Max Velocity is more important than Acceleration

Posted by Latif Thomas

When it comes to training all elements of acceleration and max velocity (top end speed), I used to be a ‘short to long’ purist.

On paper it’s completely reasonable to assume if an athlete can’t accelerate from 0-10m the way you want then having them do 20m and 30m runs is counterproductive.

Because it will be crap.

And, so far as I can tell, it is still the prevailing wisdom amongst the sprints coaching gurus.

It must be true then, right?

Sure. But…

Imagine the average of your top 5-10 100m sprinters.

Picture them coming out of the blocks and accelerating…

Got a video of it in your head?

Now, here’s the key question:

How many steps (I won’t even call them “pushes” yet) do they take *before* their toe lands in front of the knee and/or the shin is vertical at foot strike?

1 step?

3 steps?

5 steps?

If you’re not sure – pull up some video of your 4×100 team. (I’ll wait.)

Let’s be extremely generous and say they can get through 10m with acute shin angles.

That means they’re spending 90% of their race in Max V / Top End Speed mechanics. In the 400 that’s >97% of their race.


If they live in Max V / Top End Speed (and maintenance) mechanics, shouldn’t we spend a proportional amount of time addressing those factors during practice?



“No, Latif. You’re wrong. Speed/quality of efficient acceleration sets up the other 90% of the race. Neglect acceleration and inferior Max V / Top End Speed mechanics will compound rate of deceleration so it’s not an accurate analysis of what’s happening during the start / drive phase.”

OK guy. You’re not wrong.

So what’s the answer?


Does good Max V / Top End Speed mechanics overcome or negate sloppy and short duration acceleration?

Or does good acceleration lay the foundation for the other >90% of the race?

Well, you know I’m going to say:

It depends.

Not very satisfying …even though you know it’s the appropriate response.

If you’ve followed me for any length you know I’m not going to stick you with a half ass non-answer.

The other day a coach messaged me asking my thoughts on this topic. So here is the question, as well as my unedited answer:


It’s not likely anything you’ve read here has changed your mind. And I’m not saying I’m right because there isn’t a concrete *right* answer.

All we can do is try to give it our best guess. When you think about it, all of coaching is just guessing.

So how do you “guess better” as it relates to your particular situation?

It starts with developing a deeper and more specific understanding of:

✅Which technical errors adversely affect both acceleration and max velocity / top end speed…

✅What they look like…

✅Why they manifest…

✅How to fix them.


That’s it! 👀


Latif Thomas - Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic at Harvard University, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics across the country, Latif has true passion for the sport and it definitely shows. Over the past 19 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All-State, and New England Champions in sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he can count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter.

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