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Three Phases of Sprinting

The purpose of this article is to breakdown the three sprinting phases for the 100 meter dash.

From start to finish, an athlete will go through these three phases:

- Acceleration Phase

- Maximum Velocity (Max V) Phase

- Speed Endurance (Deceleration Phase)

To summarize how to successfully run a race in simple terms:

Maintain your maximum velocity as long as possible and decrease the amount that you slow down.

Breaking down these phases a little more -

Acceleration Phase

Explode out of the starting blocks and have a high stride frequency (the amount of times your foot hits the ground) while generating as much power as possible. Gradually rise into an upright position and start to increase your stride length.

Once your maximum effort of stride frequency meets your maximum effort of your stride length, then you have converted over to the Maximum Velocity phase.

Everything before Max V is considered your Acceleration Phase.

Maximum Velocity Phase

Stride Length + Stride Frequency = Maximum Velocity (the absolute fastest that you can personally sprint).

Everyone is slightly different, but we typically see sprinters reach their Max V phase between 30-60 meters.

We know for certain that an athlete can not physically hold their maximum speed for much longer than 40 meters. Once you start to slightly decrease your maximum velocity, we then enter the last phase of the race; Deceleration Phase.

Speed Endurance (Deceleration Phase)

Typically when we hear the word "endurance", we think about someone running a 5k. However, in this case, we're not referring to our aerobic endurance, but rather our anaerobic endurance.

The goal of this phase is to stay as close as possible to your top speed; limiting the amount that your Max V declines. At some point within the last 40 meters of the 100, you will no longer be able to keep your top speed, but how much can you decrease the rate to which you slow down?

How it Translates

This picture below is my attempt to draw how the three phases look like in a 100 meter dash.

The three separate lines show how all runners are different. Some might reach their Max V phase quicker than others while some will hold this phase just slightly longer than others.

Shown below is a very intriguing graph that was put together by the amazing staff at

In the graph, there are seven athletes listed who all came to their 100 meter times in slightly different ways:

We're able to see exactly how Usain Bolt ran a 9.69 at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. As we can see, his reaction time was actually the slowest out of everyone listed. Even in the first 40 meters, his time was very comparable to most Olympic sprinters. It's not until half way through the race before we see the greatest sprinter of all time create separation.

We see him pull away during his Max V phase. He hit his top speed half way through the race and held it for an entire 40 meters. The reason his last 10 meter split was so slow, is because he started to celebrate, which is just INSANE!

In Summary

Sprinters must train all three phases of their race in order to be successful.

- Have a high stride frequency while driving into the ground with maximum force during the acceleration phase.

- Increase your stride length while you keep your powerful stride frequency as you reach your maximum velocity phase.

- Stay relaxed from your shoulders on up as you try to have your top speed decrease as little as possible during your speed endurance phase.


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