PSTM Conference 2019 – Summary #9

Over the following days, I will briefly go over some of the lectures at this year’s PSTM conference in Wroclaw. These short articles will not be exhaustive summaries but rather a collection of bullet points on the most important concepts and ideas (in my opinion). Today, I cover Dr. Michael Young’s lecture on Science and practice of elite speed development.

Knowledge can easily be obtained nowadays. Understanding is connecting the dots. Muscular action vs muscle contraction – every muscular contraction is a complex interaction between ecc-iso-con. Muscles that seem to be working eccentrically may try to work isometrically and fail due to high force. Eg gastroc. Hip extensors play critical role for force production. Eccentric strength is equally important. 


Faster sprinters spend less time on the ground. Full extension is neither needed nor beneficial. Better sprinters are front side dominant. Ideal touchdown characterized by swing knee even with support leg. The best way to run fast in a straight line should always be done in the same way, regardless of gender, sport, etc. The fastest performers all run in the same way. Physics don’t care. There is an optimal technical model. 
Grf > 5x bwMuscle forces > 7x bw (tension on the joint)

Newtonian mechanics apply to all movement. Mass specific force is the primary influencer of sprint speed
Athletes are going to encounter braking forces from as early as the third step. Being able to push more (exert more force) is more important than avoiding braking forces. Both horizontal and vertical forces are critical during different times of the sprint. Accel- horizontal, top speed- vertical. Not so much difference from a coaching standpoint. 


Not all sprinting is the same. But there is only one solution to running faster – applying more mass specific force to the ground. This also increases stride length and frequency. Swing phase time is relatively constant, between Husain Bolt and your grandmother. Only difference in support phase duration. Shorter stride duration = greater stride frequency. 


Acceleration vs top speed 

Fast and slow athletes display similar acceleration patterns. Raising the ceiling of maximal velocity will benefit acceleration. Both Horizontal and vertical forces are important at different phases of a sprint. 

  • Contractile Dominance 
    • Acceleration : primarily concentric
    • Top speed: primarily eccentric
  • Time constraints
    • Acceleration: max strength (little transfer to top speed)
  • Direction of force application
    • Acceleration: horizontal
    • Top speed : vertical

Connecting the dots 

We must operate across the whole force velocity continuum. This is true in the weight room and the pitch. There is a significant transfer of strength training to acceleration. Squat! Combining strength and speed work produces complimentary results. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. Use both bilateral and unilateral movements 2-4× / week at an intensity of 60-100%. Target the physiological stimulus and not what the exercise looks like. Adding load to plyos is neither necessary nor beneficial. External load slows down the ssc and counters the training goal. Plyos naturally get more intensive once you get better, because higher jumps result in higher impact forces. No extra volume or external load needed. Incorporate both Horizontal and vertically oriented plyometrics, ideally in conjunction with the days sprint training theme. 

Full body throws

  • Can be a great alternative to plyos and can sometimes replace olifting.
  • Have to ensure 100% effort. Easy to go through the motion, but we need low volume high intensity. 

Best practices

General guidelines

  1. Actually sprinting produces best results
  2. Intensity – no such thing as sub maximal sprinting. Jogging will not improve top speed. 90% vmax session will not improve vmax.
  3. Adding volume when intensity is compromised hurts performance. Less may be more. 
  4. Velocity is load. As athletes get faster, intensity naturally increases. Might have to reduce sprint volume for advanced athletes. 

Hill sprinting 

  • 10-40 m
  • 5-10 degree incline
  • 30-60 sec rest /10m
  • Volume: 200-360m
  • Lower impact means more volume can be used than on flat surface. 


Downhill running

  • Can be very effective
  • Combining up and down may be superior to flat


Resisted running 

  • Improves performance
  • Variety of loads up to 80% BW be can be beneficialBlanket load prescription is not ideal
  • Use coaching eye

Acceleration development

  • <40m per rep – The slower the athlete, the shorter the distance
  • 60 sec rest / 10m – Team sports can take 30 seconds rest / 10m
  • <300m total volume – Team sport, micro dose with as little as 150m


Top speed development

  • Maximal effort10-40m @top speed per rep
  • 1 min rest / 10mFocus on mechanics
  • For team sport, eg 50 meters (reach top speed after 30m, spend 20 m at top speed) – For sprinters, longer (reach top speed later)

Implementing the framework

  • Progress from Lower to higher specificity
  • Surf the force velocity curve
  • when in doubt: Sprint!

There will be another summary tomorrow, so make sure to check in. So long, don’t get hurt

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