PLEASE NOTE: We are undergoing a name change. Unleashed Training is now Sprint Ninja. We still offer high quality strength and conditioning along with personal training, with our specialty being sprint training.
The EVOLVE training system is a complete system of sprint training in all its forms. The EVOLVE system, at its rawest level, aims to increase a person’s power from instantaneous explosive effort up to near-maximal sustained efforts up to approximately 60 seconds. This is the realm of EVOLVE, power output over durations of 60 seconds or less.
The EVOLVE training system operates with three components; biomechanics, energy system demands and neurological function. More on this soon.
What is Sprinting?
The word “sprint” is simply defined in the dictionary as “a burst of speed”. Sprinting is the act of moving at a fast pace over a given short distance and/or for a short duration. Primarily this applies to sprinting in the form of running. Most people can see the difference between a marathon runner maintaining a steady pace over a long distance and a 100m sprinter travelling at maximum pace over a short distance. Both activities are running, but they are worlds apart in terms of speed/power output and the mechanics of the action.
Note that sprinting is the act of moving fast over a short distance, emphasis on the word moving. This applies to moving one’s body and not to moving an external object such as a barbell or medicine ball.
Examples of Sprinting
These are simple examples of sprinting. When we refer to sprinting here, we are primarily referring to sprinting in the form of a maximum paced run over a short duration or distance. However other forms of sprinting can be used either for the purpose of cross training or when the running form of sprinting is not practical or is contraindicated.
The Three Components of The EVOLVE Sprint Training System
Biomechanics – Biomechanics is the mechanical or technique aspect of any movement pattern. Biomechanics is applied to every form of physical activity. There are correct biomechanics for everything, such as walking, lifting weights, throwing, running, swimming, sprinting and everything else. Biomechanics is the first stage of developing greater sprinting speed. Without correct technique there is little point in training hard and ingraining poor patterns of movement.
The EVOLVE method has been created through research and analysis of the way the human body moves, the way it’s built and through closely breaking down the sprinting action piece by piece, pulling out the bits that prove to be most effective and efficient.
The following are the main points to consider when developing correct sprinting technique and biomechanics:
· Take-off from a standing start should always involve a low profile and forward lean. This applies to team sports such as rugby as much as it does to track sprinting. If an upright posture is immediately adopted the athlete is hindered through wind resistance and through not gaining initial momentum during a drive phase. Posture should gradually rise to upright once initial speed off the mark has been gained.
· Legs travel through a long/large range of motion. The heel kicks back to the rear, cycles through until the knee is raise high (thigh parallel to the ground) and the lower leg is kicked out in front slightly so it is ready for ground contact when the body comes through and weight is distributed downwards on the leg.
· The forefoot strikes the ground with the heel almost touching the ground, or even lightly touching. The ankle is stiff, with minimal “give” like a very tight or firm spring and the foot strikes the ground forcefully. Minimal time is spent in contact with the ground.
· Strides should be long in an almost leaping manner, while maintaining a fast leg speed. Stride length is increased through the high knee drive and a more forceful foot strike.
· Upper body is upright, firm, yet relaxed. Head is completely fixed in place, eyes focusing forward at the exact destination. No sideways movement, twisting or swaying should be seen.
· Arms bent at 90 degrees. Arm swing should be fast and very forceful. The hand should come no further back than the back pocket and no further forward than the start/front of the ear.
Energy System Demands – Energy systems are the systems or pathways of energy expenditure. Every activity, whether difficult or easy has an effect on one or more of the energy systems. The three energy systems are:
ATP-Creatine phosphate: This energy system supplies very short term energy for absolute maximal levels of output. The duration of action is a maximum of 8-12 seconds. Examples of using primarily this system are sprinting a distance less than 100m, a maximum vertical jump or a heavy lift such as a squat for one single maximum rep. This energy system is anaerobic in nature and is also alactic, meaning that a) oxygen is not required to power this energy system, and b) blood lactate levels are not increased.
Anaerobic/Lactate: This system can also be called the lactic acid energy system. It supplies near-maximal output over a short to moderate duration. The maximum duration of action varies between 90 seconds to three minutes, depending on conditioning. This energy system generally takes over from the ATP system at around the 10 second mark. Characterised by increased blood lactate levels, a build-up of blood hydrogen ion levels and significant oxygen debt. Examples include sprinting a distance of over 100m at a near maximal pace, a strength exercise such as squats performed for a difficult set of between 8-20 reps and any other activity that is over 90% of maximal output over a duration exceeding 10 seconds.
Aerobic: The aerobic energy system is the only system requiring oxygen in order to keep supplying the muscles with energy to keep contracting. Output in the aerobic system is of a low intensity and can be sustained indefinitely. Output is between 0% and about 80% of maximal output, depending on how conditioned the athlete is.
Out of those three energy systems, the EVOLVE training method is focused on developing the first two systems predominantly.
All activities require the use of each of the three energy systems. Which system is dominant is dependent on the intensity of the activity and the duration.
The EVOLVE Conditioning Method
The following describes the primary conditioning methods used in the EVOLVE sprint training system:
Maximal Explosive Power – Maximal explosive power is the expression of absolute, 100%, maximum intensity and explosive power.
Maximal strength training – Heavy strength movements of between 1-3 reps. Examples; heavy Olympic lifts and heavy barbell movements such as squats and deadlifts.
Plyometrics – Jumping and bounding exercises with a short ground contact time and maximal explosiveness, between 1-7 reps per set. Low training volume, maximum intensity. Examples; depth jumps and single leg bounding.
Short sprints – Sprinting at maximum pace over very short distances from 5m to 25m.
Additional power drills – Jumping from a standing start, such as the standing long jump; weighted jumps such as dumbell squat jumps for sets of 1-5 reps.
Maximal Power Output –
Maximal or near maximal sustained effort of between 20-60 seconds and sometimes
as high as 90 seconds for the conditioned athlete. All efforts must be
sustained at above 90% of maximal output. If this is not possible over a given
distance or duration then the distance or duration is decreased.
All training is conducted in the form of intervals, determined either by a set time or a given distance or number or reps.
Heavy strength training – Heavy strength movements of either between 5-25 reps or maximum number of reps in a given time, such as 30 or 60 seconds. Reps should be smooth, fast and continuous without pauses.
Power Intervals – Jumping drills and other power drills such as burpees or clap push-ups for either 10-40 reps or for a set period of time up to 60 seconds. Reps must be at maximum intensity and explosiveness and performed as fast as possible without pauses.
Long sprints – Sprinting at a maximal or near maximal pace over a given distance or for a set duration. Distances between 120m and 500m or between 20 seconds and 60 seconds.
Combination drills – Piecing together two of the above into a single interval. For example performing 10 squat jumps then immediately sprinting 150m.
The above describes all of the training undertaken within the EVOLVE training system.
Neurological – The neurological component of training refers to the impact training has on the nervous system. This includes the central nervous system such as the brain, as well as the peripheral nervous system, pertaining to the motor neurons that send the signal to a muscle to contract in a specific way.
Every form of training a person does has an effect on the nervous system. This component is largely catered to as a result of the conditioning outlined in the previous section. Here we will look at some training considerations and their impact on the nervous system.
· Force – Force output will determine the number of motor units, or the percentage of a muscle, that is activated to perform the activity. Absolute maximum force will activate the largest number of motor units, with a larger percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres being activated. More force = greater muscle recruitment.
· Speed – The speed at which a muscle contracts determines several things. It conditions the motor neurons to fire off faster, resulting in a more rapid muscle contraction, and over time increasing one’s speed. Speed applied to force will condition the muscle’s rate of force development, which is the time it takes for a muscle to contract from a low level of force to a high level of force. The greater the rate of force development the more explosive a person will be.
· Fatigue – Fatigue impacts on the nervous system in several ways: a) greater fatigue will result in a muscle contracting less forcefully, b) greater fatigue will result in a muscle contracting with a reduced speed, c) greater fatigue will favour motor neurons that innervate muscle fibres with greater fatigue resistance, meaning that it will activate a greater percentage of slow twitch muscle fibres. Excess fatigue results in an increase in endurance, but a decrease in explosive power and to some extent, a decrease in sustained power output.
Mobility and Secondary Training
The EVOLVE sprint training method is a complete training method involving all components of conditioning. The following are the mobility and secondary training components involved with the EVOLVE method.
Stability is the ability to stabilise the body as a whole or stabilise a joint through its full range of motion. Without stability you will lack control within all patterns of movement.
Stability drills and exercises used
· Single leg balance and extension – Lift the leg out in front like a karate front kick as high as possible. Keep the body upright and hold this position for between 10 – 90 seconds. Do the same to the rear and to the side.
· Unstable strength exercises – This has been narrowed down to a few key movements. Primarily the overhead barbell lunge and the overhead squat. These are unstable movements with a high centre of gravity, forcing the body to stabilise itself while handling a heavy load.
Flexibility goes hand in hand with stability. Without stability flexibility cannot be established and used in a practical and moving environment. Flexibility is the ability of joints to be moved through their full range of motion and muscles to reach a sufficient length during movement.
Flexibility drills and exercises used
· Dynamic stretching – Dynamically moving a joint rapidly through its full range of motion. For example front leg swings.
· Static stretching – Statically holding a stretch for each of the major muscle groups, with more emphasis on muscles that are specifically tight. Each stretch held for between 30-90 seconds.
· Active stretching – Muscles stretched through their full range of motion in an actively held movement requiring the subsequent contraction and stretching of a muscle. An example is a hamstring strength where the muscle is stretched and at the same time you are contracting against the stretch, or the yoga sun salutation pose.
Core strength refers to the strength of the abdominal area, middle part of the spine and all supporting structures of the trunk.
Drills and exercises for core strength
· Ab wheel roll-outs – This can be done from knees or standing, either with a standard ab wheel or a home-made single arm ab wheel.
· Leg lower – Lie on your back, lift the legs in the air with straight knees, use your abdominal muscles to pull your back flat to the floor then lower the legs toward the floor. Aim to maintain the back flat to the floor throughout.
· Leg raises – Hold a pull-up bar and raise the legs as high as possible.
· Russian Twist – Get into a half sit-up position, hold a medicine ball or a weight plate, extend the arms and rotate rapidly down to each side.
The EVOLVE sprint training system was designed to develop maximum sprinting speed and maximum physical capacity in durations of 60 seconds or less. This applies to athletes and those wanting to specifically improve sprinting speed, or for those utilising this form of conditioning to develop a greater level of power output and work capacity.
Team sport athletes such as rugby players derive an obvious benefit from learning the finer points of sprint training and how to train for it specifically. The same goes for track athletes. However less obvious are endurance athletes and the general population.
Endurance athletes benefit from the EVOLVE training system through increasing their body's engine capacity, their ability to go at maximal or near maximal levels of output for a longer period of time.
Members of the general population will build fitness like they have never had before and in a time frame they have never experienced. Building the body of a sprinter and increasing their physical capacity across all the body's systems.
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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons
Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.