The Science Behind Sprinting

          We have all seen sprinters running on TV. We all dream of being able to achieve such speed as those of the athletes we see on the screen. However, have you ever pondered why these athletes are faster than you? Some might say constant running practice is what makes them faster, but those people are wrong. Those who believe that simply running laps will make you faster should probably learn in a simple biochemistry/physics principle. Science has been able to help enhance the running capabilities of some of the greatest runners, including Usain bolt. New scientific training and running methods have helped many runners and can help you master the technique of sprinting too.


          When knowing if a sprinter will be fast or not, one of the most important factors that come into play is genetics. No matter how many people try to deny that genetics plays a role in sprinting ability, the fact of the matter is that genetics plays a huge role. Sure, training and exercise is crucial to any sprinter’s success, but genetics simply gives an advantage to certain racers over others. Before, scientists thought that genetics didn’t play a role in races. They later found that certain people had an advantage over others. They found over 100 genes responsible for stamina training results. How can this help you? You may have genes that increase your stamina capacity or running speed. These traits can give you an edge over other runners; some people are just born to run.


An illustration of a gene


          Also, scientists have discovered an optimal running form not known to runners before. Before, people believed that short strides were better; so many sprinters were very short with small legs. It all changed when Usain Bolt emerged as one of the most powerful runners. He challenged many smaller opponents. Scientists later found that, in fact, long, powerful strides are optimal. Strong strides are what propel you further. Leg strength training is important to be able to achieve high speeds. To put in perspective how powerful and fast the strides of a runner are compared to a normal runner, a normal runner applies a force of 250 kilograms while sprinting and makes contact with the ground for 0.12 seconds, while a top athlete will apply 450 kilograms of force per stride and makes contact with the ground for 0.08 seconds. Training in these factors can help you run faster. Practice taking longer strides.


Simple diagram of a good running form


          New training methods have also helped runners achieve a new level of speed. These training methods range from monitored training to running while not having eaten anything. These new scientific discoveries have helped countless racers. A type of new training uses a smart block. A smart block is just like any other running block, but it has very sensitive sensors on it. When the racer pushes off of it, it can give very crucial information to the sprinter and the coach. This can show whether or not he/she pushed off at a certain angle, whether or not he/she pushed more with one leg, whether or not it was a strong push, or whether or not the reaction time was fast. An optimal sprinter will push off the block with as much force as he/she can. This new technology can help sprinters improve the start, which is considered one of the most important phases of the sprint. Practicing with a smart block can help you run faster.


A man on a running block


          Another training method is fitting sensors on the runner, and then having him/her run test trials. Then, they use high speed cameras to track the movement patterns of the sprinter. Coaches and sprinters can analyze the angle of the chest, leg position, speed, technique, force and length of the stride. These tools can greatly help make a sprinter faster. The optimal form for a runner is that in the beginning parts of a race, the runner should usually try to take small, powerful strides. He/she will usually keep his/her head down to try to achieve maximum speed. Once he/she reaches his/her maximum speed, he/she will take longer strides to try to conserve his/her energy and maintain maximum velocity. The reason why some runners are quicker is because they decelerate slower and conserve more energy. Physics can back this all up, as faster, stronger strides can push you farther. These machines can help us analyze by the form of the runner, to insure maximum muscle contractions and retraction efficacy. A mistake that 44% of runners make is accelerating at the end instead of the beginning and keeping their head up at all times. This ,in fact, slows them down. To increase your performance, you should follow the correct form.


An example on a good running start


          Another technique that was discovered recently is dietary training. Dieticians recommend eating lots of carbs a couple of days before the race so that your body will be full of energy, but some dieticians recommend not eating anything. During rest periods, you are recommended to eat a balanced diet. How can this change in diet impact the results of your sprinting? The amount and type of food that you should eat vary on the type of running. If you are working on leg strength and stride length, it is recommended that you eat proteins and carbs before training, so that you can gain muscle, but if it is a stamina training exercise, it is recommended not to eat anything. There is a certain phase during a run when your body switches from using carbs to oxygen as energy. By training with no carbs in your system, you’re getting your body used to running without energy, which will make you need less energy, which will let you maintain your maximum speed for longer. While you are undergoing the resting phase, it is recommended that you eat a balanced diet to insure you both maintain muscles and stay healthy. To make yourself faster, you should know what to eat during training, during the race, and during rest.


          Science has greatly advanced our knowledge of running. These new machines, techniques, and tips have helped countless runners. We have pushed our bodies further than ever before due to our increase in knowledge about the human body. As time advances, we can only dream what humans can achieve; we may be able to achieve higher speeds. Looking at the science behind the sprinting can make you faster, not just hitting the track.

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