If you’ve ever played a team field sport, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying the first 10m of the sprint is the most important when making a fast action play such as chasing after a ball or someone or making a line break. But is there any research out there to back this up?
A new study has been recently published last month (July 2015) by Morin and colleagues. It is titled “Acceleration capability in elite sprinters and ground impulse: Push more, brake less?” This paper may help us gain a better understanding into short sprint performance and the saying “the first 10m is the most important.”
So what did the researchers have the subjects do?
7 sprints were performed per subject (2x10m, 2x15m, 20m, 30m and 40m) with 4mins rest between sprints.
How was the data collected and what was collected?
A 6.6m force platform was used in an indoor track. Vertical, horizontal and mediolateral ground reaction force were measured using this device. Within this, backward orientation of the horizontal force vector (braking impulse IMPh-) and forward orientation of the horizontal force vector (propulsive impulse IMPh+). You may be wondering how a 6m force platform could measure variables over a 40m sprint. Well starting blocks started over the platform for the first 10m sprint and the starting blocks were placed further and further back from the force platform for each subsequent sprint (15-40m). In doing so, the researchers were able to create a “virtual” 40m acceleration getting data from foot contacts over the full 40m distance.
What were the characteristics of the subjects?
9 elite (international level) or sub-elite (French national level) male sprinters with personal best 100m times ranging from 9.95-10.60sec. As stated by the authors, the range of performances is not that narrow hence the findings of this study may not only apply to just high level sprinters.
What are some of the relevant findings and what do they mean?
40m sprint performance was significantly correlated to high values of overall horizontal force. However, IMPh+ was siginicantly positively correlated with 40m sprint performance while IMPh- was not. The result of this shows IMPh+ to be the key factor in 40m sprint performance. In layman’s terms, the faster athletes are the ones that “push” more in the horizontal directon.
Another important finding was that vertical force was not correlated to sprint acceleration performance and more importantly, there was a non-significant tendency towards a negative correlation between vertical force and 40m performance. Meaning, if you are producing more vertical force over horizontal force during your sprint (i.e. accelerating with a very upright posture orientating force more vertically while sprinting), you may negatively impact your 40m sprint performance.
Finally, 40m values were correlated with the first 0-20m and the second 20-40m part of the sprint. The correlations were similar as above when correlating the values with the first 20m. However, no correlations were found over the second section of the sprint (20-40m). This indicates that much of the 40m sprint performance is determined by how much horizontal force is produced over the first 20m, with as much IMPh+ (push) as possible.
So it seems that statement of “the first 10m being the most important” may be true and have some scientific backing. This study suggests that the first 0-20m of the sprint is the most important in regards to these mechanical variables for short sprint performance. In order to have a fast first 20m, according to this research an athlete needs to be able to produce high amounts of horizontal force relative to body mass with minimal force being produced in the vertical force vector. There is potential for these findings to guide training for field sport athletes such as soccer or rugby where short sprint speed is vital to performance.
One simple way to train this attribute is the use of heavy sled drags. This will make you closer to parallel to the ground and will force you to “push” in the horizontal direction. I have listed some other exercises in a previous post HERE.