Usain Bolt is the fastest man on the planet. He’s demonstrated this in two straight Olympic games. Track coaches, sprint aficionados, strength coaches, and biomechanists have much fun speculating as to whether or not Usain could get faster and how he should go about improving his speed.
In the video below (see the 5:38 mark), former Olympic gold medalist sprinter Michael Johnson and his colleague Lance Walker mention that Usain Bolt could be faster if he improved his mechanics.
What’s My Take on Usain’s Sprint Performance?
1. Bolt has Superior Horizontal Impulse Production Compared to his Colleagues
During maximum speed running, THIS paper here showed that Bolt’s vertical ground reaction force was surprisingly similar to that of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell (I discussed this study at length in THIS podcast). However, it has been shown in several studies that horizontal measures of sprinting mechanical output are more critical to speed than vertical measures (force, power, and impulse). Since Bolt stays on the ground longer, is less stiff and more compliant, has similar vertical force outputs, takes less strides, and still runs faster than his competitors, some variable has to be greater, and I’d imagine that the variable that stands out most would be horizontal impulse (see HERE for biomechanical definitions). This superior horizontal impulse production is likely attributable to a handful of factors, some of which undoubtedly include Bolt’s stature (long legs) and glute/hamstring power (type II muscle fibers), among other variables.