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Athletics Coach

Muscle Group The Principle It is well understood that strength gains are specific to the groups of muscle that are being stressed. Athletes must incorporate a range different exercises to develop the range of muscles that contribute to sprinting performance (Gonyea

Muscles Proportionally Largest in Elite Sprinters Handsfield et al., 2016

Semitendinosus Rectus femoris

et al., 1986; Rogers & Evans, 1993).


The Sprinting Implication

Gluteus maximus

Understanding the most important muscles for sprinting

Vastus medialis

performance will assist athletes and coaches to prioritise training of the muscle groups that are most important for sprinting success.







Percentage Greater Size in Sprinters than Non-Sprinters Figure 2: Muscles proportionally largest in sprinters compared to non-sprinters

The Evidence The current evidence suggests that the hip extensors, hip flexors and knee flexors are the most important specific strength requirement for sprinters. A comparison

The Coaching Application

between the strength of elite sprinters and the general

As strength is specific, exercises that develop the strength of

public demonstrated that sprinters tended to have overall

the hip extensors and flexors should be prioritised.

greater muscle mass than the average individual, but had proportionally even greater strength in their hip extensors, flexors and knee flexors (Handsfield et al., 2016).

The following exercises have been recommended by strength and conditioning experts for sprinters looking to build strength in these muscle groups.

Hip Extensors (esp. Semitendinosus, Gluteus maximus) Mann & Hagy (1980) demonstrated that sprinting ability

The following table provides a list of strength exercises

improved with greater hip extensor strength and this has

that may be appropriate for sprinters, the strength and

since been supported by further studies that have examined

conditioning expert advocating their use, and a video

the relationship between the two (Belli, Kyrolainen & Komi,

demonstration of how they may be performed.

2002; Young, 2006; Beardsley & Contreras, 2014). Electromyographic analysis of the sprinting action has suggested that the hamstrings may have the greatest increase


in muscle activation as running speed increases, suggesting that they may be an important driver of running velocity (Kyrolainen et al., 2005).

Hip Flexors (esp. Psoas major, Rectus femoris) The size of an athlete’s psoas major has been shown to be correlated to their sprinting ability (Copaver, Hertogh & Hue, 2013) and has been shown to be an important muscle for increase stride frequency during sprinting (Dorn et al., 2012). Evidence has shown that a hip flexion program can improve 10-yard and 40-yard sprinting times (Deane et al., 2005).

Knee Flexor (Hamstring group) The hamstrings are also an important muscle group for knee flexion, which is believed to contribute to sprinting performance (Mann & Hagy, 1980), especially during the late swing and early stance phase (Jonhagen et al., 1996).

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Muscle Group



Kettlebell Swing

Glutes and Hamstrings

Chris Beardsley


Nordic Hamstring Curl

Hamstrings Eccentric

Bret Contreras


Resisted Hip Flexion

Hip flexors

Russell Deane


Hip Thrusts

Hip extensors

Bret Contreras


Barbell Glute Bridge


Bret Contreras


Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

Hamstrings and Glutes

Bret Contreras


Trap Bar Deadlift Jump

Hip extensors

Chris Beardsley


Lying Leg Curl

Knee flexors

Chris Beardsley


Profile for Athletics Coach

Athletics Coach - Issue 3, 2018