Track and Field Force Production

Speed and power track and field events performance relies on applying maximum force from optimal positions. The dynamic movements require a stable posture while being acted upon by outside forces. Stability requires a low center of mass within the horizontal base of support. For the speed and power track and field events, the technical movements have overlapping actions with an efficient well-timed motion from stable positions to maximize performance.


Event Execution Time
100m .08–.10 seconds
Long Jump .10–.12 seconds
Javelin .16–.18 seconds
Shot Put .15–.18 seconds
High Jump .17–.18 seconds

Since the speed and power track and field events occur so rapidly, the force required to execute the skill must be accomplished quickly. The time to reach maximal force production can take .3 seconds or longer during different motions; most field events take under .18 seconds to execute (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer, 2006).

Sprinting and Force

The block start and acceleration phase of a race propels the athlete forward and upward. Forces are generated horizontally (forward) toward the finish line and vertically (upward) to counteract gravity.

Sprinters transition from more horizontal and less vertical to a more vertical extension during the later phases of the sprint movement. Horizontal forces create greater acceleration during the start of the race to overcome inertia. Vertical forces are more prevalent during the later stages of the short sprint races; runners generate large ground forces that direct the athlete forward and upward.

According to Bosch (2015), explosive events, such as sprinting, “seek to improve the ratio between force production and speed of muscle action (force times speed of muscle action = power)” (p. 63).

Sprinting and Opposing Forces

The motor patterns in sprint mechanics require rapid muscle contractions that produce high levels of force during the cyclical motion of sprinting. The running movement is a repetitive action combining opposing forces, including intensity/relaxation, extension/flexion, speed/strength, and action/reaction of ground forces.

Speed development trains muscular coordination. Intramuscular coordination develops the neuromuscular system by increasing motor neurons' firing rate and frequency to produce greater force during running. Intermuscular coordination improves the technical properties of running mechanics, allowing more cooperation between agonist and antagonist muscles.

Jumping and Force Production

Another important factor is how much force is rapidly applied over a distance. In the long jump, for example, during the takeoff, the jumper applies force rapidly as the body moves past the takeoff leg, displacing the body forward and upward; applying force into the ground over a large distance but quickly (approximately 100 milliseconds) will maximize jumping distance.

Throwing and Force Production

In throwing events, when implements of different mass are thrown, the force production changes. Less force is required with lighter implements; however, greater acceleration speed is possible. Heavier implements require more force to accelerate the object, even though acceleration is not as rapid. Heavier implements require high levels of force production but produce lower velocity levels when compared to the standard weight implement.

In the shot put, discus and hammer, increasing the rate of force production and maximum muscle contraction force will improve athletic performance.

The shot put requires near-maximal force and high rates of force development for maximum performance. Training for the shot put often requires a more balanced approach concerning the rate of force development and maximal force outputs.

A long pull on the implement is important in throwing events, applying force over a long period. “There is a significant correlation between the distance of force application (pull) and the throwing distance. A larger distance of force application will result in a longer path of acceleration, leading to a higher release velocity” (Liebenberg, Zelezny, Ihalainen & Bartonietz, 2016, p. 59).

Force Production and Track and Field Events

For the speed and power track and field events, maximal force over a long duration is not as beneficial as early rates of force development under 250 milliseconds.

The speed and power track and field events require an efficient dynamic movements direct force through the center of mass during displacement; otherwise, rotational imbalances can disturb stability. The maximum force is generated when all available joints are activated during movement. Movement should start with large muscles and proximal joints that can overcome inertia more effectively. Ending a skill with smaller muscles and distal joints requires fine motor movements that contribute to the finishing velocity.

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