Ways To Run Faster By Prepping For A Fast Takeoff
In this section, I want to go over several ways to run faster by prepping your body for a fast takeoff or launch from the starting lines.
Throughout this speed training blog, you will often hear me say the words “prep” or “prepping” quite often.
The words “prep” and “prepping” come from the word “preparation”, therefore, when you hear me use the term “prep” or “prepping”, it simply means “to prepare” the body.
I borrowed the terms “prep” and “prepping” from my study of the Chinese internal martial arts called Wu Chi Chuan because it is short and it describes the position your body needs to be in for a fast takeoff better then any other word in the English language.
Keep in mind that the material I discuss below is more applicable to short distance sports where you have an opportunity to line up at the “starting line” and have plenty of time to prep your body before the run begins.
This includes short distance sports such as baseball, football, tennis, track, raquetball, short distance swimming, etc.
The prepping exercises to run faster that I share with you below will not make a big impact in speed and long distance sports such as a marathons, triathalons, etc. or sports where you are constantly on the move such as boxing, MMA, soccer, basketball, etc.
“Prepping” Exercises To Run Faster
There are many prepping exercises to run faster on the market but they are all classified under 5 major categories.
The 5 major categories of prepping exercises to help you takeoff faster include:
- Body positioning.
- Weight shifting.
- Correct breathing.
- Muscle relaxation.
- Emptying the mind.
All the prepping exercises I have seen on the market will fall under one of the above 5 categories.
The first 2 categories of prepping focuses on putting your body into the right position and making sure your body weight is in the right place for a fast takeoff.
The next 3 categories of prepping exercises focuses on emptying the mind and relaxing your entire body so that it is fluid, nimble and flexible for a fast takeoff.
Obviously there are many “advance level” prep exercises in each category and I will cover them at a future time.
Right now, I just want to focus on the first 2 categories of prepping exercises to run faster that will increase your take off speed immediately.
In this section, I will teach you how to establish the correct body positioning and how to shift your weight correctly and in the next section I will cover the last 3 categories of correct breathing, muscle relaxation and emptying the mind of attachments and distractions.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the prepping exercises to run faster using the correct body position and weight shift and it’s corresponding exercises more closely.
Training To Run Faster During The Takeoff Using Correct Body Positioning
Training to run faster during the takeoff or launch using incorrect body positioning is probably the most common mistake that runners make.
The good news is that it can be easily corrected once you understand the correct position that your body needs to be in for it to run faster.
When I talk about correct body positioning, I am mainly referring to the position of the arms and legs at the starting line.
I choose to focus mainly on the arm and leg positions because that is where you will make the biggest improvement in takeoff speed.
The human body is designed so that the arms and legs move in “opposing directions” when you walk and run. This is called the “principle of opposition”
This means that when the right leg is in front, the opposing arm will also be in front.
In this case, when the right leg moves forward, the “opposing” left arm will also swing forward.
When the left leg moves forward, so will the “opposing” right arm.
The word “opposing” simply means the “opposite side” of the body.
This may seem like common sense but you will be surprised how many runners and trainers do not realize this basic principle of opposition in the human body when training to run faster.
Pause for a moment from reading this article and get up and starting walking across the room and pay attention to how your arms will swing forward in correspondence with the opposite leg that is also moving forward.
You might find it awkward to notice your own “walk” since you are “consciously” trying to walk and may not clearly see the principle of opposition taking place with your arms and legs.
If this is the case then just observe the people walking around you or get online and watch a video of people walking and notice the relationship between how they swing their arms and legs in opposition as they move.
Now that you understand that the arms and legs move in opposition. Let’s now take a look at how you would position yourself for a fast takeoff at the starting line.
Correct Leg Positioning:
I need you to stand up for a moment as you read this portion so that you can follow my instructions.
I want you to position your body as if you are at the starting line getting ready to takeoff from a standing position like a wide receiver in football.
I want you to stand on your right leg and place your left leg slightly behind you. Your right leg will be the “push off leg” in this example and your left leg will be the leg that takes the first step forward.
Notice the bend in your right “push off” leg. How much bend is in the push off leg?
If the push off leg is too straight you will not be able to generate maximum force during the takeoff. Therefore, you need to have plenty of “bend” in your leg to push off with maximum power.
Once you have position your push off leg (the right leg in this example) in the correction with the right bend, make sure your left leg is behind the right leg and “cocked” far enough to swing forward with power and speed.
The mistake that a lot of runners make in this example is that their right leg is not bent enough to push off and their left leg is not far back enough and cocked for a fast takeoff.
Each person’s body is slightly different so their is no “exact” angle of bend in each leg that is ideal for everyone because everyone has a different leg length.
Once you have established the correct starting position with both of your legs, it’s time to take a look at the correct position of your arms.
Correct Arm Positioning:
Now that you understand that the arms swing in opposition to the legs, let’s put it into application.
I will continue with the same example above using the right leg as the push off leg. In this example you will place bend your left arm and move the elbow forward so that it is in front of your chest and lined up with your knees.
Your right arm will also be bent and the elbow will be pushed back behind you so that your right elbow is almost lined up with your left ankle.
I want you to notice how “cocked” your body feels. Your entire body should feel like a coiled and wound up spring ready to explode forward.
This is your ideal “prepped” position where your body can takeoff with maximum speed.
Why is this the ideal prepped position?
There are several reasons why…
1. It’s an ideal position because your arms are in a position to make a full and complete swing and your legs are in position to make a full and complete stride.
2. This ideal prepped position also prevents you from telegraphing your move to your opponent. All your opponent can see is that you are ready to move but has no idea where and what direction you plan on making your move.
3. This prepped position eliminates wasted time and movement in your arms and legs because they are already pre-cocked to move. If your arms are just dangling at your sides, there is a small amount of wasted time and motion to bring your arms and legs into the right position when the starting signal goes off. This wasted time and motion is unnecessary and gives the opponent time to assess your move so you do not want to do this after the starting signal goes off but before hand.
If you are a runner who pushes off with the left leg, then make sure your right arm is bent and in front while your left arm is bent and tucked behind you so that your arms and legs are in opposing positions and ready to explode.
Taking Off From A Crouching Or 3 Point Position:
If you start your run from a crouching position as in track or as a football lineman, the sample principles of opposition will still apply except you have to do it from a crouching position.
From your starting crouching position, determine which leg will be the push off leg against the starting blocks and make sure that the opposing arm is positioned slightly forward.
You will not be able to position your front arm very far forward due to the nature of your crouched position.
If you follow the example above and use the right leg to push the starting blocks, then make sure your left elbow is flared outwards and pointing towards the front while your right elbow is tucked slightly in towards your ribs.
This slightly outward elbow position of the “front” elbow and the slightly tucked in “rear” elbow will make a huge difference in your takeoff speed.
I used quotations around the words “front” and “rear” elbow positions because the reality is that there are no such thing as a front or rear position because both arms are out in front of you already.
The correct positioning of the arms/elbows in the crouched position is more “internal” and will not be visibly seen on the outside as you would if you were starting your run from a standing position.
What I mean by “internal” is that you will be able to “feel” the position of your elbows but not see it externally.
What I am describing may seem a little awkward when you first try it but follow my instructions closely and once you feel what I am talking about, you will understand what I am talking about.
Now that you understand the different ways to run faster during the takeoff using the the correct arm and leg positions, let’s move forward and take a look at how to shift your body weight correctly for a fast takeoff.
Correct Weight Shifting In Any Run Faster Program
In this speed training program or any other “run faster” program, it’s important that you learn to shift your body weight correctly during the takeoff so that your body weight is pre-loaded onto the correct foot.
A “weight shift” is another term I borrowed from the Chinese internal martial arts of Wu Chi Chuan.
A weight shift is when you “shift” or “pour” your body weight from one leg to another. When you are standing with your legs shoulder width apart, your body weight is evenly distributed across both feet.
If you begin to lean to the right side then your body weight begins to shift and pour into the right leg.
When this happens, your right leg is referred to as being “weighted” or “loaded” because the majority of your body weight is on your right foot.
During the takeoff, it’s important that your push off leg is already “pre-loaded” with your body weight so that you don’t waste “time” and “motion” shifting or pouring your body weight from one leg into the push off leg.
Again, the terms “weighted”, “loaded”, and “pre-loaded” are all words I borrowed from Wu Chi Chuan. I mention that here again because I like to give credit where it belongs and don’t want anyone to think that I invented those terms myself.
Let’s use the same example above where you push off with the right leg.
Before you start the run, you already know what direction you will be going so it’s important that you pre-load the right leg by shifting about 75% of your body weight into the right leg since it will be the push off leg.
The shift in your body weight is very subtle and should not be visible externally to anyone. In the beginning, your weight shift will be very noticeable externally but if you practice shifting your weight diligently it should become invisible to everyone.
You do not want to shift 100% of your body weight onto the push off leg because you will be standing on one leg and it will throw off your balance.
Ideally, you want roughly 70-80% of your body weight on the push off leg and the remaining body weight on the opposite leg.
Continuing with our example, the left leg will have roughly 20%-30% of your body weight spread across the front ball of your feet (across the toes) and used merely to balance out the entire body for takeoff.
Keep in mind that you will need to lean slightly forward so that your body weight is shifted onto the front of area of both feet. Some people call this area the “balls” of your feet which is basically the flat area before your toes.
You DO NOT ever want your body weight sitting on both of your heels because it will cause you to be “flat footed” and will take too long for you to shift your weight forward onto the balls of your feet in order to takeoff fast.
If you use the weight shift correctly, it will give you a huge speed advantage during the takeoff because you will:
- Be able to push off with a tremendous amount of power on the push off leg because it is already preloaded with “weight”.
- You will not waste time shifting or pouring your weight from one leg to the other because the weight shift already happened before hand.
After learning about the weight shift in Wu Chi Chuan, I have it a core aspect of my “run faster” program and it has increased the takeoff speed of all my clients tremendously.
How To Run Faster In Football And Other Short Distance Sports
If you are searching for how to run faster in football and other short distance sports, you will gain a huge advantage by practicing to position your body correctly for a fast takeoff.
After you get into the proper position for a fast takeoff, then you want to practice shifting your weight correctly onto the push off leg.
In the beginning, your weight shift will be very noticeable to everyone around you, however, with enough consistent practice you will be able to “internalize” your weight shift and make it invisible to everyone around.
At this point, you will gain a huge “edge” in speed because you will no longer “telegraph” your moves to your opponent at the starting line.
Like I said before, all the prepping exercises and techniques I have shared with you are more applicable to short distance sports such as football, baseball, track, etc. where you have plenty of time to prep your body at the starting line.
Now that you understand how to run faster in football and other short distance sports by properly positioning your body and shifting your weight correctly for a fast takeoff let’s take a look at the other 3 categories of prepping in the next section.
In the next section on improving your takeoff speed, I will show you what to do to run faster in your takeoff or launch by breathing correctly, relaxing your muscles and clearing your mind.
1. Go back to the previous section on “Why The Takeoff Is So Important In Any Run Faster Program”
2. Go to the next section and learn the “What To Do To Run Faster Using The Mind, Body And Breath”