Logically, one would think that Bolt did so by moving his legs faster than anyone else. Only he didn't.
Speed, as it turns out, may be completely misunderstood.
When Bolt established the current 100-meter world record in the 2009 world championships, running it in 9.58 seconds, he did so by moving his legs at virtually the same pace as his competitors. In fact, if you or I were to compete against Bolt, our legs would turn over at essentially the same rate as his.
This is a theory put forth by academics and track coaches alike who contend that running fast has more to do with the force one applies to the ground than how quickly one can move one's legs.
More than a decade ago, Peter Weyand, a science professor at Southern Methodist University, conducted a study on speed. Comparing athletes to non-athletes, Weyand clocked both test groups as they ran at their top speed. What he found shocked him.
"The amount of time to pick up a leg and put it down is very similar," he says. "It surprised us when we first figured it out."
So if leg turnover is the same, how does one person run faster than another?
Weyand discovered that speed is dependent upon two variables: The force with which one presses against the ground and how long one applies that force.
Think of the legs as springs. The more force they can push against the ground, the further they can propel the body forward, thus maximizing the output of each individual step. In a full sprint, the average person applies about 500 to 600 pounds of force. An Olympic sprinter can apply more than 1,000 pounds.
But force isn't the only factor. How quickly that force is applied factors in as well.
Notes….. points to be made..
First, my wish and goal for so0000 long… since even before Bolt, was for anyone/everyone that I talked speed with (vaulters, long jumpers, sprinters or hurdlers) to understand what Weyland (who did the study at Harvard before he was at SMU) and his group discovered with this study. It's not a theory.. it's a fact.. you have to push yourself down the track to run fast.
If you have read anything from Bolts coaches/training you will know the number one "issue" was to stop him from over striding...This has allways been my goal with the six stride chart............
I just presented these "facts" in the Mexico conference and showed the group of 100+ coaches, with the video of Bolts Berlin race, step by step compared to Gay.
I tested Weyands "theories" along with my charts, Vince Anderson's charts and John Smith's 10, 20 and 30 meter "numbers", way back BEFORE Maurice Greene broke the world record, with the Tennessee athletes, with John's athletes (men and women) and with 100's of athletes I had tested from all sports, including women's rugby.
Frequencies are the same. Ground time and "push" is the difference.
AND you must remember this… Form follows function
… this is true in acceleration and in speed, which I can show you by comparing the first 12 steps of Bolt and Gay in the world record race. Which I have tried to show pole vaulters with the six stride step chart.
You can only have the correct "form" if your run is closely matched with the chart.. six step "MID" to grip.. to average bar height.
Side bar……… I read somewhere and have heard it from many coaches and athletes that a 4 step "MID" was BETTER than a six step!!!! The "reasoning/logic" given had something to do with the athlete "steering" or adjusting the run between 4 and 6 steps!!! There "logic" was to check it "after " the adjustment!!!!???
This is completely backwards logic from why it was important to have a "MID" check mark in the first place.
The reason for the six step "mid" (that I can remember since the mid sixties) was BECAUSE the jumper tends to "adjust" four to six steps out (IF they are "off" on the run) you wanted to be "ON" six steps out so there would be NO or less adjustment or disruption in the speed and posture.
So I got "lucky" and created a approach run chart (tool) that matches the physics and "form/posture" for a specific vault based on a "check point" six steps from the takeoff.
Us it… vault better and safer…
By the way I had created a chart for the steps in the hurdles before I started the pole vault chart in 1971… A few weeks ago at the Mexico conference I actually learned from my own lecture about hurdles plus some very good questions from the world class hurdle coaches as to WHY "form follows function" … a great "eye opener" even for me after 40 years of coaching…
Rule one.. you can't fight the physics….
One last side bar…. In Berlin 2009… Vaulters using a 18 step approach run averaged 9.0046 MPS over the last 10 meters… Vaulters using 20 steps averaged 9.401 MPS
Food for thought…