The development of sprint speed is an important objective for the majority of athletes. Whether it’s acceleration, maximum velocity, or both, improving speed is a common goal of athletic strength and conditioning programs. Many methods for improving speed exist and they are typically split into two categories: primary and secondary (Wagganer, Williams, & Barnes, 2014). Primary methods include technique work at various intensities, and secondary methods include resisted and assisted sprinting with various equipment.
Resisted sprinting involves the use of equipment to provide external resistance during sprinting. The equipment used includes weight sleds, parachutes, and resistance bands, with weight sleds being the most popular. The idea behind resisted sprinting is to enhance muscular force output during movement patterns that are specific to sprinting (Cronin & Hansen, 2006). Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the effects of resisted sprinting on different athletic populations. Let's take a look through some of the recent research to decipher practical guidelines for training resisted sprints.
1. Wagganer, J. D., Williams, R. D., & Barnes, J. T. (2014). The effects of a four week primary and secondary speed training protocol on 40 yard sprint times in female college soccer players. Journal of Human Sport & Exercise, 9 (3), 713-727.
The authors assessed the effects of primary and secondary speed training techniques on 40-yard sprint times in female college soccer players. Primary techniques were concerned with running mechanics while secondary techniques used resisted sprinting. The researchers found that four weeks of using both training methods resulted in statistically significant reductions in 40-yard sprint times. This article shows that using both methods can be an effective way of improving speed in experienced athletes.
2. Cronin, J., & Hansen, K. T. (2006). Resisted sprint training for the acceleration phase of sprinting. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 28 (4), 42-52.
Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia and the New Zealand Warriors Rugby Club performed a literature review on several sprint training methods, including resisted sprinting. They found that resisted sprinting has been shown to result in decreases of 0.08 and 0.35 seconds in sprint times of 20- and 60-meters, respectively. They also found that combining resisted sprinting with assisted sprinting resulted in greater reductions in sprint time over shorter distances. This is similar to the Wagganer, Williams, and Barnes findings that showed resisted sprinting may produce the best results when combined with other techniques.
3. Luteberget, L. S., Raastad, T., Seynnes, O., & Spencer, M. (2015). Effect of traditional and resisted sprint training in highly trained female team handball players. International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance, 10 (5), 642-648.
This article looked at the effects of traditional sprint training and resisted sprint training on sprint performance of 10- and 30-meter sprints. They found that traditional sprint training was better than resisted sprint training for improving 10-meter sprint time. Both methods lead to similar improvements in 30-meter sprint times. This challenges the results of other articles that found that resisted sprints were better at improving sprint performance than traditional sprint training alone. It’s also interesting to see how similar improvement were found in the longer distance sprint group and not the shorter distance group.
4. Martinopoulou, K., Argeitaki, P., Paradisis, G., Katsikas, C., & Smirniotou, A. (2011). The effects of resisted training using parachute on sprint performance. Biology of Exercise, 7 (1), 7-24.
The authors tested resisted sprint and un-resisted sprint methods on sprint athletes. The results of their study showed that sprint velocity was significantly higher in the resisted sprinting group compared to the un-resisted sprinting group during both the acceleration and maximum speed phases of a 50-meter sprint. The un-resisted sprint group showed no improvement during either phase. These findings show that resisted sprinting may improve all phases of sprint performance. The findings also challenge those of Luteberget, Raastad, Seynnes, and Spencer, who found that un-resisted methods were better for acceleration improvements.
5. Rumpf, M. C., Cronin, J. B., & Schneider, C. (2014). Effect of different training methods on sprint times in recreational and athletic males. Journal of Australian Strength & Conditioning, 22 (4), 62-74.
Researchers from the Sport Performance Research Institute of New Zealand performed a literature review on sprint training methods in recreational and athletic populations. Their review found that resisted sprinting alone had little effect on sprint performance in college athletes. However, like prior reviews done by Cronin and Hansen, they found that combined training methods (such as resisted sprinting, assisted sprinting, and plyometric training) elicited the greatest improvements in sprint speed in athletes.
6. West, D. J., Cunningham, D. J., Bracken, R. M., Bevan, H. R., Crewther, B. T., Cook, C. J., & Kilduff, L. P. (2013). Effects of resisted sprint training on acceleration in professional rugby union players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27 (4), 1014-1019.
Researchers compared the effects of combined resisted sprinting and un-resisted sprint training against un-resisted sprint training alone on professional rugby players. Like the findings of Rumpf, Cronin, Schneider, and Hansen, they discovered that a training program that combines both resisted sprinting and traditional sprint training leads to significantly better improvements in sprint performance than un-resisted sprinting alone.
7. Alcaraz, P. E., Elvira, J. L., & Palao, J. M. (2014). Kinematic, strength, and stiffness adaptations after a short-term sled towing training in athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24 (2), 279-291.
The authors conducted four weeks of resisted sprint training and un-resisted sprint training on national-level athletes. Their results found that resisted sprinting enhanced sprint performance during the acceleration phase of sprinting. However, the improvements were not significantly different from the un-resisted training group. These findings align with the research from Martinopoulou, Argeitaki, Paradisis, Katsikas, and Smirniotou that stated that resisted sprinting enhances sprint speed during the acceleration phase. It also compares to the research of Luteberget, Raastad, Seynnes, and Spencer, which found that similar improvements were found in both resisted sprint groups and un-resisted sprint groups. This article provides mixed responses on the effectiveness of resisted sprinting for speed improvement.
Research on the effects of resisted sprinting on sprint speed is mixed. Some research found that resisted sprinting results in better speed improvements than un-resisted sprinting, while others found the opposite to be true. However, several studies determined that mixing both resisted sprinting and un-resisted sprinting techniques lead to the greatest speed improvements. Based on this information, it seems that coaches and athletes can’t go wrong with implementing a comprehensive approach to sprint training by including all forms of it. Using both primary and secondary sprint training techniques seems to be an effective method for improving sprint speed in athletes.