Strength for acceleration

I was wondering what part of the body specifically requires to be strengthened when an athlete can’t stay low for long enough during acceleration, as i’ve heared the words “not strong enough” many times regarding this. Is it the core? Legs? Upper body? or combination of them? Or is it more to do with force application during acceleration?

A combination of all of the them

Low angles during acceleration are a product of greater horizontal force requirements. The lower(angularly) you apply the force proportionally the less vertical force you get. Obviously there is a requirement for vertical forces to achieve the desired height of CoG. So the lower you get, proportionally you must exert a higher force in order for that proportion of vertical to be sufficient to raise the CoG and not stumble all over the place.

That force is generated from the hips during extension and maintained through your core.

so do squats and deadlifts.

they have been proven over and over again to increase acceleration.

Its the strength of the erector spinae and latissmus dorsi that is crucial in aiding an athlete to maintain the lean during acceleration. The stronger the dorsal and erector muscles the longer you can hold the position and so prolong the acceleration phase.

I aim for a straight back, aligned head, low foot carry & triple extension. When your trying to stay low in no way are you looking to round the back/spine. The muscle responsible for keeping the body and spine straight is the erector spinae (although the core is extremely important too).

I find the number one thing for keeping me low is to drive my arms back as hard as possible during the acceleration. There should be no conscious effort to stay low, it should happen automaticaly if you are driving your arms with enough force.
For me at least it’s impossible to pop up early when driving my arms back hard.
So to answer your question it is overall body strength and a conscious effort to drive your arms backwards that will keep you low.

if one was flexible in the shoulder region, could they encounter the problem where the arm ROM would be large enough that it slowed down stride rate if they drove their arms as hard as possible?

What you are saying makes sense on paper and I have played around with different arm frequencies, however driving my arms back as hard as possible always wins out and gives me much better acceleration, as well as keeping me in a “driving/pushing” mode for a greater portion of the race, thus allowing me to save my frequency for mid race.
I would imagine that any loss in stride frequency would be negated by the massive increase in stride length. My worst starts always feel “quick” and my best ones “powerfull” if that makes sense
If you want to see a perfect example of how it’s done check out Asafa Powell, maurice greene and justin Gatlin (his sub 10 races).

The more forceful and explosive the arm drive, the more forceful and explosive will be the leg drive.

Heres a couple of links you will find pretty helpful.

Speed Training: Improving Acceleration for Optimal Performance.

Strength Qualities of the 100m Sprinter.

i know exactly what you mean, but to me it doesnt look like any of those pros ever hit a rom where it would be the arm swing limiting stride freq. then again, cues arent always exatly what happens…

Thanks for the replies, really cleared everything up!

Race Radio (or anyone):

Are there some good exercises, in your opinion, that strengthen the erector spinae and lower back that can help improve acceleration mechanics? It seems that sled pulling and hill running both counter act (my) need to lean too far forward at the start and round my back.

RDL, Reverse hyper, good morning, and many more

at Charlies tri set hyper complex. It doesn’t require a machine. Reverse hypers, glute ham, good morning, RDL, deadlifts, etc. The list is long. My preference is that it be somewhat synchronous between hams, glutes, and erectors.

From a mechanical perspective, aggressive arm pump through a full amplitude is what brings the hips through during early acceleration. From a geometrical perspective, this will facilitate complete extension.

Ineffective arm pump will allow the hips to drift behind the COM. This can lead to stumbling out of the blocks and a bent at the waist geometrical position.

From a muscular perspective, find yourself a 45 hyper, GHR, or elevated box/bench/table and support yourself, with a partner holding down your legs if need be, isometrically in the extended position. This will facilitate the mind:muscle connection in terms of which muscles are responsible for supporting the extended position against gravity.

As others have stated, from a muscular perspective, it is the posterior musculature that is responsible for maintaining knee and hip extension.

Hello James, I hope you can help me with some definitions for a couple of the things you said, such as:

“drift behind the COM”… What is meant by “COM”?

“find yourself a 45 hyper, GHR”… What is a “45 hyper” and “GHR”?

Sorry for my ignorance…


Find yourself a Personal Trainer who knows his stuff.
Just doing the above said exercises, but with Crap Form will not fix your issues.
You need to put yourself into the correct position during the lifts to strethen the correct muscles.
I have never seen anybody in a gym, who has not been shown how to do any full body exercise by a professional do so correctly. Their form is crap, they overload the bar, their posture is way off and the results are too.

If you’re having trouble finding exercises to correct Strength acc in your starts - then your form in the gym will suffer also.

Some state you can fall into a gym and get stronger - i recon you see less than a handful like that in any gym. That is piss poor odds.

It’s like trying to get faster and great sprinting technique without a coach. It can happen, but 95% of the time, It simply does NOT

Rick, COM stands for center of mass.

45 hyper is a hyper extension/back raise/Roman chair positioned at a 45 degree angle (common in most health clubs) and a GHR is a Glute Ham Raise device. The GHR is typically not found in commercial gyms; however, Roman chair/ back extension device that is set up parallel to the floor is just as good for the isometric support position that I was referring to.

Again, neither piece of equipment is required. You can easily perform hypers, reverse hypers, back raise + row, and so on off any elevated exercise bench, box, table, etcetera with tha aid of a partner to hold your legs down.

Thanks James