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The 90 Degree Myth: Acceleration Mechanics - Part Two.

In my previous article, I improved the time on three athletes who ran the 40-yard dash. In this article, we will go into more detail about the 90-degree myth and how to improve your speed!

Part 1 | Part 2
In my previous article, I showed three athletes who ran sub 4.5 second 40-yard dashes and how "open" their elbow angles were when they were in the first steps of their acceleration position. This was due to them learning to relax the muscles in the body that serve no purpose in sprinting except to slow it down.

Improving Top Speeds

For the most part, fast high school football players, unlike seasoned sprinters, will accelerate for about 15-to-20 yards at best. However, like sprinters, they should learn to relax, drive powerfully and run with good mechanics.

5 Key Tips On Designing Effective Sprint Programs.
No single program is going to work for every athlete. Even a program that works well for an athlete today may lose its effectiveness in a week, a month or a year.
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Powerful Yet Relaxed

    In conversations with my colleague, Lee Taft, teaching the athlete to drive powerfully backward, yet relaxed, is the best skill an athlete can learn to improve their speed. Once again, if a beginner tries too hard, they simply put the brakes on harder.

    My athletes regularly run personal bests while only running at 80-to-90% perceived effort because they learn to turn off the brakes.

    This becomes obvious to the coach as a short stride. The inexperienced coach will often prescribe flexibility training for this athlete when it is often a mechanical problem.

    While the last article focused on acceleration mechanics, this article will focus on top speed mechanics. And while the elbow is not as open as the acceleration phase, they are not locked at 90 degrees.

    While 90 degrees may be an average or perhaps a frame of reference, asking an athlete to lock the elbows at this angle will cause them to tighten up.


    The athletes below run 150-yard tempo drills at about 75% top perceived effort. The goal is to develop speed endurance and work on top speed mechanics.

    Check out the elbow angle even with a relatively low intensity speed drill.

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This athlete ran a 4.49 second post test. Note the arm drive causes an elbow angle of over 112 degrees.

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This athlete ran a 4.47 forty yard dash post test. Even more open than our previous athlete.

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This athlete also ran a 4.47 post test 40. He had the most improvement of anyone in the clinic. His pre-test was 5.00.

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Part 1 | Part 2