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Sprint running performance is an important aspect of many sports. Various studies have studied the relationship between strength and sprinting performance and it appears maximal free weight squat strength and sprint performance are correlated in well-trained individuals.
This study looked to compare maximal back squat strength and 5-, 10-, and 20-m sprint performances and their relationships in well-trained athletes and recreationally trained individuals.
What was done
Twenty-four, professional, rugby league players and twenty recreationally trained individuals performed maximal squat strength and sprint performances on separate days. On the sprint day, participants performed three 20-m sprints, where 5, 10, and 20 m times were assessed.
There was not significantly significant different between the two groups in the 5-meter sprint, however there was statistically significant different times in the 10- and 20-meter times.
Statistically significant correlations were found between 5-m sprint times in both groups, however, in the 10- and 20- meter distances, only the recreational group had significant correlations with relative strength.
The lack of difference between times in the 5-meter run is potentially due to the innate properties involved in this short a distance. In the longer runs, the lack of correlation with relative strength in the well-trained group is potentially due to the stretch-shortening cycle, therefore reducing the relationship between maximal strength and sprint performance over longer distances.
Practical Implication
The correlation between maximal strength and swimming already lacks evidence. If running does not have a direct correlation with squat strength, then it is unlikely swimming has any correlation. Also, the only correlation was found in the 5-meter distance, a race much shorter than any swimming distance. 

This study also did not look at elite athletes, making the connection between these participants and elite swimmers likely minimally. However, it supports the notion that maximal squat strength does not appear to be relative for running and likely swimming.
Related Reading
Further evidence for the Principle of Specificity and the limited (to zero) applications of “cross training”for performance enhancement. 

Swimming Science Research Review 

This is a piece of the July Swimming Science Research Review. Read Swimming Science Research Review September 2012 for a complete list of the articles reviewed.

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Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS world-renowned physical therapist and strength coach.
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