The Case for Strength – Sprinting and Vertical Jump

Sprinting and vertical jump performance are important skills in the game of soccer. In terms of sprinting, a soccer player will sprint every 90 s during a match. These sprints average about 2-4 seconds and can account for up to 11% of the distance covered during a match.

And with vertical jump performance think of all the times a player will go up for a header, off a corner or as a keeper exploding up to deflect a ball over the cross bar.

So while intuitively it makes sense that sprinting and jumping are important in soccer it would be beneficial to know how important they are. And from a strength and conditioning perspective, how important is a strength exercise like the back squat, to improving these qualities?

A group of researchers looked to answer these questions and called upon a Norwegian pro soccer club to participate in the study. 17 male soccer players from Rosenborg FC, average age 25 years, were put through a number of performance tests to see how what the relationship was between the 1 RM half squat with sprinting and jumping. Rosenborg FC is a top flight team in Norway having won their league a number of times and participating in the Champions League.

For the 1 RM back half squat players did barbell back squats to 90 degrees of knee flexion, adding load until a 1 RM was determined. Once they were warmed up, most players took three to six sets to determine their 1 RM.

For the sprint test, players ran from 0-30 m with photocell timing gates. Splits were recorded at each 10 m and the players rested 5 minutes between the two attempts. The best sprint time was included in the data presented.

And for the vertical jump a force platform was used to determine vertical displacement. Players jumped three times with a minute of rest between attempts. The best jump score was included in the data presented.

What they found was that there was a strong correlation to 1 RM half squat strength with sprint and vertical jump performance. In other words, the strongest players, as determined by lifting the most during the 1 RM half squat, had the fastest sprints and highest vertical jumps. The correlation between 1 RM squat and 10 m sprint was r=.94. The vertical jump correlated strongly with a r=0.78 and the 30 m sprint having an r=0.71.

The horizontal axis shows the 1 RM squat strength of the players increasing from L to R. The vertical axis shows the various performance tests including 10 m sprint (top L), 30 m sprint (top R), 10 m shuttle (bottom L) and vertical jump (bottom R). The tightly packed data of the 10 m sprint and vertical jump indicate stronger players sprint faster and jump higher. From Wisloff et al. (2004)

While it is important for athletes to train and be strong, this study indicates that squat strength is key for sprinting and jumping. As well, it appears that squatting is more important with shorter sprints i.e. 10 m v 30 m, and thus has an impact on acceleration and initial power. With jumping, power and vertical acceleration are particularly relevant for success with this athletic quality.


Wisloff U, Castagna C, Helgerud J, Jones R, Hoff J. Strong correlation of maximal strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players. Br J Sports Med. 2004;38:285–288.

Built for Show – And for Go

There seems to be a school of thought when it comes to resistance training that you’re either training for performance or for aesthetics. It’s either bodybuilding or strength and conditiong. Built for show or for go.

It was as though the two goals were mutually exclusive and could not overlap.

Meatheads would mock those who couldn’t build 20 inch arms. And athletes would point out all the gym rats that trip over their own feet during a game of football.

But is that the case?

If you train for hypertrophy i.e. size, does that mean you’ll be useless on the playing field?

New research says that’s not the case.

The study look at muscle volume and strength and compared this among three groups 1) elite sprinters n= 5, 2) sub-elite sprinters n= 26, and untrained controls n=11. All study subjects were male. Elite sprinters were defined as though that could run a 10.10 second 100 meter and sub-elite as though that could run the 100 m in 10.80 seconds.

To put in perspective how fast a 10.10 second 100 metre is, only four Canadians have ever run a sub 10 second 100 m including Olympic champion Donovan Bailey and Olympic bronze medallist Andre De Grasse.

The study subjects underwent MRIs to determine muscle volume of 23 lower limb muscles and 5 functional muscles. These were then correlated to 100 m times and isometric strength.

What they found was that the muscularity of elite sprinters was greater in elite sprinters than sub-elite and both were greater than the controls. In particular the hip extensors showed the biggest difference among the groups and this accounted for 31-48% of the variability in 100 m times.

Of the hip extensors it turns out the gluteus maximus alone accounted for 34-44 % of variance in 100 m sprint time.

There is substantial difference in the size and volume of the gluteus maximus in elite sprinters compared to sub-elite sprinters and even moreso with untrained controls.

In terms of isometric strength, plantar flexors, or the muscles we use to point our toes, showed no difference. Both sprint groups were stronger, isometrically, but this was not related to sprint times.

The take home message is that you can train to be like J-Lo and Usain Bolt at the same time. Building a bigger backside helps fill out your favourite pair of denim and sprint faster.

Miller, R., Balshaw, T. G., Massey, G. J., Maeo, S., Lanza, M. B., Johnston, M., & Folland, J. P. (2020). The Muscle Morphology of Elite Sprint Running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

The Importance of Lower-Limb Joints on Sprinting

Did you ever take chemistry in school? If so, you may remember something known as the rate limiting step.

Top 12 Reasons to Run

Are you a runner? It’s kind of one of those questions that generates a pretty clear answer.

The Myth of Triple Extension

Last weekend Graeme and I had the opportunity to attend a speed coaching clinic with Derek Evely. Derek was the Leeborough Centre Director of UK Athletics from 2009-2012 prior to the London Olympic games in 2012. He has  coached a number of number of Olympic podium athletes and continues to work with some of the best hammer throwers in the world.

Are 800s the Ultimate Fitness Test?

Have you ever run 800s?

If you’ve competed in track and field there’s a good chance you may have some experience with this distance. And therefore you know how awful this event can be.

8 Week 10 K Running Clinic

Starting next Monday August 13 Okanagan Peak Performance Inc is proud to present its 8 Week 10 K Running Clinic. So what brought this about? Well there are lots of people who start running programs. And fewer complete them. And fewer stay injury free. And fewer get faster over the years.

Are you one of these people?

5 Lessons Learned From 1/2 Marathon Training (half way)

So we’re just past the half way in preparing for the 1/2 Marathon at the end of the month. And by ‘we’ I’m referring to a number of us in Kelowna, some in Washington and a couple in Vancouver. You see we’re following this crazy experiment to get ready to race 21.1 kilometres without running more than a half mile at a time.

More than a few people think we’re crazy. A more still are really curious to know how we’re going to make out. But you know what?

It’s working!

Sprinting & Other Types of Movement

On the weekend a group us met up for our ‘Non Running 1/2 Marathon Training Program’. And in case you haven’t been following this before this is a training program where we don’t do any running over 1/2 a mile in order to get ready for a 1/2 marathon.

This is the opposite of what 99.9% of people competing in this race will be doing.

But we’re not just going to complete the race. We’re going there to compete in it.