Sprinting has been described as consisting of a series of phases:
- an acceleration phase (typically the first 10 metres);
- a transition phase; and
- a maximum velocity phase.
For sports such as baseball, soccer, rugby, football and basketball, maximum velocity is not always attained, and repeated short sprints are more common. Taking this into consideration, the ability to develop speed in as short a time as possible (acceleration) may be of high importance to many athletes, including baseball players, and exceedingly important in relation to developing maximal baseball speed. It has been proposed that acceleration and maximum velocity are relatively separate and specific qualities.
An athlete’s ability to accelerate his or her body during sprinting is dependent on several factors. These factors include technique and the force production capability of the body, in particular the leg muscles. It has been shown that the technical aspects may have less importance for the acceleration phase of performance than for a typical sprinting event. For example, in many sports the athletes have to accelerate from a lying or crouching position, from landing on 1 leg and pivoting, from catching a ball, and so on. Therefore, the force capability of the muscle may be more important in improving acceleration of the athlete. This point was supported by Dr. Ralph Mann in his publication titled “The Elite Athletes Project: Sprints and Hurdles.” which stated that the ability to perform well in sprints over short distances is dependent on the ability to produce large amounts of force at crucial times.