4.1 A Deeper Look at Acceleration

Parisi coaches are committed to giving youth athletes optimal training and mechanical instruction in order to become faster. When athletes improve their speed, they increase their competitive edge. The Parisi Speed School has a 25+ year history leading the speed and sports performance industry. And despite our network’s deeply rooted contributions, most Parisi Master Coaches will share that speed is still far more mysterious than building strength.

One of the most basic divisions of our speed training lessons is the separation between classes that focus on acceleration versus maximum speed (or maximum velocity training). While these skills overlap in higher level speed training classes, they are clearly separated when leading Jump Start and Total Sports Performance classes. Before leading advanced speed training sessions, all Parisi coaches must understand the difference between acceleration and maximum speed.

Acceleration refers to velocity. The goal of acceleration training is to reach the maximum speed in the shortest distance and time possible. Acceleration is essentially the rate of change in velocity with respect to time. When taking a deeper dive into acceleration, you must pay homage to Newton’s first law of motion, an object in motion will stay in motion with the same speed (and same direction) unless force is applied. By acknowledging the importance of force, we must address Newton’s second law of motion which states that all forces are equal to mass multiplied by acceleration (F=MA). This makes acceleration training intimately tied to force application. Acceleration training focuses on enhancing an athlete’s ability to apply horizontal force into the ground ultimately moving them in the direction they need to go.

Parisi’s acceleration training is grounded in teaching force application. Given the number of changes in direction and speed that occur in most field and court sports, youth athletes must be able to constantly re-accelerate. It is not enough to only teach a position of pure acceleration, like a sprinter coming off the block. Transitional acceleration is far more widely used, therefore acceleration training curriculums must include training applications that promote an athlete’s ability to constantly apply force to the ground for curvilinear routes, multidirectional plays and transitional phases that often occur across field and court sports.

A simple way to understand the layers of acceleration is to boil it down in terms of running. Anytime the body starts, speeds up, or changes direction, it is accelerating. When and how an athlete accelerates in their sport will always rest on their abilities to :

  1. Execute proper sprint technique which requires lower body strength (or front side mechanics).
  2. Apply force to ground both vertically and horizontally
  3. Duplicate their force application over a shorter period of time

An athlete’s ability to accelerate is related to their “pushing ability,” or application of force into and off the ground. Athletes must push into the ground to create the force used to move their mass across the ground. This is why Parisi coaches are always integrating relative body strength exercises into their classes. Relative body strength plays a major role in acceleration because it measures an athlete’s strength in relation to their body weight. Parisi classes that focus on acceleration feature various body weight strength drills that also reinforce proper acceleration mechanics. While it is not necessary for a Parisi coach to also be an expert in physics, they must understand joint angles. The ideal position to accelerate is when the shin or lower leg is positioned at a 45-degree angle to the ground. This places the knee in front of the foot. This angle creates tremendous leverage when applying the ideal amount of force into the ground to move forward. Additionally, the upper body follows in suit.

There are four focal points that frame acceleration lesson plans.

  1. Body and Shin at a 45 degree angle to the ground
  2. Proper arm action (90 degrees on front side,opens to 120 degrees on backside. Elbow drives down and back and separates from the rib cage).
  3. Hips forward and up.

Forward knee drive and back leg extension. (Split the thighs)

Check out this Coaching Habit with Master Trainer Eric Mitchell and Bill Parisi breaking down these four acceleration principles.