Acceleration Training for Speed

Acceleration is defined as the change in velocity per unit of time; in sprinting, acceleration concludes when velocity is no longer increasing.

All running starts with an acceleration phase followed by a maximum velocity phase. Ground contact times are longer during the acceleration phase with an emphasis on the horizontal drive. Proper acceleration requires muscular coordination to execute the technical movements and high levels of force to push down into the ground.

Short quick steps with forward body lean, drive horizontally with a gradual transition to more vertical movements. Think stride frequency at the start of the race.

 Starting Speed

Starting speed is the ability to accelerate from the starting position to maximum speed in the shortest time possible; the ATP-Phosphagen Energy System and technical efficiency are the two primary factors involved in starting speed.

Direction of Force

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

Acceleration training is closely associated with horizontal force development, whereas maximum velocity training is related to vertical force development.

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.

Acceleration Development

Every race has an acceleration component to overcome inertia.

The drive phase is developed with training activities to improve the first 40 meters of the race. Specific movements related to acceleration using higher intensities (90%+) with proper rest periods (1-3 minutes) between activities are required to improve the drive phase.

Specific preparation exercises for acceleration include training to increase muscular strength in the lower body, jumps and throws with horizontal components, power development, reactive strength, and other movements that require high rates of initial force to overcome inertia.

Acceleration Sprint Training

Acceleration training is designed to get the explosive starts needed in sprinting and other activities. Sprint training programs include drills and exercises specifically designed to improve speed and explosive power to maximize athletic performance. Yes, sprinters will benefit from this acceleration program but so will all types of athletes that need speed and explosion during a competition.

 Acceleration (Speed) Training Overview

  • Intensity: 95-100%
  • Repetition Duration: less than 7 seconds (up to 50 meters)
  • Total Volume: 300m-800m
  • Recovery: 1-2 minutes per 1 second (10 meters) of work
  • Time Between Sessions: 48+ hours

Sample Acceleration Workouts

  • 8 x 30 meters - 3-minute recovery
  • 6 x 20 meters - 4 minute recovery + 6 x 30 meters - 3 minute recovery
  • 10 x 30 meters- 5 minute recovery

View more acceleration workouts in the off-season training article

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