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Drills One. Brief Thoughts & 7 Drills To Turbocharge Your Sprint Warm Up

As we all know, in a sporting context, drills pay the bills. If you are technically poor, your likelihood of injury, crap performance, and ultimate performance plateau is much, much higher.

Quick Note:

The only other issue is, are you doing them right? And, more than that, are the ones you’re doing actually effective at improving sprint performance? Just because you see athletes doing them, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re correct.

The idea of ‘sports performance’ within the wider context of human history is such an eye-blink of existence, there’s almost no way that we’re currently learning and educating at the most effective level - as pretty as some of the drills look.

Performance training is constantly innovating and evolving so keep an open mind. As I said this is just a note.

Most traditional drills have a vertical application bias which is relevant to a degree (in terms of cueing during top-end running), but sprinting has enormous horizontal forces which don’t necessarily get worked doing most traditional drills.

Plus, forcing athletes to be as clean and linear as possible may take away from some of their natural movement and innate force expression qualities. (Obviously if they move like Mr Tickle - intervene). But, like everything else, it’s a balancing act and one-size-fits-all only works for hats. And sometimes not even then.

One workaround I use is to blend drills into running. Use the drill to hold the positions you want, then open progressively into full flight running. Like stabilisers on a bike that you take off once you’re moving.

You need to know WHY you're doing them. I would say a large proportion of athletes don't.

Principally, it generally comes back to doing the best we can to mimic movements and shapes we want to hit in full flight and activating key muscles that will help us achieve our top speed goals.

Anyway, with that unbelievable advice ringing in your ears, let’s have a look at some basics that anyone can fit into their warm-up template with some simple instructions for completing them effectively.

Let’s go.

Keyword Definitions:

Dorsi-Flexion - upward flexion at the ankle (toes up)

Plantar-Flexion - downward flexion at the ankle (toes down)

Ground Contact - literally the amount of time you are in contact with the ground

Ankle Stiffness - fairly research proven phenomenon that the stiffer the ankle, generally the faster the athlete (only paraphrased that a little bit) (1) (2)

COM - centre of mass (the centre of your mass which is central. To your mass)

1. Pogos (Double Leg Pops)

This drill is used to train ankle stiffness, wake up the muscles and achilles tendon response and pretty much get you on your way to a feeling of bounce and control.

Emphasis on dorsi-flexion and fast ground contact. You want to hit the ground with the lower part of the ball of your foot (should almost look like a flat foot contact), endeavour to keep stiffness from ankle, knee to hip. You want to feel like a stiff, coiled spring.

Keep your core tight and your COM biased to the midfoot/heel. This should hold you in the optimal position for force production. Make your ground contact quick and explosive but don’t cut ROM for the sake of a ‘quick’ contact.

It’s the trade off between time applying force through range, whilst simultaneously being fast enough to get off the ground rapidly. Yeah, confusing I know. This is why we practice.

You can build your air-time as you go and use this sort of process to work out how you apply force and what the result is.

*By the way, engaged core (braced abdominals), retracted shoulders, head in line with spine and eyes forward are all ever-presents in every drill you see. So I won’t be writing it again and again.*

Stiffness is slightly sacrificed for height towards the end of this drill, I'd want the athlete to get similar output with stiffer joints

2. Single Leg Pogos (Ankle Pops)

Same principles as above with alternating legs. Aim to produce force vertically whilst emphasising a little more horizontal movement.

Again, you want to feel like a stiff spring, bouncing down the track with the force being generated from your calves and ankles.

You can build your air-time as you go and use this sort of process to work out how you apply force and what the result is.

Limit 'toey' landings, dorsi-flex as much as possible, keep the foot strike under the hip

3. Walking ‘A’

This sprinting staple drills similar movement patterns you aim to achieve in full-flight running.

Step forward raising one knee to the sky, simultaneously raising onto the toes of the standing leg. Pause briefly at the top of the movement, feel your hip flexors contract, challenge strength and balance on your toes, then bring your leg down in a controlled manner and repeat the other side. Dorsi-flex!

Keep it controlled, don’t Godzilla stomp your way down the track. Don’t wake the villagers!

If you’re struggling to link your body with this movement, start with your arms at your side. Progress to running arm movement as your balance improves.

Keep your spine neutral, your core activated and your hips directed forward (imagine two headlights on your hip above each leg, shining forward).

Imagine you have a bar through your hips like a table football player, then imagine that bar is rolling along a raised surface, keep hips high throughout

4. Open Hips Walking Lunge

This variation is just a walking lunge emphasising separation and mobility through your hips. It’s a great ‘hip opener’.

Give yourself a reasonably large opening step, using the ‘headlights on hips’ cue drive your stride forward from the hip, aim to feel a stretch in the top of the quad, keep your spine neutral (don’t let it tip forward, bucket of water in your belly you need to keep level).

Sweep your arms forward and up as per the video if you like. Part of your hip flexors originate from the spine so raising your arms helps fully open these muscles up, you might feel a stretch into your abdomen.

Headlights on hips. Shine them forward, keep spine and pelvis neutral and feel the stretch

5. 'A’ Skips

Co-ordination nemesis of the rookie athlete, this skipping variation requires you to bounce from feet together, to knee raised, back to feet together, to opposite knee raised.

Sounds simple enough? If you’ve not done it before you’ll probably cock it up. But that’s why I’ve launched the insta page so you can all send your videos for feedback.

Take it slow and bounce out the rhythm first. Bounce on your forefoot (a bit like a pogo), then raise one knee, return to centre, then fire up the other knee.

Failing that just watch the video and try to copy.

Use this drill to practise bounce, control, range through hips and linking the body

6. High Knees

Another sprinting staple.

Bouncing off the forefoot, drive your heel vertically up into your bum (keeps you in optimal positions) then motor along with your legs driving up and down like engine pistons.

Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed (create space between ears and shoulders), whilst driving your elbows powerfully back. All movement for these drills should be driven by the upper body.

Mix it up with slow forward movement but rapid switching, med ball overhead or broom handle over head.

Keep hips high, bounce off the forefoot, drive elbow back, limit backside movement by driving heel up

7. High Knees Blend To Run

As mentioned above, here is a way you can take a drill and use it to directly cue your running.

This version is great as you’re already in a tall position, simply open your stride and take the momentum forward into a bouncy, fast stride.

Caution: be careful not to drop out of the high hip, high knee position for the sake of trying to run. The idea is that you use the drill to find the optimal running position.

The greater your height and room to move, the greater space you have to apply that ridiculous force potential you have!

Video is not a great example as you can't see the blend, it will be updated

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