Adaptation question for Charlie

Charlie I have a question, actually 2:

  1. Assuming a well planned training program, is it safe to assume that the greatest, or fastest adaptations will be from speed endurance rather than Max V and Accel Dev. when an athlete is just starting out??

  2. I read somewhere that there are 2 schools of thought when it comes to the application of force in the leg cycle, one is the clawing movemento and the other I don’t remember but it doesn’t matter. Assuming that SE levels are ok and that strength levels are also ok. How would you go about improving the “transmission” of forces during the clawing action in a sprinter who should be running 11.4 and is running 12.0?

Thanks for your time

anyone wanna take a stab at this???

I believe the answer to your first question would be yes. In CFTS, Charlie poses the question of why focus on taking off .2 off at the start when you can take 2.5 seconds off the end?

1: Yes for a beginner who doesn’t have al fitness in place
2: In order to be ‘clawing’, your hips must be low. Just step down and the rest will take care of itself without the need for conscious action.
For a much more comprehensive explanation, the sensation of sprinting at a high level is well described in ‘Speed Trap’ and is also dealt with in the Forum Review, both available from the site store.

in which part of speed trap is that Charlie. And just out of curiosity isnt one supposed to keep the hips higher?? to allow for a freer range of movement and triple extension?

Yes the hips should be as high as possible, which you CAN’T do if your trying to claw the ground. Check Speed Trap and you’ll find a number of references to the technique and feeling of top sprinting- it feels as if you’re stepping up and down, as the horizontal impetus is so quick that you can barely sense it.

“Percy taught me the difference between running and sprinting-that while you run on the ground, you sprint over it, with the briefest possible foot contact. It’s like the spinning of a bicycle wheel; a sharp slap of the hand will impart more speed to the wheel than would a more prolonged stroke. The strongest sprinters spend the least time in pushing along the ground. They focus instead on moving their legs up and down, and are barely conscious of how their force is translated into horizontal impetus. They feel ease rather than power in their motion, since they overcome resistive forces-ground and air, gravity and inertia-with so little difficulty.”(CF)
Ahgchile check the chapter “The Mentor” in SPEED TRAP for the above.
Also check

"The human machine’s pushing forces are much stronger than its pulling forces. Thus the optimum angle of the lower leg with the ground at contact is 90 degrees. If the foot is foward, there becomes an effect of a repeated breaking of foward motion. It also causes the athlete to pull his/her body over the leg before pushing off. This action is usually noticed in the athlete who overstrides or over-extends. The runner should learn to drop onto the foot so it will be in the strongest driving position. "(Tom Tellez)
Charlie, is the stepping down you describe the same as dropping onto the foot, is it a sensation of stepping down from a height?

That’s a bit tricky. At top speed, when you are ‘stepping down’, the leg is also swinging back (though you may not feel it), and the hip height determines how much of a ‘contact patch’ you have on the ground, both ahead of and behind the CG. The higher the hip, the smaller the patch, and the smaller the better. The slight bit ahead of CG creates the optimum conditions for the pre-stretch of the muscles in the full upright position.
During the start and throughout the accel period though, all the action is in the pushing mode. This is sucessfully initiated from the Gun by ensuring that the front foot in the blocks is BEHIND the point of the hip. If it’s in front, you’re in trouble from the outset.

Charlie could you give a description of how the first 10 strides/acceleration, should be executed?

What drills would aid the first 10 strides? To what level should the arm/hand reach for full extension?

The emphasis is on powerful but relaxed arm drive and the feet will land at the appropriate spacing without conscious thought, as long as the blocks are set up properly. You can see how the training towards this objective proceeds on the GPP DVD.

I must tell that the thread link above is probabily one of the best in this site…
I remembered last year, when i print that thread and used to learn, not only about leg mechanics, arm actions and starts, but also learning english, discussing this points with my english teacher. She ( my teacher ) gave me about 3 followed english lessons where i had to explain my understoods from each topic of this “article”.
It was also, probabily the best “discovery phase” of my sprinter career.
Was like a immersion in english and sprint tips
and after that i was totally heartened to buy both CFTS & Speed Trap e-books.
Well, as you can see, i became a master in read but far from a writer.

I’m glad it was helpful.

Ok I’ve decided to make this the mos useful thread of the last month at least biomechanics-wise (at least for me) so here go a few more questions. These are based on what I remember from CFTS and a research paper called: “Relative activity of hip and knee extensors in sprinting - implications for training” written by Klaus Wiemann & Günter Tidow. Published in New Studies in Athletics. 10:1,29-49,1995.

From what I’ve learnt from Charlie. “The more relaxed you are the easier it is to shut down the antagonsts of the muscles that produce the force required to sprint”.

“The more force that you apply against the track (presumably) the further you advance (be it forwards or upwards)”

“The force applied to the track can either be from a pushing motion (most noticeable during the start phase) and from a ‘pulling motion’ (this is presumably from the foot strike just in front of the CG)”

From the research paper I quote:
"it may be assumed that there are at least seven approaches to improving this ability (improving locomotor speed):

  1. technique training
  2. relaxation training
  3. hypertrophy training
  4. speed endurance training
  5. speed-strength training
  6. neuronal activation training
  7. variation of loading cycles providing a recovery from the previous stress"

Technique training - “…leaving aside the well known problem of sprinting talent, it may b deduced from this that it is obviously not sufficient to impart ‘ideal’ models of spriniting co-ordination as the desired goal… From this it may be concluded that every interference with the neural sprint pattern of movement, which is stored in the sub cortex, with muscle-related exactly fixed times, periods and intensities, creates a problem. It is possible that urgently needed relaxation phases are hindered or even eliminated. This shows that it probably takes years of training to replace an existing sprint movement pattern with a new one and stablilize the new pattern so that no energy is wasted in concentrating on the new movements”

Relaxation training - “the ability to relax one’s muscles can be trained. For example, V Borsov used apropriate training for this facility… it is essential to shift the emphasis to the training of the isochrural muscles and the muscles which are responsible for lifting the knees.”

Neuronal Activation Training - “During the push off from the starting blocks…In order not only to activate the greatest possible proportion of the contractile potential of the hip and knee extension muscles but also to contract these muscles as quickly as possible, high and even maximum innervation rates are necessary. Only thus is it possible to overcome the recruiting threshold, which in dast or mixed muscles is in the area of 80% of the athletes max strength and to achieve the steepest rates of increase in terms of force strength curves… It has been found that the best method… is to use loads of 90-100% of the maximum with explosive efforts. Correspondingly 1-3 reps with a complete rest interval of 5 mins is required (load typical of the neuronal activation method).”


  1. With regards to technique training. presumably the more one performs a given skill, the sooner it becomes ingrained and passes into the hindbrain where it no longer becomes conscious. Can this process be accelerated so that it doesn’t take “a couple of years” as suggested in the paper? And can a change in technique, or should a change in technique produce “immediate” results?

  2. The re-training of the given technique resets all the rests and contractions and peaks in force application, can these be “supplemented” and or even evaluated during the training process for “instant feedback”? (so you know what you are doing right and what is wrong)

  3. What was the “relaxation training” performed by V. Borsov and can “relaxation” (as in shutting down the antagonists quicker) really consciously be trained, and if so, how??

  4. What is the real value of this neuronal activation training, how often should it be performed and should it be a part of each weekly cycle, or should it only be performed once every few weeks, months etc…? Does it have any real value or applicability to the track?

Hopefully we’ll get plenty of responses, and be useful to everyone.

1: Think about this. Can you force yourself to adapt to relaxation more quickly?
The incorporation of skills takes as long as it take! The less you worry about it and the more you create an optimal environmet for learning it ( proper recovery and a good training plan), the less time it will take to adapt. Even after you adapt, you must constantly reinforce the learning, always concentrating on one thing at a time. I think you already have Speed Trap. Read over the sections on the feeling of proper technique. It will help you know what to expect.
2: This is covered in point 1. A good training program will optimize the learning.
3: You can do supplemental relaxation training away from the track. this is usually supervised and can help speed up recovery through improved blood flow.
4: The neuronal activation you describe should be covered by the training plan. (Basically, the right amount and quality of speed work and weights to optimally stimulated improvement for the individual)

And this might sound a little “back stabby” but how do I know if my coach is running me on a well developed training plan?? There are times I feel that he doesn’t know what I’m supposed to do, as though I’m just an extra on someone elses training plan. So far I haven’t improved in my 60 of my 100 since february, however I have improved on my 200 (presumably from the improvement in proper fitness.)
which brings me to another question…

how do you know when “all the fitness is in place”??

Charlie, those supplemental relaxation training you mentioned will help me with the track relaxation needed ? Even in weights work ?

yeah, what do they consist of??

Anything that helps with relaxation anywhere will help everywhere. We used to use Dr Sue (Vietta) Wilson at York University to help with relaxation techniques away from the track. You can probably find some papers written by her, or you might wantto get any papers written by Bud Winter, the old track coach from San Jose State, who was a relaxation instructor for Navy flyers during WW2.

where can I find this info, cos on pub med I found zip, nothing, nada.

If anyone has anything electronic I’d be really happy to read!!