Training for speed and power in sport and fitness
Training for speed and power in sport and fitness

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Training for speed and power in sport and fitness

2.1 The mechanics of speed

In this section you will investigate the biomechanics of speed in order to buttress your understanding of speed and how to develop it.

Activity 2 Speed mechanics

Timing: Allow 40 minutes for this activity

Watch Video 2 and have a look at the glossary below in Box 1. Once you’ve watched Video 2 and completed the reading, fill in the gaps in the statements below which describe how these terms can be applied to a sprinter at the start of a race.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2 The science of sprinting
Skip transcript: Video 2 The science of sprinting

Transcript: Video 2 The science of sprinting


We are appealing to your inner geek, as we get out the blocks with the precision science of track sprinting.
The sprint start is all about generating power, so we need to be very quick to leave the blocks. So you'll notice that sprinters will have very short, staccato-like steps at the beginning of a race to try and generate as much force, and the friction that they interact on the ground, as the spikes touch the track surface, to try and propel forwards.
When we multiply force by the amount of time that we spend applying that force, we get something that's called impulse. The greater impulse that we can then generate will mean that we can help to propel our centre of gravity forwards out the blocks as quickly as we possibly can.
From a biomechanics point of view, we need pieces of kit that will help us slow down that technique so we can understand what is happening at every foot contact. We'll use things like three-dimensional motion capture, to help us monitor the movements of the arms and the legs. And we'll also use things like force transducers to try and help us understand the forces under the feet that are generated during the sprint start.
Not only is it important getting out of the blocks, but you'll see them always keeping their head down to maintain peak velocity. Once peak velocity is hit, you start to see the gaze, and the eyes go up towards the finish line. And that's where they try to maintain that speed.
End transcript: Video 2 The science of sprinting
Video 2 The science of sprinting
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Box 1 Glossary of speed terms

  • Velocity: How fast an object (or person) is moving and its direction
  • Speed: The rate at which an object (or person) covers a distance
  • Impulse: The product of the force generated, and the time required to produce the force (force x time)
  • Force: The product of mass and acceleration or a push/pull exerted on one object by another
  • Acceleration: The rate at which an object’s velocity changes over time

Use the drop-down menus to select the correct missing word.

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Having explored the biomechanical principles of speed you will now look at the physiology of speed and how this relates to speed training.


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