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TNL Speed Pillars - Part 1: Linear Acceleration

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Welcome to part one of TNL’s Speed Series! This three part series will be discussing the 3 TNL Speed Pillars: linear acceleration, top-end speed, as well as lateral change of direction. Part 1 will be discussing what linear acceleration is, its target points as well as several strategies to help improve linear acceleration.

So what is linear acceleration? Linear Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity (speed with direction) in a straight path. To break it down further, acceleration is an athlete's ability to increase their velocity when sprinting and linear is the direction of the acceleration.

Now, when looking at linear acceleration, there are two types: rehearsed linear acceleration and reactive linear acceleration. Rehearsed linear acceleration is when an athlete knows when they are going to start their sprint. In contrast, reactive acceleration is where an athlete does not know when they are going to start their sprint. It’s important to know the difference between these two and why training both types of linear acceleration matters.

Rehearsed acceleration is great for focusing on technique, improving skill and preparing for showcase or combine events like the 40 yard or 60 yard dash. Reactive acceleration is great for creating an environment that athletes may experience while playing their sport because of the reactive nature of sport in general.

Next, let’s discuss some of the target points of linear acceleration. So, when accelerating there are multiple positions that an athlete could start in (2 point stance, 3 point stance, half-kneeling, etc.) and all of the target points I mention are the same regardless of the starting position of the athlete. When accelerating it’s all about body position (posture) and force production. The more force an athlete can apply down and back through the floor (push) the quicker the athlete will accelerate. Additionally, forward knee drive and arm swing are important aspects to acceleration as well. The arms essentially drive the legs via action/reaction forces. Throwing the hands back hard creates a large arm-swing which in turn increases knee drive. A good knee drive allows more to produce more force when driving the leg back and pushing down and away through the floor. Finally, body posture consists of about a 45 degree lean, a straight line from the head to the hell of the down leg (this essentially looks like a plank position) and a horizontal shin angle Below is an image of the initial start of a sprinter to help visualize the target points just mentioned. Source

Finally, there are several strategies to help an athlete improve their linear acceleration. If an athlete is struggling with the push and applying force into the floor at TNL we used resisted sprints (bands, chains or sled) to help the athlete with force production. This helps with force production because the athlete needs to use more force to overcome the resistance from the band, chains or sled. However, if an athlete struggles with body posture or positioning we can use wall or box drills to help an athlete feel the body positioning of linear acceleration.

Overall, having good linear acceleration is extremely important for athletes not only for their sport but also to get noticed by coaches at showcases and combines. Knowing and practicing the target points through the corrective strategies mentioned will have you or your athlete increasing their linear acceleration in no time!

Looking to improve your acceleration? Come join us at TNL on Saturday, March 13th at 9:30 am for our FREE speed clinic. Click here to REGISTER

Be on the lookout for part 2 of the speed series where Connor will be discussing "Top-End Speed aka Max Velocity".

-Coach Shawn

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