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Drive Phase in Sprinting and Weightlifting

What is the Drive Phase?

In track and field, the drive phase is the initial portion of a sprint, where the athlete aims to reach the highest possible speed before becoming fully upright. While not as often used in weightlifting, the drive phase (or simply ‘drive’) is when an athlete performs an explosive movement to complete one portion of a lift, such as thrusting the barbell upward to receive it in a front rack position for a clean and jerk.

A Deeper Look at the Drive Phase

During a drive phase in running, the athlete must be as explosive as possible. Gaining speed from the start involves leaning forward at about 45 degrees and pushing powerfully off the ground.

The initial strides tend to be shorter and quicker, gradually lengthening as the athlete transitions from the drive to an upright position and runs at maximum speed. A good drive phase is crucial for a strong start that sets the pace for the remainder of the run.

Also, according to the Performance Lab of California:

“The most important aspect of the drive phase in sprinting is to avoid changing angles and postures all at once. You want to incrementally increase the angles in how you are pushing off the ground during this phase.”

In weight training, the drive phase is simply referred to as the ‘drive.’ It largely depends on proper timing and explosiveness and is most commonly used in Olympic weightlifting.

This is where the trainee generates as much force as possible from the bottom up, typically by engaging the legs and glutes. Combined with the proper use of momentum, this allows the athlete to accelerate the weight upward and receive it in a high position before the next phase of the lift.


1. How long does the drive phase last in a 100-meter sprint?

It varies between athletes, but the drive phase generally lasts for the first 20 to 30 meters of a 100-meter sprint.

2. How can you improve your drive phase in sprinting?

Focus on technique aspects of the drive phase (e.g., body leaning forward, head down, and using powerful leg thrusts) and use technique drills to improve the initial thrust as well as the transition from short and quick strides to long, more powerful ones.

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