either horizontally
(mainly anteroposterior) or vertically.
When starting from zero velocity, the
impulse will be a combination of force
applied over longer ground contacts, and
as velocity increases, the time in which
force can be applied reduces, therefore
making quality force application at
ground contact critical. Although net
horizontal force determines the rate of
Figure 2. Mechanical output across a sprint acceleration effort. These variables acceleration (70,75), the impulse-
identify the current performance output of the athlete and the mechanical momentum relationship governs the
limits of the neuromuscular system: theoretical maximal force (F0), theo- time in which force is applied; it has been
retical maximal velocity (V0), and maximal power (PMAX) in the horizontal shown that this factor accounts for slow
direction. or fast rates of acceleration, where

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Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration

applied) at the start of the effort, along


with the successive strides during
acceleration (12,78,94). It has been
shown that elite sprinters produce
higher net horizontal force and
impulse with each step at any given
velocity, which allows them to attain
higher velocities than their subelite
counterparts (60,61,70). Although the
orientation of force is superior in elite
sprinters, their training history and
kinematics mean that they are also
more effective at transferring force into
the ground. Such technical skills are
also derived from specific neuromuscu-
lar properties including the structural
integrity of the muscle and ten-
Figure 3. A representation of lower limb ratio of forces, net positive horizontal (FH) don (60,70).
divided by total force (FTOT, which includes the vertical component). The
forward orientation of the total GRF vector is represented by the angle a. The position of the athlete’s body
GRF 5 ground reaction force. when sprinting, whether accelerating
or at maximal velocity, influences
application and orientation of force
shorter contact times beget the need for velocity was increasing and ground con-
(48). Positioning the overall body
increased force expression. Hunter et al. tact was decreasing. This was critical to
(not only the trunk-head segments) in
(40) identified in a series of 25-m sprints performance.
an inclined position in relation to the
that the greatest variance (61%) occurred The way in which a GRF is oriented is ground makes it possible to achieve
with the horizontal impulse measured at key to the acceleration performance or a more propulsive resultant GRF
the 16-m mark. Morin et al. (64) sup- maximal velocity achieved in sprinting (8,12,48). Whereas, when an athlete
ported this view and the argument that (6). Emphasis must be placed on max- is sprinting at maximal velocity in an
the fastest sprinters were able to produce imizing and orienting horizontal (ante- upright position, a greater reliance is
greater net horizontal impulse compared roposterior) force application during placed on achieving high GRF with
with their subelite counterparts. Also, of acceleration because the speed runners a vertical orientation to limit time spent
importance, it was shown that the faster ultimately attain specifically correlates on the ground, thereby reducing decel-
sprinters maintained this impulse across with the magnitude of the propulsive eration (11,91). Directing the resultant
the duration of the sprint acceleration as force (and time over which it is GRF in a more forward or horizontally
oriented direction is more important
during the acceleration phase of a sprint
compared with the overall magnitude
of force applied to the ground, and
therefore, this component is critical
to focus on during training
(13,60,61,70). Colyer et al. (13) showed
that sprinters, compared with soccer
players, exhibit more horizontally
directed force during the late braking
phase and early propulsive phase, al-
lowing them to accelerate to higher
velocities; this was a key difference
between athlete groups. Orientation
of force is also affected by the touch-
down or ground contact distance in
reference to the body CoM on ground
Figure 4. Horizontal force-velocity-power profiles for 2 athletes. Both athletes display contact (7). During this contact in early
similar maximal horizontal power outputs and sprint times, yet different stance phase, maintaining a stiff ankle
theoretical maximal force and velocity values (see slope). increases the resultant GRF and

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(PMAX) (Figure 2) (75). Over the dura-
tion of a sprint acceleration, Morin et al.
(61) use the term ratio of forces (RF)—
which describes the horizontal (ante-
roposterior) component of the GRF
(FH) vector as a percentage of the total
GRF (FTOT) vector (Figure 3). This
ratio identifies the technical ability an
athlete may or may not possess to ori-
ent force horizontally while accelerat-
ing. Because orientation of the force is
more important than its magnitude,
understanding the force ratio is critical.
From these data, the mechanical effec-
Figure 5. Resistance training categories across the force-velocity (load-velocity) tiveness of applying force (RF% 5 FH /
spectrum used to modify the mechanical variables or individualize the F-v FTOT) at each step can be determined.
profile.
The higher the RF%, the more hori-
zontal orientation of the GRF has been
momentum due to the impulse and propulsive force and horizontal power achieved. Mechanical effectiveness is
subsequent horizontal velocity when running velocity increases (Fig- important for determining the athlete’s
achieved (9). Therefore, assessing and ure 1) (62). Using a series of timing ratio of decreases in force (DRF) with
diagnosing the way in which athletes gates or a radar device, as well as bio- increasing velocity (62), which de-
apply horizontal force during accelera- mechanical modeling derived from scribes how force orientation changes
tion has important ramifications for at- speed-time data (75), it is possible to from more horizontal to vertical. Mor-
taining the best possible sporting calculate horizontal force, velocity, and in et al. (61) state that even if FTOT is
performance. power as the athlete accelerates. This similar in 2 athletes, the RF% can iden-
information describes the current tify mechanical differences including
HORIZONTAL FORCE-VELOCITY mechanical output from the athlete, weaknesses, which can then be tar-
PROFILING along with the mechanical limits of geted with training interventions.
Horizontal F-v profiling (sprint profil- the neuromuscular system while accel- Quantifying individuals’ mechanical
ing) is an assessment and diagnostic erating. Limits include theoretical max- effectiveness during sprint acceleration
tool that examines the key character- imal horizontal force at null velocity means it is possible to determine differ-
istics of F-v and P-v relationships in (F0), theoretical maximal horizontal ences between performers but also to
sprint actions; its main focus is on the velocity until which force can be pro- establish a biomechanical link between
acceleration phase (26,62). These rela- duced (V0), and the maximal power profile and sprint performance (74).
tionships define the changes in produced in a horizontal direction
Field-based sprint profiling (63,70,75)
using inverse dynamics, a computation
method of calculating forces from kine-
matics of a body, is a highly reliable
process that has been evaluated against
gold standard laboratory-based
(65,67,75) tests using inbuilt force plate
systems. Field-based methods of pro-
filing, referred to by Samozino et al.
(75) as a simple method, are a practical
process needing limited technology
and equipment to determine an indi-
vidual’s mechanical profile and assess
the PMAX the neuromuscular system is
able to achieve during the acceleration
phase. Sprint profiling assists coaches
to identify the specific interventions
Figure 6. A selection of exercises across the force-velocity (load-velocity) spectrum required to improve acceleration and
will be prescribed to each athlete depending on their level of mechanical determine whether training should be
effectiveness across the acceleration phase. directed at increasing PMAX by

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Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration

improving the horizontal force pro- acceleration (62). In comparison to PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS AND
duced at low velocity, (force quality), generic training programs where the GUIDELINES
horizontal force at high velocity (veloc- focus is on improving absolute force The mechanical determinants and var-
ity quality), or by training at optimal and sprint times, sprint profiling pro- iables seen in profiles such as force,
load (maximal power). Sprint profiling vides a specific guide for identifying velocity, and power are susceptible to
can provide some unique findings, and targeting the athlete’s strengths the demands imposed on the body,
given that it is able to distinguish or weaknesses to improve their accel- and key neuromuscular adaptations
between athletes independently of eration performance. This approach can occur as a result of prescribing
PMAX values or sprint times. Although has been explored with elite female specific exercises (87). This provides
time is the critical factor in sprint accel- athletes in Rugby sevens (80) and team scope for a strength and conditioning
eration, 2 athletes may achieve similar handball players (71), where individual coach to improve acceleration perfor-
acceleration times and PMAX values speed training programs based on data mance by selecting exercises and loads,
over a given distance yet with very dif- from sprint profiles showed varying which mostly target specific areas on
ferent slopes and mechanical charac- levels of effectiveness depending on the theoretical F-v spectrum and prac-
teristics to their F-v profiles how the sprint profiles were inter- tical load-velocity spectrum: force,
(Figure 4). This is connected to an ath- preted and how training loads were velocity, or power (Figure 5). The resis-
lete’s ability to have a different combi- implemented. Morin and Samozino tance training exercises used in most
nation (described as balance or (62) provided a written explanation sports are traditionally prescribed off
imbalance by Morin and Samozino about the process of optimizing F-v characteristics across the F-v spectrum
(62)) between force and velocity (force profiles, but information about practi- and the load-velocity (and thus force)
dominant or velocity dominant), which cal sprint and resistance training inter- context they induce within the move-
is also related to their mechanical effec- ventions that may have assisted ment. Examples of exercises that span
tiveness for the duration of sprint coaches was limited. this spectrum are detailed in Figure 6.

Figure 7. A weekly microcycle for a team sport detailing the integration of the technical and tactical sport focus, injury prevention,
recovery, and resistance training program (individualized to athlete sprint profile).

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Table 1 (sagittal plane); therefore, it may seem
Exercises to improve maximal force production intuitive to focus on exercises that
develop force in the same direction
Exercise % 1RM/Load (72,95), known as the “force-vector the-
Back squat . 85% ory” (14). Using exercises that allow ath-
letes to apply force in the same direction
Kettlebell swing . 85% (vector—magnitude and force) as that
Romanian deadlift . 85% which occurs in the sport task may sug-
gest a greater transference effect (93) or
Trap bar deadlift . 85% dynamic correspondence (90) due to
Hip thrust . 85% similar overall biomechanical character-
istics. Using these concepts as an exam-
Midthigh pull . 100% clean ple, volleyball or basketball players often
Clean pull from knee . 100% clean express movements vertically and there-
fore should address the F-v spectrum by
Rack pull . 100% deadlift prioritizing exercises that have a vertical
Prowler march Up to 150% BW force orientation. In comparison, Amer-
ican football players, rugby players, and
Resisted sprinting Up to 100% BW
sprinters, who predominantly express
BW 5 bodyweight; 1RM 5 1 repetition maximum. movement through linear locomotion,
would be recommended to prioritize
horizontally oriented exercises (50,93).
Although conjecture surrounds the
Resistance such as an athlete’s body- improving the application of force at
application of the force-vector theory
weight against gravity or external loads high velocities to enhance the athlete’s
(34) (see the Limitations section), a thor-
is a way to set the velocity at which the ability to maintain force application as
ough understanding of the kinetics and
maximum effort will occur and indicate velocity increases. This can be
kinematics of the movement task is
the production of force that is possible. achieved by improving the lower limb
essential when designing a resistance
Studies that have used resistance train- force production at high velocities
training programs.
ing (including vertically and horizon- and/or by improving the orientation
tally oriented exercises) to improve of force and maintaining the highest When designing and programming
sprint performance have included possible mechanical effectiveness training sessions to improve an athlete’s
high-force/low-velocity exercises; despite the increase in velocity. horizontal profile, strength and condi-
force-dominant (2,37,47), low-force/ Power-dominant exercises aim to tioning coaches need to appropriately
high-velocity exercises; velocity- improve the force applied at moderate periodize resistance training–focused
dominant (2,5,10,23,47,52) and optimal velocities, that is, at close to half of the sessions into the weekly sport training
load exercises; and power-dominant theoretical maximal velocity (28,29). program. The structure of a training
exercises (27,37), suggesting that the These exercises stimulate the athlete’s week in a team sport must primarily
load, orientation, and mechanical focus ability to produce greater PMAX output focus on the tactical and technical ele-
may elicit different adaptations to the during the sprint acceleration and, ments of the sport and then prioritize
performance. when prioritized as interventions other modalities such as injury pre-
Categorization of resistance training within a training program and perio- vention, recovery modalities, and resis-
exercises is useful to understand how dized appropriately, can be effective tance training (Figure 7). For optimal F-v
adaptations to the profile will affect in enhancing performance. The aim adaptations, resistance training should
physical performance. Force- of selecting exercises across the F-v occur over the course of several meso-
dominant exercises are aimed at spectrum is to target the variable con- cycles (30) or until the F-v profile has
improving the force applied at very tributing to the current level of F-v been reassessed and adaptations that
low velocities. In regard to sprinting, imbalance, thereby improving the ath- contribute to improved PMAX and/or
these exercises focus on the athlete’s lete’s overall mechanical effectiveness a reduction in F-v imbalance are evident.
ability to overcome inertia at the start across the sprint acceleration. Continual assessments of the vertical
of the sprint acceleration and effec- It is advisable that when selecting resis- profile (jumping) to determine whether
tively apply force in a backward direc- tance training exercises, they demon- F-v adaptations had occurred were re-
tion, be it by improving the capacity of strate transfer to movement task and garded as critically important within
the lower limb force produced or peak enhance various characteristics that con- a recent study (44). Depending on the
mechanical effectiveness. Velocity- tribute to sprint acceleration. Sprinting is level of F-v imbalance revealed in the
dominant exercises are aimed at performed on a horizontal training axis profile, some or all of the exercises

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Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration

force at low velocities are at a disadvan-


tage in many on-field competitive situa-
tions. This will be evident early on
during the sprint effort with their inabil-
ity to apply enough horizontal force,
thereby reducing their horizontal
impulse. In turn, this will compromise
the overall velocity that is achieved as
this is determined by the athlete’s ability
to accelerate to this speed. To improve
the force produced at low velocities, the
prescribed sprint and resistance training
needs to include movements that focus
on the right-hand side of the F-v spec-
trum, where force is applied against
Figure 8. Resisted sprint training using a sled at 85% bodyweight (59). a heavy external resistance, .85% 1 rep-
etition maximum (1RM) (86), and tar-
gets maximal strength qualities (Table 1).
Exercises that target maximal or abso-
identified in the following sections could strength and conditioning, rugby- lute strength and specifically improve
be integrated into a weekly microcycle, specific training, and recovery sessions, the force applied in a horizontal direc-
ensuring a minimum 48-hour recovery were cycled across a week to optimize tion include heavy sled pulls, resisted
period between high-intensity days. This performance during the preparation sprinting (Figure 8), and prowler
is necessary to limit the level of residual block leading into competition. marches (Figure 9). Horizontally ori-
fatigue before the athlete embarks on the Recommendations about addressing the ented exercises at these loads will
next training session. Understanding the F-v imbalance and mechanical effective- encourage force application in the
training phase and how this may affect ness in sprint acceleration through tar- same direction as what occurs during
the general or specific nature of exercise geted resistance training programs the acceleration phase of a sprint.
intensity and selection is also a critical directed across the F-v spectrum are Although maximal strength exercises
factor in team sports (30). Schuster detailed in the following sections. may only be specific to early accelera-
et al. (79) explored these concepts in their tion, several studies (3,86,87) that
recommendations for physical prepara- IMPROVING FORCE PRODUCTION focused on the right-hand side of the
tion with Rugby 7 athletes, where AT LOW VELOCITIES F-v spectrum noted the crucial role
a weekly combination of high (2 ses- Athletes with physiological and perhaps strength plays in providing the founda-
sions), medium (2 sessions), and low (2 technical qualities that limit their ability tion to improving maximal power,
sessions) intensity sessions, including to apply a high amount of horizontal highlighting its importance for poten-
tially improving other aspects of the F-
v spectrum. Table 2 identifies 2 resis-
tance training sessions, which could be
performed across 1 week, including
both horizontally and vertically ori-
ented exercises. These exercises and
the associated sets, repetitions, and
loads are programmed to improve
the maximal force produced at low
velocities.

IMPROVING FORCE PRODUCTION


AT HIGH VELOCITIES
Some athletes are capable of high lev-
els of force at low velocities but cannot
sustain it as their acceleration in-
creases. This often leads to a rapid
decrease in the RF (DRF) as the athlete
approaches top speed. Analysis of the
Figure 9. Resisted sprint training using a prowler sled to march at 140% bodyweight. profile shows that it is likely that during

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Table 2
Force production at low velocity

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4

Exercise Volume Load Volume Load Volume Load Volume Load

Day 1—
horizontal
orientation
Resisted 2 3 4 Load that 2 3 4 Load that 2 3 5 Load that 2 3 3 Load that
sprinting 3 restricts to 3 restricts to 3 restricts to 3 restricts to
10 m ,30% of 20 m ,30% of 20 m ,30% of 20 m ,30% of
maximal maximal maximal maximal
velocity velocity velocity velocity
Prowler 2 3 20, 120% of BW 2 3 20, 130% of BW 2 3 20, 140% of BW 2 3 20, 120% of BW
march 30, 30, 30, 30,
40 m 40 m 40 m 40 m
Hip thrusts 535 82.5% 535 87.5% 535 92.5% 535 85%
Day 2—
vertical
orientation
Clean pull 432 82.5% 632 87.5% 12 3 1 92.5% 432 85%
Back squat 335 87.5% 333 90% 333 92.5% 335 85%
Midthigh 335 110% 333 120% 333 130% 333 110%
pull (%
based off
clean)
BW 5 bodyweight, % based off 1-repetition maximum in exercise.

acceleration, the athlete will be losing increasing velocities require exercises jumps with zero load maximized mean
their ability to apply and orient hori- that focus on characteristics from the power and jump height, yet the veloc-
zontal force too early, which during left-hand side of the F-v spectrum, ity (peak) of the center of mass at take-
acceleration corresponds to early along with improved inter- and intra- off increased by deloading bodyweight
changes in body position from approx- muscular coordination properties. Ex- by 30% (51). Horizontally oriented ex-
imately more horizontal to vertical. ercises demanding high velocity are ercises, including a novel exercise
Although the production of high generally those that require high rates known as an assisted horizontal squat
(mostly vertically oriented) force is of force (Table 3). jump (Figure 11), have been shown to
vital at maximal velocity (11,12,91), The F-v spectrum suggests that the be beneficial to improving movement
the speed attained will be limited smallest load the human body can velocity due to the extremely high
because of a rapid decrease in the RF. work against is the force of gravity velocity reached by pushing against
This has a direct impact in sporting on body mass such as when perform- almost zero gravity (42,77). This exer-
activities such as rugby when players ing a vertical jump. However, research cise, part of a longitudinal training
try to outrun their opponents when suggests that even this load may be too intervention aimed at improving F-v
making for the try line. Sprinters face great to affect the velocity portion of balance in individual profiles (44),
the same problem when they need to the F-v spectrum (51). Assisted vertical was shown to produce extremely large
maintain acceleration for a longer jumps (Figure 10), using elastic bands, changes in the velocity component of
duration and reach higher velocities are one method that has been used to the F-v profile, as well as effecting
in a 100-m sprint. Improving sprint deload or negatively load an athlete’s increased jump heights.
acceleration performance over longer body mass by reducing the effects of Assisted sprinting may provide
distances and maintaining a high ratio gravity on the body (51). Markovic and another unique approach for overload-
of horizontal-to-resultant force at Jaric (51) found that countermovement ing the neuromuscular system at

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Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration

Table 3 to improve force produced at high


Exercises to improve maximal movement velocity velocity due to the reliance on the
stretch-shortening cycle (31). Table 4
Exercise % 1RM/Load identifies 2 resistance training sessions
Countermovement jump BW that could be performed across 1 week,
which include both horizontally and
Assisted jumps Assisting force to deload BW by 30% vertically oriented exercises. These ex-
Horizontal squat jump ,BW ercises and the associated sets, repeti-
tions, and loads are programmed to
Assisted horizontal squat jump Assisting force 95–110 N improve the maximal movement
Squat jumps BW—10% BW velocity of the athlete.

Assisted sprinting 100–106% maximal velocity IMPROVING MAXIMAL POWER


(OPTIMAL LOADING CONDITIONS)
Reactive jumps BW FOR SPRINTING
Box jump (bilateral and unilateral) BW Training at a load that is associated
with movement velocity at which
Jump shrug BW + 20–40 kg
maximal mechanical power occurs
Hang high pull BW + 20–40 kg has been shown to be the most effec-
tive method for increasing overall
BW 5 bodyweight; 1RM, 1 repetition maximum.
maximal power (36,46). Haff and Nim-
phius (36) define optimal load as that
higher than the maximal voluntary (54–57). However, given that maximal which maximizes mechanical power
velocities. Using a horizontal towing running velocity is by definition the far for a specific exercise. Within the
mechanism such as the DynaSpeed left side of the F-v spectrum, research strength and conditioning literature,
(MuscleLab) (Figure 12) or the should aim to verify whether training the assessment of power is broad, with
1080SprintTM, acute horizontal run- over an individual’s maximal voluntary technology including force plates, lin-
ning velocities increased, along with running speed (i.e., overspeed training) ear position transducers (LPTs), and
lower limb electromyography activity, benefits unassisted performances. Plyo- accelerometers, deriving power metrics
which suggested that higher neural metric activities such as bounding, that are used to determine optimal
activity took place with possible trans- drop jumps, and reactive jumps are also load. Therefore, the context of the vari-
fer to unassisted maximal sprinting recommended for athletes who want able must be understood and inter-
preted correctly when implementing
into the training program (see the Lim-
itations section). During resistance
training, the optimal load for develop-
ing PMAX in a jump squat has been
shown to range from 0% of 1RM
(18–20) to 30–45% of bench press
1RM in the bench press throw
(68,82) and 70–80% of IRM when per-
forming weightlifting exercises such as
the snatch and/or clean (18,22,46).
This approach to training has also been
used in cycling via torque-velocity tests
to determine the optimal pedaling con-
ditions (frequency) over a set distance
(32). The discrepancy in power assess-
ment and 1RM percentages across
a range of exercises demonstrates a lack
of clarity and inconsistency to deter-
mine the load to achieve PMAX.
Figure 10. Pre-load contermovement jump with band resistance, B: Toe-off position However, improving maximal horizon-
with band assistance (increased vertical velocity), C: Flight phase tal power for sprinting requires focusing
(increased jump height). Assisted vertical jumps to deload athlete body- on the factors that contribute to this var-
weight against gravity by 30% using an elastic band (51). iable: horizontal force and horizontal

10 VOLUME 00 | NUMBER 00 | NOVEMBER 2019


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sessions that could be performed
across 1 week, which include both hor-
izontally and vertically oriented exer-
cises. These exercises and the
associated sets, repetitions, and loads
are programmed to focus on maximiz-
ing power.

LIMITATIONS TO SPRINT
PROFILING
Coaches need to carefully consider the
implications of the training interventions
they select to address characteristics of
the F-v profile. Potential weaknesses
should be addressed but not at the
expense of building on athlete strengths.
Figure 11. A: Loading against box in start position with band resistance, B: Toe-off It follows that strength and conditioning
position with band assistance (increased horizontal velocity). Assisted coaches need to keep sight of their pri-
horizontal squat jump using a roller board and elastic band to push
mary training goals and use sprint pro-
against reduced gravity (1,43,44).
filing as a monitoring and diagnostic tool,
velocity. Depending on the training performance has also been shown to be similar to testing hamstring strength or
phase and needs of the athlete, exercise effective in many studies force plate analysis of vertical jump ac-
prescription should be directed to all (17,37,45,52,88,89). With this in mind, tions to assess benchmarks. Detraining
parts of the F-v spectrum to ensure that across the F-v spectrum, exercises to qualities is a risk if too much time is being
a strong level of mechanical effectiveness improve maximal power could include expended on weaknesses. For example,
is maintained and to achieve the highest resisted sprinting, sprinting at maxi- an athlete who produces maximal power
ratio of horizontal force during acceler- mum speed, jump squats (trap bar) with lower force values will result in de-
ation. In regard to sprinting, this may (Figure 13), plyometrics (horizontal creases in velocity values if training
entail using specific exercises for produc- bounding), and assisted sprinting (Fig- focuses on those particular movements
ing maximum power by training at an ure 12). Highlighting exercises from all for an extended period. This may impact
optimal load (27). Optimal load training aspects of the F-v spectrum should on an athlete’s ability to produce power
has previously been shown to be more result in athletes maintaining or raising in situations where force is required at
effective for improving dynamic athletic their mechanical effectiveness with different magnitudes and velocity (36).
performance compared with other load- limited decline in either contributing Recent research suggests that the selec-
ing conditions (68,92). However, com- variable. Although all loads across the tion of exercises based solely on
bining different resistance training loads F-v spectrum contribute to PMAX, dynamic correspondence and the
to improve power and ballistic Table 5 identifies 2 resistance training force-vector theory (34) contains certain
limitations. A thorough understanding of
dynamic correspondence often means
that the selection of specific exercises is
narrow and predetermined. Contreras
et al. (14) and, more recently, Loturco
et al. (49) suggest that the force-vector
theory should be the primary focus when
selecting exercises to improve sprint
acceleration and maximal velocity. The
theory states that the force-vector, which
comes into play when sprinting, occurs
in the anteroposterior direction relative
to the body, and therefore, the exercises
selected must focus on producing hori-
zontal force and provide necessary time
for skill acquisition, which in turn should
improve transfer to the performance to
Figure 12. Assisted sprinting using the DynaSpeed (MuscleLab) to allow athletes a greater degree than vertically oriented
sprint at supramaximal speed (54,56,57). exercises (14). Currently, most resistance

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12 VOLUME 00 | NUMBER 00 | NOVEMBER 2019

Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration


Table 4
Force production at high velocity
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4

Exercise Volume Load Volume Load Volume Load Volume Load

Day 1—horizontal
orientation
Assisted 1 3 20, 30, 101% of training 1 3 30, 30, 102% of training 1 3 30, 40, 103% of training 1 3 20, 30, 101% of training
sprinting 40 m maximal velocity 40 m maximal velocity 50 m maximal velocity 40 m maximal velocity
(DynaSpeed) (upright (flying run) (upright (flying run) (upright (flying run) (upright (flying run)
posture) posture) posture) posture)
Maximal 3 3 40 m BW 3 3 50 m BW 3 3 60 m BW 2 3 40 m BW
sprinting (20 m accel (20 m accel (30 m accel (20 m accel
+ 20 m fly) + 30 m fly) + 30 m fly) + 20 m fly)
Horizontal 3 3 8 cts BW 4 3 8 cts BW 5 3 8 cts BW 3 3 8 cts BW
bounding (8
contacts/set)
Day 2—vertical
orientation
Reactive hurdle 3 3 5 cts BW 4 3 5 cts BW 5 3 5 cts BW 3 3 5 cts BW
hops (5
contacts/set)
Band-assisted 235 Deload BW 30% 335 Deload BW 30% 435 Deload BW 30% 235 Deload BW 30%
vertical
jumps
Double-leg 236 BW 335 BW 336 BW 236 BW
depth jump
to box
accel 5 acceleration, BW 5 bodyweight, cts 5 contacts, fly 5 flying run.
performance
(16,18,19,21,22,25,82,85,87), yet con-
jecture and difficulties exist when
determining load for actions involving
multiple joints. Maximal power and
optimal load is influenced not only
by the technology that derives the vari-
able but also by whether it is specific to
“system power” (external—whole
body), joint power (internal—at a spe-
cific joint), or perhaps more applicable
to the weight room, “bar power” (using
an LPT). Previously, Cormie et al. (15)
have recommended using a combina-
tion of a force plate and an LPT to best
determine power in lower-body exer-
cises. In a resistance training context,
the discrepancies in how optimal load
is reported therefore present a high
level of ambiguity in reference to the
Figure 13. A: Start position of lift, B: Accelerating load vertically, C: Loaded flight load-power relationship and present is-
phase. Jump squat with trap bar at optimal load (approximately 40% BW).
sues with how practitioners can make
sense of how to apply exercise pre-
exercises are vertically oriented (72), for a basic misunderstanding of simple scription to not only improve maximal
example, the back squat, deadlift, or mechanics. Primarily, the issue lies in power but how optimal load is estab-
weightlifting derivatives, therefore understanding the difference between lished (15). The use of a range of meth-
emphasizing vertical force production the direction of force relative to the odologies to determine power has led
(72). However, this serves to negate hor- global frame, as against the direction to a broad range of approximate 1RM
izontally oriented force and opposes of force determined by the orientation percentages for which maximal power
dynamic correspondence and the of the athlete (35). This is evident in is developed in various exercises such
force-vector theory. Notwithstanding, sprinting when the athlete adopts a tri- as the power clean, squat, and jump
Loturco et al. (49) found strong correla- ple flexion (front-side mechanics) squat. Considerations for effectively
tions with sprint performance when per- position during acceleration and when understanding and interpreting opti-
forming hip extension–focused exercises, reaching maximal velocity; the orien- mal load must also include the specific
for example, hip thrust, with the initial tation of the body is at approximately movement pattern(s) used, training his-
phase of the sprint acceleration, whereas 458 while accelerating and at approx- tory/status of the athlete, and whether
those exercises loaded vertically, for imately 908 when at maximal velocity. the exercise uses single or multiple
example, jump squat, showed greater Kugler and Janshen (48) noted the joints (22).
transfer to the maximal velocity phase. strong relationship between body lean
Cross et al. (29) noted that during un-
Both of these findings, however, are in and direction of GRF, as leaning for-
resisted sprint acceleration, maximal
direct contrast to the findings of Seitz ward during acceleration places the
power was achieved within the first 2
et al. (81) who found positive accelera- athlete in an advantageous position
seconds of the movement, and there-
tion changes, 0–30 m, from studies pri- for applying propulsive force. How-
fore, the remainder of the sprint
marily concerned with the back squat, ever, although orientation of force
occurred at a suboptimal load. To re-
and Jarvis et al. (41) who found no sprint needs to be understood, from a practi-
create and extend the conditions in
performance transfer from an 8-week cal standpoint, a combination of both which athletes move at an optimal
study using the hip thrust exercise. This vertically and horizontally loaded load, resisted sprint training was intro-
suggests that conjecture remains in re- resistance training exercises seems to duced using a loaded sled that corre-
gard to the training axis, which should be the ideal approach when attempt- sponded to approximately 96% of the
be used to enhance sprint acceleration ing to improve sprint performance athlete’s body mass or equivalent to
performance. (14,49,72,95). a velocity decrement of ;50% of max-
Although the force-vector theory is Maximal power is a major perfor- imal velocity. This allowed athletes to
intuitive in many respects, Fitzpatrick mance indicator and thus frequently sprint at optimal loads throughout the
et al. (34) proposed that applying the a priority when selecting exercises to acceleration phase. In a later study, fur-
force-vector theory to training was improve dynamic, ballistic ther changes to sprint acceleration

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14 VOLUME 00 | NUMBER 00 | NOVEMBER 2019

Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration


Table 5
Force production at maximal power (optimal load)
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4

Exercise Volume Load Volume Load Volume Load Volume Load

Day 1—horizontal
orientation
Maximal sprinting 3 3 30 m (20 m BW 4 3 30 m (20 m BW 3 3 40 m (20 m BW 2 3 40 m (20 m BW
accel + 10 m fly) accel + 10 m fly) accel + 20 m fly) accel + 20 m fly)
Resisted sprinting 2 3 10, 20, 30 m Individual 3 3 20, 30 m Individual 2 3 3 3 30 m Individual 4 3 30 m Individual
(DynaSpeed) PMAX PMAX PMAX PMAX
Hip thrust 335 Individual 335 Individual 435 Individual 335 Individual
PMAX PMAX PMAX PMAX
Day 2—vertical
orientation
Power snatch 433 30–50% 433 30–50% 532 30–50% 432 30–50%
Power clean 433 70–80% 434 70–80% 434 70–80% 532 70–80%
Jump squat (trap bar) 533 20–50% 533 20–50% 632 20–50% 532 20–50%
accel 5 acceleration, BW 5 bodyweight, fly 5 flying run, PMAX 5 maximal power, % based off 1-repetition maximum in exercise.
were not evident when athletes per- FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS sports where sprint acceleration is cru-
formed a resisted sprinting protocol Most literature on sprint profiling dis- cial and for identifying and changing
at optimal load compared with groups cusses factors that contribute to the the variables contributing to perfor-
that used lighter or heavier loads (29). overall mechanical output across the mance. It may allow coaches to devise
However, the authors acknowledged performance; however, there has been individualized training programs to
that the current state of the individual a growing level of interest in understand- a greater degree compared with tradi-
ing the application of sprint profiling in tional methods as a means of enhanc-
F-v profile and the random group
the rehabilitation field and return-to- ing sprint acceleration and improving
assignment may well have affected
play (RTP) protocols from hamstring in- the effectiveness of force application.
greater adaptations to sprint accelera- juries (53). Although not the primary
tion, and greater research is required. Guidelines for implementing a training
focus of this review, the application of and/or rehabilitation program that ad-
One limitation recently noted on sprint using mechanical variables of pre-injury dresses the mechanical variables of
profiling methodology using the “simple performance and using these in the RTP horizontal force-velocity and power-
method” (63) is that the power variable protocols with sports medicine staff may velocity include the following:
only represents step-averaged external provide further comparative data to  Assess the capabilities of producing
power produced in the horizontal direc- ensure a safe return to performance. horizontal force and the mechani-
tion to accelerate the body center of Mendiguchia et al. (53) identified that cal effectiveness of force applica-
sprint profiling highlights the capability tion during sprint acceleration
mass, neglecting the internal “joint”
to produce horizontal force at low speed (sprint profile)
power (Pint) required to move the limbs
is a limiting factor to performance when  Identify any existing F-v imbalance
around the center of mass (69). Pavei returning from a hamstring injury; there-
et al. (69) suggest that other mechanical across sprint acceleration.
fore, the application of sprint profiling as  Prescribe appropriate training pro-
components aside from horizontal a monitoring tool to assess how force grams to address the needs of the
power are needed to accelerate in production changes across a competitive athlete and the slope of the profile.
a sprint such as the body center of mass season or in response to an injury could  Reassess the athlete after an appro-
and internal power (Pint). Although the be useful individual information to sports priate period to determine adapta-
simple method provides valuable insight medicine staff. tions to mechanical effectiveness
into power in the horizontal direction and changes to sprint acceleration.
across the sprint acceleration, there SUMMARY Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding:
must be the understanding that no inter- Sprint profiling using the field methods The authors report no conflicts of interest
nal power variables are measured, and briefly outlined in this review offers an and no source of funding.
therefore, the overall power output innovative and alternative approach to
computed via the simple method will understand the mechanical determinants
be an underestimation of the total of sprint acceleration. Although further Dylan Shaun
power developed by muscles but will research and experimental evidence is Hicks is a PhD
rather characterize the power capabil- needed, together with applied longitudi- candidate and
ities of overall sprint propulsion. Not- nal exercise interventions, the field teaching faculty
withstanding, the practical application method is a practical and valid approach member in Exer-
that allows strength and conditioning cise Science at
to coaches using Pint is limited, consid-
coaches to access kinetic data on sprint Flinders Univer-
ering the exhaustive technology neces-
acceleration, which previously was only sity, South
sary to obtain the data, and therefore, attainable in a laboratory. These data Australia.
the simple method may be a more allow coaches to design individualized
appropriate measure in the field. In addi- training programs.
tion, it is not known whether Pint is Jake George
The resistance training program used
a performance indicator, thus a key vari- Schuster is
to address mechanical effectiveness
able of interest in training. should consist of exercises that focus Senior Sports
Therefore, when using optimal load as on both horizontal and vertical force Scientist at Vald
a training strategy to improve maximal production, acknowledging the limita- Performance and
power, it is prudent to understand the tions to the force-vector theory; how- Affiliate
context of power being measured, ever, a priority could be placed on one Researcher at
along with incorporating a variety of orientation over the other depending Florida State
loads across the F-v spectrum to on the phase of the training cycle or University’s
ensure a balanced approach for force the needs of the athlete. Sprint profil- Institute of Sports
and velocity adaptations (25,88,89). ing can be used for athletes involved in Science and Sports Medicine.

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Mechanical Effectiveness during Sprint Acceleration

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