Sprint Technique and Body Mechanics

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Sprint Technique and Body Mechanics for Sprinters

Whether you compete in the 100m, 200m, or 400m sprint, it is important to learn the proper sprint technique and body mechanics. Each body part and movement from head to toe, when performed correctly, combines to allow the sprinter to get the most out of his/her effort.
Over the next few weeks, I will break down the sprint technique, starting from the proper movement of the head and travel down to the placement of the foot.
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Body Position

The first place to start is the overall body position during the sprint.  The body should be straight up and erect. You should feel like there is a string leading through the body from the feet and out of the top of the head. If you were to pull the string tight, your body would be pulled straight up like a puppet. While sprinting in this upright position your body should maintain about a 10 degree forward lean.

Head Position

The head should be held upright with eyes focusing down the track.  The head should be in a neutral position where there is no tension or strain felt in the neck. You can test this by slightly tilting the head back and forth and to the sides to see if there is any tension there. Position the head at the point where there is minimal tension or strain on the neck. The head should feel weightless. The face should be totally relaxed to the point where your jaws are flapping as you run. Watch the NCAA and professional sprinters on TV in slow motion to get an idea how this looks. 

Shoulder Position

First and foremost, the shoulders should remain relaxed. The shoulders should not twist or rotate but remain square to the track. The shoulders will act as a pivot point for the arms to swing.

Arm Position

The arms should be relaxed and bent at about a 90° angle. The arms should swing in unison with the opposite leg – this is thought to help drive the leg. The arms should swing up to about face level and back just past the hips. This motion is often referred to as swinging the arms “cheek to cheek” or “ear to rear”. The hands should be as relaxed as possible. The hands should not be clenched like a fist.  This can be accomplished by cupping the fingers and placing the thumb on the top finger, by extending the fingers like you are performing a chop, or by lightly pressing the thumb to the index finger with the other fingers loose.

Torso Position

The torso should remain square to the track with no twisting or rotating motion.  The hips should be slightly tucked in to provide more lift for the legs and abs should be tight.

Leg Position

The lead leg should drive upward with the foot crossing up and over the opposite knee. The thigh of the lead leg should be parallel to the track, while the foot is extended forward and the ankle maintained in a dorsiflexed position. The lead leg should swing downward with the foot landing on the mid-foot or ball of the foot. The foot should land under the body while slightly flexing the ankle. This flexion action of the ankle upon foot strike will help propel the body forward. The ankle should then be quickly returned to a dorsiflexed position and the process repeated.