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Factors That Differentiate Acceleration Ability in Field Sport Athletes

Lockie, Robert G1; Murphy, Aron J2; Knight, Timothy J1; Janse de Jonge, Xanne AK1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: October 2011 - Volume 25 - Issue 10 - p 2704-2714
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820d9f17
Original Research

Lockie, RG, Murphy, AJ, Knight, TJ, and Janse de Jonge, XAK. Factors that differentiate acceleration ability in field sport athletes. J Strength Cond Res 25(10): 2704–2714, 2011—Speed and acceleration are essential for field sport athletes. However, the mechanical factors important for field sport acceleration have not been established in the scientific literature. The purpose of this study was to determine the biomechanical and performance factors that differentiate sprint acceleration ability in field sport athletes. Twenty men completed sprint tests for biomechanical analysis and tests of power, strength, and leg stiffness. The sprint intervals analyzed were 0–5, 5–10, and 0–10 m. The subjects were split into a faster and slower group based on 0- to 10-m velocity. A 1-way analysis of variance determined variables that significantly (p ≤ 0.05) distinguished between faster and slower acceleration. All subject data were then pooled for a correlation analysis to determine factors contributing most to acceleration. The results showed that 0- to 5-m (∼16% difference) and 0- to 10-m (∼11% difference) contact times for the faster group were significantly lower. Times to peak vertical and horizontal force during ground contact were lower for the faster group. This was associated with the reduced support times achieved by faster accelerators and their ability to generate force quickly. Ground contact force profiles during initial acceleration are useful discriminators of sprint performance in field sport athletes. For the strength and power measures, the faster group demonstrated a 14% greater countermovement jump and 48% greater reactive strength index. Significant correlations were found between velocity (0–5, 5–10, and 0–10 m) and most strength and power measures. The novel finding of this study is that training programs directed toward improving field sport sprint acceleration should aim to reduce contact time and improve ground force efficiency. It is important that even during the short sprints required for field sports, practitioners focus on good technique with short contact times.

1Exercise and Sport Science, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Ourimbah, Australia; and 2Human Movement Department, School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Address correspondence to Robert Lockie,

© 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association