Specifically designed periodised programmes which include phases of training that are adapted throughout the year to suit the training needs (whether competitive or maintenance) of the athlete, is a fairly modern innovation. Historically “star” athletes were imitated in an attempt to achieve their level of skill; this inadvertently enabled other athletes to improve their performance.
Developing a sports base is important for both the performance and the health of the athlete (Hoffman, Sheldahl & Kraemer 1998), it would ideally address each aspect of the athletes physical and mental capabilities; previously much of the emphasis of such programmes was to improve CV and aerobic conditioning. The range of metabolic requirements, injury potential, biomechanical characteristics involved in a particular sport would all be explored in a good conditioning programme.
There are many factors which are vital to sports fitness; depending on the specific requirements of the sport the relevance and importance of each factor will vary. Fitness is a complex term and contains various elements which can be applied to individuals in different ways, the most relevant of which is physical fitness. Physical fitness is made up of seven main components; aerobic and muscular endurance, flexibility, speed, (muscular) strength, power and body composition. Agility and balance may be categorised as motor skills but are also recognised as components of fitness.
The components of fitness relevant to sprinting 100ms will the discussed and ways in which training affects and can improve these will also be looked at. In sprinting power can be seen as being fundamentally the most important component to develop. This may be because being able to produce force in a short time space is important for success in most sports (Newton Kraemer Hakkinen 1999) but is crucial in creating a winning performance. Power is defined as muscle force time’s movement speed; the improvement of either speed or strength will lead to increased power.
Power is closely related to muscular strength and is different from muscular endurance. Strength can be defined as the ability of a specific muscle or muscle group to exert a force in a maximal contraction. Increased muscular strength produces muscles with a high level of force (Heaney, 2008). Muscular strength is dependent on several variables including muscle mass, number of contracting fibres (Heaney, 2008), higher levels of muscle fibres produce a greater muscle girth and therefore more force (Heaney, 2008). Other more complex factors nclude gender; generally speaking males tend to be stronger than females, however there are many women who have developed their muscular strength. Females generally have twice the body fat levels of males and males may have up to ten times the testosterone levels of a female. Testosterone is an anabolic steroid which promotes muscle hypertrophy but may also influence men to be more aggressive and train harder (Sharkey, p147). Age is another factor on strength, muscles are strongest when a person is in their early 20’s and begins to decline after this.
However if regular strength training is undertaken there does not appear to be the same physiological decline, along with speed, until after the age of 35/40. Resistance exercises taken up by an older person enables them to increase strength mass and mobility (Sharkey p146). Finally muscle fibre types affect strength; individuals who have higher levels of fast twitch fibres potentially have greater power (Sharkey, p146). Studies have shown weightlifters have greater area of fast twitch fibres than those who do not (Sharkey, p147). Heredity factors and training can also contribute to the increase in size (Sharkey, p147).
Strength enables collateral development of other systems such as connective tissue and motor units, which enable muscle hypertrophy, by providing physiological stimuli. An individual who trains with weights in their 3 – 5 rep max range encourages both strength development and muscle hypertrophy as all muscles fibres are recruited. Speed is another important component in sprinting but also plays an important part in muscular fitness and is seen as one of the most defining factors in sprinting and other sports. Speed is different to acceleration and is the maximum rate of movement of an athlete.
Speed is reduced by fatigue, friction and air resistance (Sharkey p145). The nervous system controls reaction time and since this is subconscious system it is not possible to be changed, yet increased awareness and repeating appropriate responses enables a reduction in nervous system processing (Sharkey p146). Changes in muscle fibre types have been recorded after following a training programme. Stride length, stride rate and speed improved with the correct training, moving from a primary focus on form to anaerobic conditioning to a training programme which included techniques to improve these factors.
Often overlooked balance is a component of fitness enables the athlete to maintain equilibrium whilst performing (Sharkey, p147). There are two types of balance; static; the ability to maintain balance in a stationary position and dynamic which is involved whilst the athlete is moving. Poor balance can have a negative effect on the athletes’ ability and performance. Balance involves proprioreceptors or sensory nerves; these relay information about our muscles, tendons and joints to the brain which gives is awareness of our position and our body.
This information is obtained visually and aurally in our inner ear and then integrated (Sharkey p147). Training the neuromuscular system improves quickness and must include manoeuvres that allow muscles to learn to respond faster and for the brain to respond appropriately. Training the nervous system results in neuromuscular adaptations and improves the brain ability at responding, the result of which is increased rate of firing of motor neurons, precise and complete recruitment of fast twitch fibres, quicker reactions and therefore a greater force is produced.
Optimal quickness is achieved when there is less body fat as this acts as an additional load, development of legs and the core should be a priority as these are the starting and power sources behind the action. Stronger muscles in these areas lower the body’s centre of gravity which creates stronger dynamic balance and improves control and quickness. Flexibility is also important in sprinting and encourages quickness as it dependent on muscle balances, if the muscles are not balanced flexibly and strength wise it inhibits dynamic balance which in turn affects quickness.
Improving the neuromuscular system is often known as muscular fitness, the results of which can be seen as strength, speed and power development. As discussed earlier in order to develop these attributes the training programme should include specificity and overloading principles. Free weights, machines and isokinetic devices can all be used in order to improve strength, free weights allow for greater range of movement and therefore incorporate more muscles and tendons and machines provide a safer versatile workout. Specificity enhances the muscles by focusing on physiological functions as required in sprinting.
Overloading relates to the methodology used in order to train muscles so they surpass the physiological adaptations such as changes and development in structure. Training should provide an athlete with the basis to perform their sport, overloading the systems and muscles will improve performance particularly when the activities are similar in nature to the sport. Specificity relates to a conditioning programme that is targeting a particular outcome. Specificity is made up metabolic and physiological specificity which pertains to the metabolic and physiological changes and responses during the training.
Effective training programmes will result in adaptations within the body such as Cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal and even the neuroendocrine system dependent on which is the most effective for the sport. Additionally there is mechanical specificity which would involve imitations of any mechanical actions of the sport; again these exercises must produce adaptations to match to the sprinters performance. Carrying out some plyometric exercises such as the “frog” would enable the sprinter to push out the starting blocks with greater power.
Reciprocal Innervation works on the premise that muscles work in pairs, as one contracts it produces a force that is opposite to the force generated by the opposing muscles contraction, so as one muscle contracts the antagonist relaxes. Power performance involves speed and strength; however speed cannot be developed to the extent that strength can. Since sprinting usually lasts than 10 seconds and relies on the ATP – PC system overloading this system can be done repeatedly with minimal rests in between as there is production of lactic acid.
Plyometric are a popular exercise method used to improve speed as they focus on the explosive movement which is essential for developing speed. Plyometric train the nervous system to fire more effectively which produces faster results. Mechanical energy that is produced by rebound movements is absorbed by the muscle as it eccentrically contracts; this is then released as the muscle contracts concentrically. Advanced athletes can train using a flat step loading programme. There is an increase in load which is followed by a recovery (unloading) period.
There is usually 3 weeks which involve gradual increases in intensity and the fourth week is used to allow for regeneration, this fourth week can be seen as the start of the next cycle. Each four week macro cycle is higher in load than the previous four weeks. It is recommended that athletes increase load by up to 5% per week to progress. This can be compared to overloading which is based on the principal of increasing the workload each time, there can be very considerable short term gains but there is no time allowed for recovery which is when muscles development is greatest.
Delayed Onset Muscle soreness usually manifests 24 hours of training and is probably due to tears in muscle tissue, however this can be seen as part of the adaptation process which improves strength as the body replaces the tissue, and muscle builds and recovers, this “micro trauma” is responsible for muscle hypertrophy, and reduces the risk of further damage for up to six months following initial soreness (Nosaka et al 2001). Anabolism is the part of metabolism which results in growth, these processes tend to build organs and tissue and produce growth of cells and therefore increase in body size.
Catabolic processes break down proteins for other uses, this can include breaking down f muscle protein in order to utilise the amino acids. Both processes occur simultaneously and one process can trigger the other. In order to improve balance the valsalva manoeuvre can be used. Since large muscles are involved when carrying out resistance exercises there is an increase in both Systolic and Diastolic blood pressures (MacDougal et al).
It is effective when work is being done at 80 – 85% of 1RM or when fatigue sets in (MacDougal et al) The increased pressure affects the arterial tree but if maintained it will drop. This has some benefits for trained athletes as it stabilises the spinal column, reduces afterload (Lentini et al) and helps prevent vascular damage (McCarthy 1999). Recruiting motor units is essential for activity, when stimulation occurs muscle fibres contract. Sprinting requires more muscle and bigger fibres, so Type II fast twitch muscles are recruited.
These are powered by anaerobic metabolism and generate short bursts of power – fatiguing easily. Sprinters are thought to have more Type II fibres as they have the highest rate of firing, training affects muscle fibres so these should be incorporated into the training. Anaerobic metabolism provides immediate energy; sprinting relies on ATP which cells use quickly, muscles also contain creatine phosphate which produces more ATP when the bond is broken and releases energy. This can produce energy for up to 15 seconds at high intensity levels as required in sprinting.
This is done in the absence of oxygen and so lasts only a very limited time. Carbohydrates are the main energy source in sprinting, high levels of fat hinder sprinting ability and carbohydrates along with protein repair and maintain muscle tissue. Speed endurance can be developed by uphill runs, plyometrics and circuit training. Athletes who compete produce adrenaline and noradrenaline which affects the production of glycolysis as it alters the balance between PFK and FBPase. Another effect s the lowering of the firing threshold for Type II fibres and since these are not always utilised they reduce inhibition and present more motor units for use. As can be seen sprinting is a highly specialised sport and depends on a highly effective training programme in order to develop and all the muscles and skills needed. Some of the components of fitness apply to a lesser extent particularly when compared to the need for power and the edge that “leaping” out of the starting blocks gives to an elite athlete.
Plyometrics is seen as the most effective way to train for such an event as these develop skills and muscles the most. Hoffman, Sheldahl & Kraemer (1998), Therapeutic exercise. In J. DeLisa (Ed. )Rehabilitation medicine: Principles and Practice, Philadelphia, Lippincott. Heaney, C. (2008) “Study Topic 3: Training for health fitness & sport”, in E112 Introduction to sport, fitness and management study guide, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Sharkey, B. J. , & Gaskill, S. E. , (2007), Fitness 7 Health (6th edition), Leeds, Human Kinetics.