On Monday 28th May, Athletics NI held our third Event Group Squad for coach-athlete pairs focusing on Sprints and Throws. Mary Peters Track in Belfast provided the venue with 18 athletes and 12 coaches in attendance. We welcomed back guest coach Dr. Alan Kennedy, coach to two of the NI record breaking 4x100m men’s team. With acceleration the main focus of the previous development day Alan expanded on what occurs beyond acceleration and concentrated on maximum velocity running and speed endurance.

Alan provided a brief recap on the fundamentals of acceleration before looking in depth at maximum velocity running and reviewing a video clip of the 2017 Irish National 100m final featuring two athletes he coaches.

Image 1: Acceleration

Acceleration Set-Up

  • -Torso Lean
  • -Negative Shin Angles
  • -Negative Foot Speed (Drive Down & Back)
  • -Dorsi-Flexed Ankles
  • -Forceful Ground Contacts
  • -Large Arm Swing

Image 2: Irish National 100m Final

Alan pointed out the differences in running mechanics between the athletes at top speed e.g. posture, arm swing and position, ankle dorsi-flexion, hip/shoulder undulation and oscillation – and how the eventual winner was able to maintain speed more efficiently and appear to “pull away” from the rest of the field.

Assuming acceleration is maximal,  the majority of athletes will have reached their top speed (maximum velocity) after 7 seconds.  Young athletes may reach their maximum speed between 15-30m of a 100m race whilst for senior athletes this may be between 30-60m.  This demonstrates the need for prescription of speed training sessions to be tailored to the age and ability of the athlete.

After a warm-up delivered by Dean Adams, athletes were given the opportunity to test/re-test their maximum velocity running by performing a 40m sprint (20-40m timed) using speed gates. Between runs Alan reminded athletes and coaches of the importance of setting-up correctly for the 20-40m section of the run by accelerating effectively – and drew upon an example of key positions from his presentation (image 1.)

The term ‘Speed Endurance’ has been coined for work aimed at maintaining maximum velocity and is typified by runs lasting between seven and fifteen seconds at 95-100% intensity, where full recovery is used between reps and sets. From the moment maximum velocity is achieved the goal is to maintain this speed for as long as possible. ” In order for an athlete to train speed endurance they must first get very close (95%+) to their maximum possible velocity and then maintain this for a period of time without a significant drop off in speed.” The key difference between speed (maximum velocity) and speed endurance work is that during speed endurance sessions the athlete’s anaerobic metabolism is challenged.

Alan pointed out that Speed Endurance typically involves runs over 60m in distance at >95% of race speed, and because there is a high central nervous system demand throughout, with high alactic and lactic system activity, sessions may only be prescribed by some coaches once every 2 weeks to allow appropriate recovery.

Alan later defined and differentiated between Speed Endurance and Specific Endurance as well as dispelling myths surrounding these relating to intensity, rep duration and recovery (UK Athletics: Classifying Sprint Training Methods.)  Specific Endurance training is used by athlete preparing for 200-400m races. Whilst Specific Endurance training (reps of 15 seconds+) looks very similar on paper to Speed Endurance the key feature is that the athlete never reaches top speed (maximum velocity) and so learns to endure a sub maximal pace using slightly different biomechanics (more compact technique.). Specific Endurance training reps will feel very high in perceived effort due to their anaerobic nature but the absolute intensity is lower due to due maximum speed not being achieved.

Alan explained how volume of speed endurance runs (>95% of race speed) should differ between elite senior athletes and the developing athlete. “Developing sprinters should be limited to 300-400m total volume whereas coaches could prescribe 500-600m to their more mature athletes.” Prior to the practical, Alan stressed that if athletes cannot maintain the intensity during the session – the recovery between runs isn’t sufficient.

Selected athletes were then given the opportunity to sprint 2x80m and achieve a flying 60m (20-80m) time using the Brower Timing System.

Coaches were able to observe from various positions and compare each athlete to a technical model. Athletes were given full recovery between these runs (8-10 mins) to ensure quality and during this time. Coaches shared their views with Alan and Dean discussing what they thought each athlete executed well, and areas for improvement.

The Event Group Sprints Squad closed with Alan answering questions from coaches and athletes, covering what speed sessions should look like, and when in a training week they should be prescribed.

We’d like to again give a special thanks to Dr. Alan Kennedy for returning to share his philosophy on speed training and to Dean Adams for his co-ordination and delivery on the day and preparation of follow up resources. We look forward to seeing athletes and their coaches at the next Event Group Sprints Squad.


Acceleration (Event Group Sprints-Day 2 Blog Post)

UK Athletics: Classifying Sprint Training Methods