September 15, 2015 by Sion "Brummie" Scone in Analysis with 8 comments
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It’s a long season, as usual. While the body gets fatigued, sometimes the brain needs a rest too. Having had the luxury of a track coach in the past, I always got variety at training to keep my brain sharp and reduce the monotony of endless repetitions at various distances, speeds, and rest intervals. Your body will welcome the change, too.
Here’s a few of the drills that I liked that I felt gave me the most benefit for sprinting, and as a nice mental break from yet another 100m rep. All of them are skilled drills that will teach your body to run better, so even if you already do some of these, take another look and make sure you’re getting the most out of each workout.
1. Sprinter Switches
The basic aim is to train the leg muscles to move faster than you could possibly maintain over a longer distance. Think of it like a 1 rep max for leg speed; you go from a running stance on one leg to the other as fast as you possible can. This drill can get tiring fast, so I wouldn’t advocate doing too much.
Once you’re a little more confident, add in a double switch (go from one leg to the other then back again, ASAP, and hold), or a triple switch. You can do this in place, or incorporate forward movement as in the video.
2. 10 Meter Sprinter Starts
Watch how far he goes just off one explosive movement. He’s not really running 10 meters, he’s driving hard for two steps and coasting the rest of the way. The easiest way to judge how hard you’re driving is to just glide to a stop, rather than slamming on the brakes after you hit 10m. So, you drive hard for 10m, then you stop accelerating and just coast on the momentum you’ve created. Done correctly, you should find yourself going 30-40m down the track, a sure sign that you were driving hard.
Remember: this is not about just running 10m as fast as you can. This is about training correct technique. As you improve, you’ll get faster. Be patient; your first few reps will feel alien.
Don’t worry about training from blocks, just watch the first few minutes of the full video.
3. Sled Pulls
Definitely the most fun part of sprint training is getting to play with sleds. Most tracks should have one, or you can get a sandbag like this guy.
Avoid the temptation to load it with your usual squat weight — this isn’t Crossfit. About 10% of your bodyweight is about right. If you find the sled bouncing in the air, add a little more weight; if you find your legs pumping and not going anywhere, take some off.
Anything up to 20m is a good distance; stay low and be as explosive as possible. Take tons of rest between reps — more than you think. 5-6 minutes is about right, so stay warm with a jacket or joggers if the air is cool.
Learn more about resisted running from Ultiworld fitness columnist Pat Kelsey.
4. Flying Sprints
This is a great drill for ultimate players, as it really develops a change of pace — crucial for chasing down wayward throws or catching up to a long ball. This drill also has less strain on the legs than sprint starts, so it’s a way of getting more out of each training session.
Place a series of cones: 0m, 30m, 70m, 100m is my preferred method, but you can switch this up.
- 0-30m: During this section, you build speed from nothing to 90% of your top speed
- 30-70m: the flying 40; run as fast as you can
- 70-100m: cut the acceleration, but don’t touch the brakes. Learn how to use the speed you’ve built; you should be able to do this last 30m with very little effort yet still maintain a very good pace
Don’t be tempted to ditch the final 30m. It’s a crucial skill in ultimate to learn how to run at a decent pace with very little effort; see the next drill for more on this.
5. Stride Work
This is more of a technique drill than a conditioning drill, although you’ll definitely notice the effects the following day! The aim is simple: rather than conditioning your legs to move faster, this drill lengthens your stride so that you cover more ground with each stride. You’ll need to play around with the cones to work out the correct distance for you (especially if you have tight hamstrings), but I’d recommend starting with double your usual walking stride.
Mark out 10+ cones, then start with at least 20m to build up speed, just like in the flying sprints. The aim is to put only one foot down in between each cone. Make sure that you keep your back straight; some people will naturally lean backwards as they try to reach forwards with the leading leg. Don’t. It’s poor running technique that will slow you down. Instead, reduce the cone distance slightly.
The focus is one foot placement and stride length, so don’t worry about how fast you’re actually running — or think you’re running — because you might feel as though you’re running slowly as your stride lengthens, even though you’re actually covering more ground per step. Give it a try and get used to it.
- Warm up thoroughly. You should have broken a sweat before you start.
- Get some mobility work in there. I love hurdle drills for this.
- Buy some spikes. You won’t regret it.
- You can incorporate some of these exercises into your normal running workouts, or even replace some reps for these drills.