I've moved around to a few different states over the last few years, and one of the things that I always missed the most about Utah was a grassy hill at a park over by my dad's house. That is where I've been running my sprints for years, and it's been awesome to see the benefits of incorporating those into my training routine.
Not only does sprinting provide a wildly empowering feeling, but it also has other benefits like improving your conditioning, working your core (HELLO, ABS), and burning body fat.
One really fun component that is often overlooked in most people's training programs is the inclusion of SAQ - speed, agility, and quickness.
If you're looking for a way to both use and enhance your strength, and better develop yourself as a well-rounded athlete, check out this guest post from my friend Jen Sinkler. She is showing you a simple drill that can make you explosive off the line.
Getting Off on the Right Foot: How to Burst Off the Line
By Jen Sinkler
How you start your day matters. Maybe that’s obvious, but many of us move through the process on autopilot — at least until something happens that shakes up your routine. For me, lately, that’s been a lot of travel, plus an impending cross-country move. These events give you the opportunity to truly examine what works and what doesn’t.
So it is with fitness habits, too. You probably set up to deadlift exactly the same way every time you approach the bar. For many movements it’s fine — preferable even — that we do them the same way day after day. After all, that’s what works for you…until it doesn’t anymore.
Before I began a new program written by division-I collegiate strength and conditioning coach Angie Brambley-Moyer and her husband, Tim Moyer — also a collegiate strength and sport coach — this past winter, I thought my sprinting technique was reasonably dialed in. I’d played international-level rugby for 10 years, after all. I loved sprinting. I was good at it…wasn’t I?
Yeah, not so much. I was dismayed by how sluggish and inefficient I’d become after seven full years of not playing rugby anymore. I knew I needed to take the time to relearn my speed.
It’s a worthwhile pursuit, not just one for bragging rights. Sprinting is great for firing up more muscle fibers, becoming more powerful being, burning body fat, and developing better coordination. Those are the simple facts, but there’s also a more romantic side to train to be fast: It’s an unrivaled feeling of completely taking up residence in your body, using all of its abilities, of truly reaching your physical potential. It’s a feeling of fully embodied freedom.
Getting after it hot off the line is what can make or break your ability to beat a defender or win a race, and there’s plenty of technique involved. If you’re out of practice, it’s important to start slowly and gradually, simply drilling form. Also consider running up an incline (specifically, a hill with a 5- to 15-degree incline) to lesson the impact on your joints. (Essentially, hill sprints mean you don’t have as far to fall to the earth with each step.)
“Starting ability is very dependent on strength because the body has to overcome inertia and friction forces in the opening strides,” say Moyer. If you’ve ever pushed a weighted sled, you know how difficult it is to just get it going. In addition to strength, excellent technique makes all the difference for a powerful start. This easy drill will improve your starting skills and turn you into the speed demon you want to be.
Start at the very beginning, and you won’t have long to wait before you race off the line.
Forward Start Instructions:
The Forward Start is all about focusing on starting sprint mechanics. From your “set position” you will only sprint two to three steps (about 5 yards) with each leg and then coast to a stop to complete a rep. Use one cone as the starting line and another cone 5 yards away. Walk back after each rep and recover completely between reps. Do 5 reps on each leg (dictated by your lead foot), then rest before repeating another set, if specified.
For the Forward Start “set position,” use a staggered stance (one foot slightly in front of the other) as your starting position for the drill. This will teach you how to feel the push-off from the front foot, which is important every time you start moving from a dead stop. Make sure your base of support (AKA foot position) is no wider than when you stand.
To establish your best starting stance, pivot sideways from the starting line and take one step forward with each foot; then, take one step backward with each foot, and then — keeping your feet paced out the way they were on your final step — pivot sideways again, back toward the starting line. If your left foot is forward, your left hand will be even with your back same-side pocket, and your right hand near your right ear. If your right foot is forward, the opposite is true.
The “Go”: To prepare to take off, shift your center of gravity (i.e., your hips and trunk) closer to your base of support (again, the feet). In other words, lower your hips toward your feet a few inches. Once you start loading your hips that way, your body weight will naturally shift into your front leg and foot.
Next, direct your head and shoulders toward your target by leaning forward. Finally, aggressively drive the arm that was poised at your back pocket forward toward your ear while you simultaneously drive the hand that was at your ear backward (to get a visual, think about elbowing someone behind you). Continue this arm drive through the remaining 2 to 3 steps.
Drive forcefully off the front foot to ensure an efficient and effective first step; pushing off the back foot would make your first step shorter, which would cost you time.
Lightning & Thunder will help you become a force of nature.
Lightning & Thunder is a brand-new strength, speed, and agility program written by Tim Moyer, MS, CPT, and Angie Brambley-Moyer, MS, MSCC, with Jen Sinkler, personal trainer, fitness writer, and former U.S. national team rugby player.
Moyer, Brambley-Moyer, and Sinkler have teamed up to get you stronger, faster, and more agile. You don't have to have any experience playing sports, and you don't have to play any in the future, either, if you don't have the inclination. You only need to be interested in training like an athlete, in moving like one and looking like one.
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or you’ve never played a sport, the program gives you everything you need to hit the ground running (pun intended, of course) and will include:
- A comprehensive training manual that lays the groundwork for this philosophy of training for both the strength and the speed and agility (SAQ) programs.
- Both beginner and intermediate 12-week SAQ programs.
- Both beginner and intermediate 12-week strength programs, with an explanation and calendar on how to combine the strength work with the speed work.
- A complete exercise glossary with written coaching cues and images for every single strength and SAQ movement. This detailed description of 180 moves is a resource in and of itself!
- A streamable video library of more than 25 speed and agility demonstration videos. In the videos, Tim and Angie coach the athlete through the fundamentals of their SAQ patterns and drills, allowing them to know what they need work on whether they are watching from home or watching it as they hit the gym
Here’s the best part. To celebrate its release, Lightning & Thunder is on sale for HALF OFF now through midnight Friday, June 3rd. For more information click here.
Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer and personal trainer who talks about all things strength related at her website, UnapologeticallyStrong.com. The former editorial director of fitness for Experience Life magazine, she writes regularly for a variety of national health magazines. She's a certified RKC 2 kettlebell instructor, and a powerlifting coach through USA Powerlifting. She also holds coaching certs through Ground Force Method, Progressive Calisthenics, Onnit Academy, and DVRT (Ultimate Sandbag).
A lifelong competitive athlete, Jen played rugby for 13 years, many of those on the U.S. women’s national 7s and 15s teams. She co-owns The Movement Minneapolis with her husband, David Dellanave.