Wall drills are a great way to develop a faster first step because they replicate all the mechanics of propelling the body forward. The forward body lean, making sure the body stays in a straight line through the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders is the exact way our body should be in the drive phase of the initial take-off. At Sterling's Team Speed, we preach getting triple extension through the ankles, knees, and hips which is the indicator that the player is utilizing all of their explosive power. Another reason why wall drills are so important is because driving your knee and placing your foot back down almost behind our body is crucial. Too many times we see sprinters pop right up when they take their first step, which limits the power build-up, but by queuing knee drive, being strong on the toes, and pushing back at the ground to ensure the body is being propelled forward is a good indication that the player is driving the knee forward. Having a positive shin angle means that our foot is in the dorsiflexed position (toes flexed up towards the shin), which allows the athlete to stay strong on the toes and again, to ensure everything is being propelled forward.
Another great drill for developing a faster first step is the half kneeling sprint start. This drill focuses on the positive shin angle from the very start, allowing our ankles, knees, and hips to track over each other in a straight line. One thing we haven’t touched on is what to do with our foot when it is in the air as we take that first step. We do not want to spend a lot of time in the negative (or the back half of the running cycle) because any movement that is not moving forward is a wasted movement. Bringing our heel straight up to the butt to prepare for the next step is crucial. That allows the athlete to stay tight in their mechanics, while also staying in a powerful and explosive position for the next step. One thing to remember about the drive phase of a sprint start is more steps = more power.
If we are focused on generating power quickly, one way to do that is through unilateral/bilateral plyometric drills (jumping). The athlete can break down the jumps into broad jumps, distance jumps, and vertical jumps or height jumps. Focusing on absorbing the force the ground generates back into our feet, and simultaneously generating that force for the next take-off is exactly what sprinters do when they contact the ground. The ground produces an equal and opposite force that the athlete needs to harness for an even more explosive next step.
With sprinting comes strength, which is developed in the weight room. Building relative force for a higher force production with less ground contact time is done through the development of the posterior chain. Exercises that focus on the posterior chain are things like glute bridges, deadlifts, and reverse lunges. Reverse lunges specifically put our bodies in a natural sprinting position. Squats develop overall leg strength and are crucial because the more absolute strength we can develop, the more force we can produce into the ground.