What is Acceleration:

  • For most sporting disciplines acceleration, being the rate of change in velocity of an individual is extremely important. Basically, acceleration is an individual’s ability to achieve max velocity (max speed) from a static or near-static starting position.
  • For many athletes, the highest rate of acceleration is usually obtained within the first 8 – 10 strides with maximum running speed occurring in the first 4 – 5 seconds again for the majority of athletes.

Image result for acceleration sprint

  • Changes in acceleration can be brought about through improvements of the individuals stride length and /or stride frequency.
  • The most common way of improving an athlete’s acceleration abilities is to increase whole body strength, in a functional means. Improving an athlete’s whole-body strength results with the individual being able to produce a greater amount of force while reducing the amount of time spent in contact with the ground during each stride.

How is Acceleration Different to Max Velocity:

  • As stated above acceleration is the capability to achieve max velocity from a static or near-static starting position, whereas maximum velocity is an individual’s top speed of running.
  • Having good acceleration means being able to reach max velocity within a short amount of time/distance.
Acceleration Max Velocity
Steep Forward Lean Upright Posture
Longer Ground Contact Time Shorter Ground Contact Time
Less Steps More Steps
Smaller Stride Length Greater Stride Length
Foot Strike Directly Underneath/Slightly Behind Athlete Foot Strike Directly Underneath Athlete
Pushing/Driving into Ground A cycle of good technique
Low Heel Recovery High Heel Recovery

Acceleration Max Velocity

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Plyometrics & Acceleration:

  • An individual’s acceleration performance relies heavily on propulsive forces produced by the muscles of the hip, knee and ankle that are responsible for extension of these joints. A wide range of research stated that acceleration is mainly power related.
  • There are many ways to improve power production for the acceleration phase, with many suggesting that various forms of weight training, plyometric training, assisted sprinting and resisted sprinting techniques would be suitable for the increase of power production.
  • Plyometric exercises are usually included into training programs to bring about positive changes of explosive power, by means of the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC).
  • Plyometric training involves movements where the muscle being activated undergoes a period of stretching prior to a period of shortening that results in greater force production than that of a concentric contraction alone.


  • A study was performed by Rimmer and Sleivert, (2000) on the effect of a plyometric program on acceleration in rugby union players. The results of their study did show that an 8-week sprint-specific plyometric programme was found to improve the acceleration running speed sprint performance for rugby union players.

Considerations to Improve Acceleration:

  • An individual’s ability to accelerate can be improved by altering technique, increasing strength and power to name but a few.
  • Technique must be mastered and practiced in many drills over a prolonged period of time in order to become proficient in acceleration through to max velocity.
  • Posture: Pronounced forward lean (roughly 45°) to assist individual overcoming inertia, neutral head position in line with torso with no swaying or jerking movements.
  • Arm Action: Crucial in the acceleration phase as it aids in the counteracting the force created by the legs. Aggressive arm action should travel from ‘Hip to Lip’ or Cheek to Cheek’ with elbow at 90° throughout.
  • Leg Action: Referring to the relationship of the hip, knee and ankle relative to the upper body and ground. Making explosive starts is key for rapid acceleration while performing triple extension of these joints in a controlled manner.

Advice on Developing Acceleration:

  • All acceleration training should be done when the body is fully recovered from previous training, with no fatigue or soreness.
  • Best practice is to perform speed work at the start of the session.
  • Adequate rest is essential to perform drill at a satisfactory level.
  • Speed work should be split into light, medium and heavy days to reduce the risk of overtraining/burnout.
Exercise Sets & Reps Comments
Horizontal Drop Jump 6-8 Reps

2 Sets

60-90sec Rest

  • Step off a 6-inch box and land on both feet.
  • Immediately upon contacting the ground forcefully jump forward as far as possible.
  • The goal is to spend as little time as possible on the ground between the drop and the forward jump.
Resisted Marches 20 Metre x 4

3 Sets

60-90sec Rest

  • Leaning into a partner that’s holding your weight.
  • March forward as they support your weight.
Falling Starts 4 Reps

2 Sets

60-120sec Rest

  • Over 5-10metre.
  • Fall forward for as long as possible.
  • Powerful driving steps.
  • Stay low for as long as possible.
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