I continue to learn better and better methods to help your athletes get faster.  Some of those methods require specifics that are beyond what I can provide – expensive equipment, more space, etc.

But once you learn the theory behind some of those methods, it is trying to figure out a way to inject it into your program using what you have at your disposal.

Foot contact time has always been discussed among speed coaches, but now there has been a greater emphasis to improve it.

When you sprint, the longer your foot stays on the ground, the slower you will be running.

What you want to do is minimize that ground contact time, but generate a heck of a lot of power with each contact.

How do you measure something like that?

We do an individual assessment with everyone that trains with us and one of our tests is called a 4 Jump Test.  We use a vertical jump mat that can do several other things besides testing just vertical jumps and the 4 Jump Test is one of them.

What you do is have the athlete stand on the mat and do 4 jumps rapid fire.  The athlete is supposed to jump as high as they can and as fast as they can for all 4 jumps.  Once that is completed the machine will spit out three numbers.  These numbers are the following:

  • The first number is the average foot contact time of the 4 jumps. The goal is to get around .2 to .23.
  • The second number is their gauge of leg power. It takes the average time spent in the air and divides it by the foot contact time.  The goal is around 2.5.
  • The third number provides the average vertical jump height in inches of the three jumps. The number you are supposed to hit is 20 inches.

Now keep in mind two things when looking at your numbers:

  1. Your goal is to try and be as close to all three goals as you can. It doesn’t help to be good in one area and not in the others.
  2. These goals are based on college athlete standards. So, your 6th grader probably won’t hit these standards, but it is something to shoot for as he/she gets older.

Once we know these numbers, we can then assess how we want to train your athlete to improve upon them.  Knowing if we can improve those numbers, then your speed will probably be improving as well.

The athletes that I have worked with who have had fast top end speed have all had marks close to the goals that we discussed above.

We have also had athletes who initially didn’t get close to the goal numbers.  But, upon reassessing after a period of training and working on foot contact time/power the numbers improved greatly.  They also showed a significant decrease in their times, thus getting a lot faster.

A direct correlation.

You want that speed improved and need to look at some numbers to shoot for?  Do this 4 Jump Test.  It will give you the motivation you need to get faster and when you come close to the goal numbers, you will see the true speed increase that you desire.