Hi everyone, this post is the continuation of the discussion on the importance of acceleration. We explore how to set up a session based on parameters that include the athlete (how they feel/ability), the qualities we are looking to improve and the adaptations we are looking achieve. This includes rep and set schemes and recovery times. If you are reading this you have hopefully read part 1 and part 2 of this post. If not give them a read as this will provide better context for this post.

Jamaica's Usain Bolt at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Volume,Distance and Recovery :

When we are accelerating and increasing up to max velocity(speed) we are using the ATP-PCr energy system, 7 seconds of raw speed, before we begin to slow down.  Charlie Francis describes this window as our “free energy“.

Think “I see a lion, I need to sprint away and climb that tree right now”. This energy system would be crucial to the survival of our species, as part of sympathetic fight or flight response. We need to do as much work as we can within in this “free energy window”, so that we are able to work in a state of little to no fatigue.

If we dont, we will begin to crossover into the anaerobic (glycolytic) energy system. This will occur if we use reps of 60m or longer, we are using too much volume (e.g 10*200m) or we are not allowing  for enough recovery between reps (16*60m with 30 sec. recovery). Therefore, we don’t tend to go super high in  volume when developing acceleration and max speed, maxing out between 300-400m of volume.

In addition we do go lower/higher based on the type of starts we are using during the session, what part of the season we are in and what training adaptation we are looking to achieve.

For the purpose of weekly planning, you need to keep in mind the  highly fatiguing effect  of acceleration on the neural system. This system can be easily disrupted and can have a pretty huge affect on your hormonal state.Ben-Johnson-and-Charlie-F-006

We are not against speed or special endurance. I am not worried about build up in lactate when it is being developed in a event specific manner. Lactate is not the enemy.

I am a massive proponent of quality over quantity and therefore our sessions are planned meticulously. However, if the athlete does not look good or the quality of reps drop, then a session which may last 1.30 hours is going to be cut short. High quality of movement and the ability to produce what we want within the session is not optional.

We need to understand what quality movement is, know when we are seeing it and then adapt accordingly. We need to understand that fatigue is the enemy of motor learning – or re-learning. If we can minimize fatigue we can maximize learning and then test it in a fatigued state- if and when we need or want to.

This highlights an error that I find a lot of us make. We base our decisions on the session/sport/event alone. I believe this a mistake.


Happy Athletes and Happy Coaches.

This feeds into our belief that we need to know our athletes. We need to coach the athlete and the event. We NEED to know what makes them tick. Know the machine so that we can fine tune it. We must not use the “we have a big group and don’t have enough time” excuse. Sorry but that isn’t good enough, find the time.

No one said coaching was meant to be easy. We have 40+ athletes and we know each and every one of them very well and speak to every athletes pre-session, gauging all the signs and signals from that moment they set foot on the track, all the way through  end of the session. Make the effort.

When it comes to recovery we use a rule of 1 minute per 10m in distance covered IF NOT MORE. We do SOMETIMES  break this rule for 10m reps, allowing the athlete to practice movement patterns through greater number of repetitions.

Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”-Zig Ziglar .

We use higher reps when working with beginner athletes, or when working with big groups and this allow the recovery to take care of its self.

Therefore, since reps are ranging from 10-40m in distance during our acceleration development session, the recoveries will range from 1-6 minutes in length.

We  include acceleration and speed through out the track season, even in winter. We dont want to get slow in winter do we? Often we fear we are at greater risk of injury during winter months but we have found this to be wrong. Instead athletes seem to be at higher risk in season (Summer time), when accumulation of high stress, training load and sheer number of races peak.

We have provided you with our thoughts on acceleration development, here is an example of a session we may do with our athletes.

Example of Session Plan:

Meet athlete- Begin assessment
Soft tissue work- Therapist or Foam Rolling
Warm Up
– Assessment continued- Raise, activate, mobilize and Potentiate athletes for the task at hand. In this case acceleration.

Drills use to potentiate athlete-Wall drills, Sled pulls, Prowler pushes, band pulls, med ball jumps etc. Get creative-Think what movement/skill improve or prepare for during the session?

  • 4-6*10m Roll ins-Emphasis on first 2-4 steps
  • 3*20m (2-3 min)-Drive phase into Transition 4-12 steps
  • 3*30m (3-4 min)-Transition Box 12-15 steps
  • 2*40m (4-5 min)-Transition Box into Max V

Total Volume:  260m

The above is not a must do to improve acceleration,  it is just an example of what you could do. As my great mentor and GBR coach Michael Utting says “this is not what you have to do, this is what we do and what you could do“.

A lot of variation occurs based on many different factors that need to be taken into account. However, reps will tend to range from 10-40m reps, recovery will take a minuter or more per 10m covered and we usually include some form of acceleration work within  both speed and speed endurance sessions.

There is nothing wrong with having a different approach as long as the fundamentals for acceleration and speed improvements are being developed. As coach Clarence Callender once said to me:  “Speed is Speed my boy”

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