It is a well-known fact that the dorsi and plantar flexion action of the foot, is a characteristic of sprinters. To improve on the working capacity of the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, peroneus longus, soleus and gastrocnemius (which does most of this work) they all have to be strengthened to create a greater capacity to apply force faster.
The dorsi flexion action is not merely a lift of the toes, but rather a lifting of the front part of the foot. The plantar flexion action is not just a downward movement of the foot, it has to be done in such a manner that it applies maximum force against the ground in the shortest possible time.
Basically we are trying to to reduce the athlete's ground contact time and thus help improve on speed.
Ways To Improve Your Speed:
1. Seated foot up
2. Standing foot lifts
3. Walking with foot lifts. (Small steps)
Everytime you lift your foot up moving forward, make sure you lift your foot up and land on the front part of your foot. Throughout this exercise you stay on your toes. Walk distances of 15 - 20m. 3 - 4 reps.
4. Jogging with foot lifts. (Small steps to long steps)
Do this with stiff knees and "pull" with the hamstrings and calf muscles to move forward. Dorsi flex the foot everytime it lifts of the ground to take another step. Do 3 - 4 reps over distances ranging from 15 - 35m.
This is a very common training method that will enhance the dorsi- and plantar flexion. Important to note that the foot lifts up every time it leaves the ground. Start with 30 touch downs (Td) and work it up to 100. It can also be done against time.
6. Short jumps (Static or dynamic forward movement, mini hurdles)
Do 3 - 4 sets of 10\20 jumps and lift the feet after every touchdown. Dynamic jumps - work from 15-35 m with the same action. IMPORTANT: Try not to bend the knees too much. This will only slow the action down.
The above exercises are just a few suggestions. There are many other coaches with great ideas. It is however important for sprinters to do this type of training at least twice per week in the general preparation phase and once per week during the specific preparation phase.
About The Author
Les Archer Speed and conditioning coach. Golden Lions and Cats super 12 rugby International track and field coach.