Get Really Fast Part 3

Learn the 8-Point BFS Sprint Technique System and How to Get Your Toe Up To Improve Your 40 By Two Tenths of a Second. Shown here is Stefan Fernholm who ran a 4.23 forty weighing 270 pounds.

By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Summer 2004
Quick review: In our last issue I discussed the BFS 10 Components of Speed: Strength, The Start, Flexibility, Plyometrics, Technique, Stopwatch Time, Sprint Practice, Video Analysis, Speed Drills and Sprint Aids. I also discussed the strength and power exercises to perform in the weight room: parallel squat, power clean and/or power snatch, and straight-leg deadlift. Finally, I discussed strength-speed enhancers, which are other lifts to be done in the weight room, such as the glute-ham raise and lunges.

In this issue I will discuss in detail the techniques of becoming really fast. These guidelines are called the BFS 8-Point Sprint Technique System. I will also discuss flexibility, video analysis and sprint aids as they directly apply to technique.

The BFS 8-Point Sprint Technique System: Sprinting can be very technical, that is one reason why many sprinters don’t hit their peak until they are in their late 20’s or even their 30’s. But you can master the basics if you follow the BFS 8-Point Sprint Technique System. This system consists of the following eight points of sprint technique.
1. Your head should be upright.

Study the photo of Stefan and Figure 3. The back of your head should always be level with your upper back. See Figure 1 of Tim Montgomery his head is down but not forward, the correct position on the start. Notice, also, that the back of his head is on the same plane as his upper back and that too is correct. You will lose speed if your head is forward of your chest. Keep your head upright. Stefan’s position is perfect.
2. Your eyes should be focused straight ahead.

Study the photo of Stefan, Figure 1 of Tim, Figure 2 of Angela and Figure 3 of John. Where are their eyes focused? Straight ahead? Now look at Figure 4 of John. His head is tilted and his eyes are down. This is a major technique error that will make you run slower. Keep your head upright and straight. Keep your eyes focused straight ahead.
3. Your toes should point straight ahead.

Study Figure 1 of Tim. Are his toes straight? Now compare Figures 3 and 4 of John. See the difference in his toes? I have seen athletes run fast with their toes pointed out, but you can run faster if they are straight. Practice keeping your toes straight on everything you do, including stretching. Study Figure 5. These two photos show the wrong way. Look at the toes. Considering all you know at this point, what is wrong? When you practice correctly on these little things, you will begin to see an improvement in your speed.
4. Your back should be upright and slightly arched.

Again, study the photo of Stefan. He is upright and his back is slightly arched. Remember our Six Absolutes of coaching. Use them here. Be Tall and Spread the Chest. Study Figure 6: Is John perfect in this photo? If not, what would you do to be perfect? Now study Figure 7. His stretch here is perfect. Now John has the “feel” of a correct sprinting position. He will now have a better chance of doing Point 4 correctly when he sprints.

5. Your shoulders should rotate vigorously, with the elbows at approximately a 90-degree angle.

Figure 8 shows a pumper. This action pumps your body up and down. You want to go forward. You must keep the elbow angle at a right angle or about 90 degrees at all times. Study our three sprinters. How are the elbow angles of Stefan, Tim and Angela?
What does “rotate the shoulders vigorously” mean? It means a big and rapid shoulder rotation. The photo of Angela in Figure 2 best illustrates what I mean. I want you to focus on the back arm. Ninety percent of high school athletes are “pocket sprinters.” A “pocket sprinter” will stop the elbow and hand at their pocket or the middle of their hip. Look at Angela! Look how far her elbow and hand is behind her hip. Wow! This means she will run fast – really fast. Coaches, if you take a video of your athletes sprinting using a side angle, you will see what I mean. You will have mostly “pocket sprinters.” However, once an athlete sees what he/she is doing wrong, you will have a decent chance of correcting this vital technique flaw. One excellent drill to practice a correct angle with a vigorous shoulder rotation is to do the Vigorous Sprint Drill. see Figure 11. It takes only 30 seconds. Sit and start with the elbows at a ninety-degree angle. If you start to be a pumper, you will hit your hands on the floor. Therefore, any athlete can overcome this flaw rather quickly. Now rotate your shoulders and arms as rapidly as possible. If you go really fast, your hips and buttocks will literally come up off the floor. This is a great drill.

6. Your wrists, fingers and hands should be loose.

Do not make a fist, as this will make you tight. See Figure 9. Tightness makes you slower. You need to always stay loose and relaxed while putting forth a maximum effort – not an easy thing to do, naturally. There are at least three acceptable methods of keeping your hands, fingers and wrists loose. See Figure 10. One method is to place the thumb on the middle finger (left photo). Another method is to keep the fingers straight but loose while trying to cut through the air like a knife (middle photo). The third option is to have floppy wrists (right photo) and execute a whipping action of the wrists. Study again the photos of our sprinters. Do their wrists, hands or fingers look tight?

7. Your feet should make the initial plant directly under your hips, not out in front of your body.

A huge mistake that athletes often make when trying to run faster is to reach out with their lead leg in a futile attempt to increase their stride length. When you reach with the leg in front of your body, your heel will touch the ground first. This effectively puts on the brakes and you will actually run slower. You increase your stride length with the back leg drive. You want to run tall. However, to plant the foot directly under the hips is an advanced concept. Therefore, I want to devote a whole article to that technique at a later date. I will have a 4.2 forty-athlete show you some great drills to more fully understand this concept.

8. Your forward leg should initially lift forward, not up.

The lower leg should hang before planting with your foot and toes up. Your back knee should fully extend on the follow-through, or end-of-the-leg drive. Look at Stefan and Tim once again. The photo was taken at the perfect time to see the all-out extension of their back legs. Again, coaches, if you do some video analysis from the side, you will see that most of your athletes will never straighten the back leg. Every stride will be performed with a bent back leg. There is no way you can become really fast with bent legs. Therefore, if you want to run really fast, you will have to master how to run with a back leg that looks like Stefan’s.
Look at Figure 13. This is our famous hip flexor stretch. If you do this one right, it will help you to increase your stride length and therefore your speed. Remember, when you stretch you want to look like a sprinter. The right-hand photo shows John in a correct position. You must force your hips forward and down. You are supposed to feel the stretch in your hip flexor (groin area). If you don’t, your position is incorrect.
Look at Figure 12. The left photo shows the toe down, while the right photo shows the toe up. You want your toe up. It will make a huge difference. Study Figures 14-15-16. This is one good way to help athletes learn the vital sprint principle of Toe Up. Detail, detail, detail.
A wonderful new sprint aid has just been designed to help you keep your toes up. It is called the Sprint Step. See Figure 17. It just takes a minute or two to place on your shoes. The Sprint Step will give you a kinesthetic feel of how to keep your toes up as you sprint. Just wear it when you are working sprints, starts, sprint dril

Figure #1: World’s fastest man Tim Montgomery

Figure #2: Angela Williams: World’s Fastest Start

Figure #3: Keep Your Head Upright, Eyes Straight Ahead, Toes Straight, Arms Rotate North-South.

Figure #4: Everything is wrong here! Head is down and tilted, toes are not straight and arms are going East-West.

Figure #5: If you stretch this way, your sprint speed will suffer. Look like a sprinter when you stretch. What’s wrong here?

Figure #5: If you stretch this way, your sprint speed will suffer. Look like a sprinter when you stretch. What’s wrong here?

Figure #7: Now BFS Clinician, John Rowbotham, looks good. He looks like a sprinter on this back leg stretch. How many of the 8 points is John doing correctly?

Figure #7: Now BFS Clinician, John Rowbotham, looks good. He looks like a sprinter on this back leg stretch. How many of the 8 points is John doing correctly?

Figure #8: When the elbow straightens as shown. You are a pumper. This action makes you go up and down, not forward.

Figures #9-10: Do not make a fist. It will make you tight. Three good options for your hands: Thumb on middle finger, Fingers straight and loose, or a loose whipping action of the wrists.

Figure #11: The Vigorous Sprint Sit Drill: Helps get the arm action correct. Notice the position of John’s toes.

Figure #12: To Increase Stride Length, the knee should come forward, not up. The front toes should be up (Dorsi-flex), not down.

Figure #13: Stretch correctly to increase your stride length. One photo of our BFS Hip Flexor Stretch is perfect while the other is poor. Which is which?

Figure #14-16: The BFS One-on-the-Bench Hamstring Stretch. Is the toe up? See the difference in the toe? The difference between great and good is attention to detail!

Figure #17: The Sprint Step Helps you get a kinesthetic feel of “TOE UP.” Use the Sprint Step on all sprint drills or when just sprinting.

Figure #18: Use the Sprint Step when working on starts.

Figure #19: Use the Sprint Step when doing side-to-side drills