Improving The 30 Meter Sprint And Why It Is Important For Soccer Players

Why the 30 Meter Dash?

When it comes to assessing how fast an athlete is, in the American football world it is all about the 40 yard dash. Since the rest of the world doesn’t base things on yards and instead uses meters, enter the 30 meter sprint.

The 30 meter sprint is actually 32.8 yards, so it is a bit shorter than a 40 yard dash. Track coaches like the flying 10m and flying 30m as well because most events in track and field are won by the athlete with the best top speed or peak velocity, not the athlete with the most explosive start .However, in soccer, we rarely reach our top speeds and most of the time the ability to accelerate well over shorter distances is what will determine success. That is not to say i don’t believe soccer players should not train their top speed- I definitely do and think every soccer player should include top speed sprinting to train the hip flexors, hamstrings, and develop overall athleticism and coordination. Plus, rarely will someone have great top speed and a poor start anyways. But, starting speed is much more trainable and again, more relevant in the sport of soccer. To get even more specific, in soccer we often sprint on a curve and have to do it relative to the context of the match such as the other 21 players and the ball. I am all for including curved sprints and all the like, but if you’re not fast in a straight line then you won’t be very fast on a curve. Furthermore, we are talking about something that all kids and competitors like- an objective way to measure performance.

Are you fast? Time Yourself

If you truly want to know if you are fast and if the training you are doing is making you faster, it is important stay objective by timing yourself. If you have a laser system at your disposal, great. If not, a stopwatch is just fine, so long as you measure the exact same way on the same exact surface every time for your pre and post tests.

Before I talk about ways to improve the 30 meter time, here is a chart to give you an idea about different times and where you may stack up.


Well, where do you measure up? Don’t worry, with the tips i will give you there are surely miliseconds and maybe even seconds to shave off your time.

How To Improve The 30 Meter?

Speed and acceleration is a dynamic task that comes down to so many factors to anatomy, body fat percentage, hormones, and more. But all of those factors ultimately come down to influencing 2 simple concepts:

  1. Applying as much force as possible into the ground in a short amount of time (100 to 200ms)

  2. Apply that force in the correct direction (horizontal force in this case)

I have talked a lot about carrying low body fat levels and optimiing your strength to weight ratio. That will depend a lot on nutrition intake. In this short article i wil focus more on training to improve the application of force in the 30m. Let’s start with applying as much forcce as possible in as short of amount of time as possible. To do this, there are a few categories of exercises that are listed below from fast to slow in terms of how quickly force is produced:

a. overspeed jumps and sprints to get you to improve the rate at which you develop force

b. sprinting without load

c. sprinting with load in the form of wearable resistance, weighted vests, and then more resistence in the form of using a sled or prowler

d .plyometrics to get you to learn how to co-contract musculature in the proper timing and amount that allows your tendons to function as springs (bounds, depth jumps, etc.)

c. explosive exercises that are concentrated on generating force against a load quickly for optimizing power production (jump squats or the pull phase of olympic lifts) and/or absorbing and possibly reversing the direction of force (the landing phase of a jump squat or the catch of an olympic lift)

d. heavy strength work that increases total available force - even within this realm of exercises exist isometric holds against an immovable object even thought the intention is to move it or exercsises where the load is heavy and you are trying not to let a joint or multiple joints (lunge or squat hold) collapse. Generally these exercises consist of traditional lifts like squat, deadlift, RDL, lunge, and all of their variations.

How much a certain person needs to emphasize exercises from the above listed training options will depend on their varying strengths and weaknesses. The time of year, upcoming or previous game, past or current injury status, etc. are also very important considerations. If a soccer player has a tendon issue then plyometrics will have to be implemented in a certain way that does not exacerbate the injury and instead adds to the healing process and resilience of the tissue.

I would argue that for most soccer players, the game itself inherently trains a lot of the qualties on the faster rate of force development side of things. As such, spending some time with the loaded stuff is where speed will improve the most, at least initially. Before you can apply a large enough force quicly, you need to have the force, or strength, in the first place. Strength training with heavier loads also increases tendon thickness and prevents injuries. The place of diminshing returns on strength is an interesting subject and coaches like to come up with ratios between exercises to determine if someon is faster than they are strong, or stronger than they are fast. In fact, a top researcher named JB Morin from France talks about this subject a lot and came up with an algorithm and 2 Apps to test it. You can download the MyJump app to get a basic idea about whether you are speed or force dominanant, or download the MySprint for a more specific speed test that actually uses the 30m sprint.

Most studies show that big increases in strength only lead to modest improvements in speed. However, studies using loads that optimize power output (keep in mind they have technology to measure this and most of use do not) improve athletic performance more than heavier, slower forms of lifting. That is all well in the short term, but eventually those power exercsises will hit a plateau and the only way to improve the power output any further will be by adding more strength. Wthout going too much into organizing a program, over time we want to optimize power until we hit a ceiling, add more strength, and optmize power again. A more common way of approaching this is get strong, then improve power, and repeat by getting stronger again. Which is better? I am not sure, but there is plenty of evidence in support of sequentially getting stronger, then more powerful. For soccer players, we never want to stray too far from speed and agility and dedicate too much time in the weight room, so often it is good to include all aspects of training into a program and simply emphasize different qualities at different times when needed. The point is, to run faster we must improve power output and getting stronger plays a role.

Cormie et al. (14) reported that combined training results in improvements in power across a greater range of loaded activities and increased maximal strength to a greater degree compared with power or strength only training.

What about number 2, applying force in the right direction?

To improve force application in the correct direction, it will come down to training movements and thus, muscles in a way that enhances force production horizonally, as well as getting better the skill involved of achieving the right positions. Resisted sprinting with a sled or a prowler (sled preferred) is a fantastic way to combine both. The load allows athletes to get into a good posture of leaning forward and the resistance of the sled trains the hip extensors, quads, and calves, in a sychronized way. If you lack the strength side of the curve based on the force velocity profile, then you can use heavier sleds. If you are strong but slow, ligher sleds can be used to work on generating force more rapidly.

Whilst we want to apply force to the ground with a horizontal componet, similar to what I said about applying force quickly, we still need to have some force or strength to apply in the first place. For that reason, getting stronger in exercises that work in a sagital (up and down) plane of motion will still transfer to acceleration for many of us. Then, via sprinting, we learn to apply that strengh into the ground. Therefore, exercises like squat variations on one leg (Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats or Step Ups) and Deadlift variations ( i.e. Trap Bar) are still effective. However, to really specialize in the horizontal application of force, there are better options. Here are a few:

Hip Thrusts - while research has been conflicting on the value of heavy hip thrusts for sprinting, when loaded a bit lighter for power development the hip thrust is a great exercise, especialloy on the smith machine when you can release the weight at the top of the movement by driving it as fast as possible off the hips. Thanks to the machine, it comes down under control and doesnt crush us. Remember what i said about the ceiling of strength and power- eventually you will need to get stronger to move that power load faster, so heavier hip thrusts are still invited to the party.

Back Extensions- the straight leg involved is not super specific to acceleration, but the exercise is a great general way of building the lower back strength to maintain good forward lean posture and the hip extension strength we need out of our glutes and hamstrings in a horizontal force vector.

Horizontal Jumps- more on the rate side, these will take that strength and transfer it to the faster movements that correlate especially well to the first few steps or 10-20m. Technique on bounding exercises will be key as you wil want to strike with the forefoot underneath your center of mass and avoid over reaching and landing on the heel.

What next?

My suggestion is to first go out and test your 30m time. Then, if you really want to know whether you are lacking on the force or velocity side of things, or perhaps you need a blend of both, you need to figure it out to see which aspects to prioritize in training. I say either use common sense- are you strong in the weight room or slow on the field or weak in the weight room but still fast? Or download one of the apps I mentioned and test. Then, come up with a program, order my ebook which has some pretty solid programs, or hire me to write one specifically for you.

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