In sports, speed is king. It is the one thing that tends to stand out among athletes, and has become a focal point for many who are seeking to improve. We exist as a speed school for that very reason: to make athletes faster and improve their performance.
When we look at some of the technical skills that allow athletes to increase their speed, one thing repeatedly comes up that can help many improve: decreasing the angle of the shin as it relates to the ground.
Acceleration, or the ability to get to a top end speed quickly, requires athletes to push the ground backward and apply force in a manner that propels them forward. A common flaw we see with untrained athletes is that they apply force into the ground with a vertical shin, and therefore propel themselves up rather than forward. This is okay when we are maintaining a top end speed and carrying momentum, but in order to reach that top speed we must gain forward momentum. This is where shin angle comes into play.
In order to propel the body forward the shin must be as steep as an athlete's strength levels will let them achieve. If you imagine the lower leg as a straight arrow, with the tip extending through the heel, it will give us a clue as to where an athlete is applying force. The more that arrow points backwards, the more likely an athlete will accelerate in an explosive manner and get to a top speed quickly.
This is especially crucial for team sport athletes such as basketball, baseball, football, and soccer etc. Not only do these athletes have to display high speeds, they must do so on a moments notice and in multiple directions. It's why we teach change of direction mechanics in the manner that we do, as our deceleration techniques allow for reacceleration in an opposing direction by allowing a steeper shin angle. This is also why we utilize certain drills such as wall drives, falling starts, and half-kneeling starts in our acceleration training. These drills allow us to train patterns in a steeper shin angle in order to accelerate more efficiently.
Obviously, this is just one aspect of the equation, but for athletes who struggle with accelerating on the field, this is one of the first places to start looking. Watch the shin in relation to the ground, watch where they apply force, and you're likely going to find the key to unlocking some speeds!