Exercise of the week - Tap drill with dowel

This week we're sharing another track and field drill for strengthening the ankles, training a good hip position, and working on coordination all-in-one. This is a drill I learned from Les Gramantik, track coach legend, and that I am posting with his permission.

As strength and conditioning coaches, we are always interested in what factors will contribute the greatest amount to performance. In other words, how can we determine what matters, and affect what matters the most!

100m sprinting performance seems to be primarily determined by factors other than physiological pathways like lactate accumulation or clearance (Bret et al, 2003). Aside from the ability to use high-energy phosphates (the ATP-PCr system), and aside from the advantage of a sprinter having a particular type 2 muscle fiber distribution (Baguet et al, 2011), it is thought that sprinting is mainly affected by mechanical factors.

The ability to produce high-speed running mechanics, it is believed that neurological and mechanical factors are more relevant to top speed in humans. For instance, Weyand et al. (2010, 2000) found that production of high amounts of vertical ground reaction force (GRF) per unit body weight (BW) are needed to apply these high amounts of force onto the supporting ground (Morin et al, 2011).

Further, in a study by Weyand (2010), they studied the biomechanics of three different locomotion styles: Running, Backwards Running, and One-Leg Hopping. They concluded that the limiting factor to running speed was not the amount of force that one could apply into the ground, but rather, the minimum time that the subject could apply the mass-specific forces into the ground. Because one-leg hopping involved more forces than running by than one-half of the subject's body weight, they concluded that in humans, ground contact time was the limiting factor to speed.

On this drill, we find that the fastest athletes are able to maintain these coaching points better than the novice athletes:

1. The support leg is co-contracted on the front and back side of the leg.

2. Keep ankles neutral and stiff by co-contracting the front and back of the shin.

3. No rotation in the dowel to demonstrate the ability to stabilize excessive rotation in the torso.

4. The non-support leg (front leg) should land slightly in front of the hip each tap

5. The non-support leg pushes into the ground to get a reactive knee off the ground, rather than lifting the leg with the hip flexor to get the same effect.

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