Resisted sprint training (RST) is often used to increase acceleration and maximal velocity running and may provide those split seconds needed to improve sprint performance. RST helps muscles to become stronger and produce greater amounts of force, which is proven to make people faster even when the resistance is removed.
Coaches work to the principle of specificity in training, which states that “Sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce the desired effect”. Commonly used tools for RST include Hills, Parachutes, Resistance bands, Weighted vests and Sleds.
Sled training typically involves an athlete pulling a sled behind them. A study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that heavy sled pulling (~43% of the athlete’s body weight) significantly improved 5-meter and 10-meter acceleration. A different study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that a load as light as 5 kg was able to improve acceleration over 20 meters. Thus, most research has shown sleds of varying weight are effective for improving acceleration. It is possible that running with a sled may change an athletes running technique. However, if or how this happens is currently unclear and needs to be further investigated as these changes in technique may be beneficial or detrimental to sprint performance.
Katja Osterwald is a PhD candidate in the SHE Research Group. Katja’s research aims to examine the kinematic characteristics (technique/movement) of resisted sprinting under different loading conditions and in different sporting populations.