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How To Sprint Faster & More Efficiently: What If All We Thought We Knew Was Wrong?

How To Sprint Faster & More Efficiently: What If All We Thought We Knew Was Wrong?

how to sprint faster and more efficiently

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The history of man’s intelligence and the understanding of our bodies and the world we live in has been riddled with ignorance. Humanity was certain the earth wasn’t round, the Romans were convinced their empire would never fall, and we were sure that humans could never break a 4-minute mile, until they happened. Ask yourself if what you knew 10 or even 5 years ago is still true today. Then, ask yourself if it is indeed possible that we have a basic misunderstanding on the best ways to train running, throwing, and rotational sports. Right now, most of us are positive that the best way to run/move is when our sternum does not deviate from our navel and our legs are the primary driving force. However, because our bodies strive on energy conservation, preventing segmental motion in our torso is a terrible waste of muscular mass.

 

In 1988, Serge Gracovetsky PhD wrote a book titled The Spinal Engine which states that the legs were not responsible for gait but merely “instruments of expression”. He theorized that during locomotion, kinetic energy was not displaced into the earth as in the pedestrian model, but efficiently transmitted up through the myofascial system. This means that in the presence of normal lumbar lordosis, sidebending produced an axial torque (sidebending to one side and rotation to the other) which causes the body to coil and then spring from one foot to the other. For example, during right legged weight bearing, the lumbar spine is pulled into right sidebending (left rotation) by the multifidus, longissimus, iliocostalis and thoracolumbar fascia. This action counter-rotates the pelvis as the sacrum is forced into left sidebending and right rotation. This dynamic coupling at L5-S1 is essential to efficient gait and lumbar longevity.

 

The most obvious example of this phenomenon is the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. Bolt is often criticized on his less than stellar running mechanics because of how much his head moves side to side. How is it possible that the greatest runner of all time has poor running mechanics? The answer is by coiling his core while running with his Head Over Foot™. During propulsion, the biceps femoris and gluteus maximus join forces, creating antagonistic resistance with the contralateral latissimus dorsi, which is now extending the arm simultaneously with the propelling leg. The synergistic contraction of the gluteus maximus and latissimus dorsi creates tension in the thoracolumbar fascia, which releases an energy pulse assisting deeper muscles of locomotion causing a reduction of the metabolic cost of gait.

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Due to the natural counter-rotation of the right leg and left shoulder, an efficient myofascial spring develops but only if we are able to properly engage our lats. The lats are the largest muscles in the upper body and connect at five different points including the spine, pelvis, ribs, scapula, and upper arm. Because of the variety of connections, they play a primary role in all strength exercises, even if they aren’t trained directly. Take a peek at the fiber orientation of these muscles. Notice how these fibers are neither “horizontal” nor “longitudinal.” The diagonal fiber orientation is an excellent blend of both which allows the lats to accommodate a wider variety of more complex movements and stability demands. The pull of the lats creates a strong tensional force that travels through the thoracolumbar fascia and continues through the contralateral gluteus maximus and biceps femoris. At this point, spiraling tensional forces increase in these posterior structures resulting in significantly more force production.

how to sprint faster

The lats are essential during locomotion due to their connection with the thoracolumbar fascia (TLF). Consequently, inhibition of the latissimus dorsi can cause compensations in the neck, shoulder, elbow, lower back, and gait. How does this happen? When the body perceives instability in a joint, it will very often either compress that joint or a nearby joint. In the case of the elbow, inhibition of the lat causes the elbow to compress in order to stabilize the shoulder joint, many times resulting in tennis elbow. The biggest victim, however, is our lower backs. Since the lats are contiguous with the TLF, any inhibition of the lat will cause compensations in our muscles and their function. These include the muscles of the ipsilateral erector spinae group, the quadratus lumborum, the gluteus maximus, and the gluteus medius. This inhibition may also cause a contralateral rotational compensation resulting in loss of power and possible injury. Lastly, when counter-rotation of the pelvis and lumbar spine is lost, the spinal engine runs out of gas allowing compressive forces to squash the L5-S1 intervertebral disc with each step.

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If the inhibited lats and fascia can cause such global problems, then they can also facilitate explosive movements when open. The key to the best utilization of our core while running then is not inhibition of the spine but exploitation. During the past 10 months, David Weck, Dr. Chris Holder and I have been developing programming and focusing on Weckmethod coiling core training with our athletes which has resulted in injury reduction, faster and more efficient athletes, and the reduction of the metabolic cost of gait. While using our WeckMethod Head Over Foot™ technique, and cuing our athletes to place their head over their foot (HOF) we can coil the core and utilize the lats in a few easy steps. In the video below, David Weck gives a detailed explanation on how we accomplish this task.

 

 

In the case of the WeckMethod Head Over Foot™ technique, we focus on coiling training to supercharge our spine and take full advantage of our spiral line. Our Coiling Core is therefore directly related to how fast and efficiently runners run, fighters fight, rotational sports throw and the ipsilateral Head Over Foot™ training technique enhances every movement. Our coiling core is crucial in force production and maintaining balance and understanding how these patterns are formed and relate to each other is necessary to make every step stronger.

Related: Strength Training For Runners: The Basics

Special thanks to Chris White, Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach (Women’s Basketball & Women’s Tennis) at Louisiana State University for sharing this expertise with us!

Athletes Insight