improving strength responsible for top end speed

Hi, I was hoping to get some answers or input to a couple of questions:

  1. What is the best lifting excercise to do to improve the force being applied to the ground when a 100m sprinter is at “top speed”?
  2. What is the main muscle(s) responsible for applying this force?

NB: Please assume that there are no flexibility issues when answering my questions.

There are no single answers to either of your posts, but back squats are the biggest developer of leg strength and ergo increase the capability of exerting force.

Top Speed is primarily elastic force.


Could you clarify on that, Bill?

Pauly - Squatting movements and Olympic Lifts should be considered your best friend as far as increasing ground forces.

At top speed elastic strength is critical to minimize ground contact time. The support phase is important at top speed as well to maintain the “sprint” position.
Top speed work, plyos, and solid core work are very important elements for reaching and maintaining top speed.

I would rank squats and other weightlifting exercises more important in terms of starting strength and acceleration. Overcoming the initial inertia of the start.


As running speed increases, ground contact time decreases. The limiting factor therefore shifts from maximum force (i.e. strength) over the first 20 metres, to rate of force development at top speed. Of course increasing maximum strength [i]can[i] also have positive benefits on RFD.

Bill is correct, elastic recoil from tendons is a substantial contributor to force applied at top speed. Muscles contract on (before!) ground contact. The contractile component must attain a tension sufficiently high that it is ‘stiffer’ than the attached tendon. The faster this threshold tension is achieved (the higher RFD!) the more energy is stored in the tendon. Current work by my supervisor - Tony Blazevich is investigating the optimum compliance of specific tendons for sprinting (and jumping). Unfortunately, [i]length[i] of tendons is genetically predetermined.