Before diving into the details of effective speed development strategies, let us first look at what’s keeping athletes from gaining speed abilities. The truth is, enhancing speed has little to do with changing what you are doing. Instead, it is much more a matter of changing the philosophical approach to what you are already doing. You see, most speed training programs are unsuccessful since they are anchored on faulty assumptions and outdated means of developing speed.
So which are the misconceptions misleading our high school athletes when it comes to speed development and around what concepts should effective speed training be centered?
The only way athletes can develop speed is by being fast in their different forms of training. You can’t gain speed in the field or court yet you are slow in all other activities. Every activity should consist of high-speed movements. It’s not only your running which should be fast but also jumping exercises, bar movement in the weight room, etc.
Wind sprints won’t get you there
Wind sprints help athletes develop anaerobic fitness but they are not used for speed development. Athletes feel fast on the first few sprints before fatigue sets in and their velocity becomes submaximal. For speed development, an athlete must run at a maximal velocity.
Be careful with endurance work and don’t combine it with speed training
Endurance work destroys speed qualities since it involves repetition of slow movements. These slow movements wreck speed abilities by eroding the fast muscle contraction capabilities.
In as much as endurance work is helpful to athletes, the benefits of speed development outweigh it. You should prioritize on speed training and focus on endurance work later.
- Keep runs short and remember to have enough resting time
Running for very long distances leads to accumulation of fatigue which is not good for speed training. It’s advisable to run short distances for effective speed development.
Athletes should have adequate rest time so that they will have maximum intensity during training. A good training program should devote half of the training day to rest work and the other half to high-intensity activities.
Don’t mistake conditioning for speed development
Mistaking conditioning for speed development is a common mistake made by both athletes and coaches. Some of the finest coaches have admitted to making this mistake at a certain point in their career. Conditioning involves such activities as doing gassers which can’t make you faster. Speed is developed by short but quick bursts.
You need to be fresh and alert for speed development.
The central nervous system should be very active at this time. That’s why true speed training only takes about 15 to 20 minutes. You should take time to fully recover before embarking on the next set.
With the key concepts for a good speed training philosophy out of the way, let us move on to some detailed workouts for speed development.
The starting point
The best way to begin a speed training program is to first take an assessment test from a professional coach. The assessment will help you understand where you are so that you can determine where you want to get to. The coach will also offer his advice on how best you should go about the program.
Develop your aerobic system
Although not necessarily important for the track, it helps athletes perform many sprints in a game. Athletes should spend some time in circuit training during their off-season traning program. It helps to build the strength and overall capacity of the heart. It’s best done by wearing a monitor and staying in the range of 120 to 150 beats per minute. Later on during the season, performing repeat sprints will be a much easier task.
Hit the weights
Most athletes underate the power of strength training when it comes to speed development. Implementing a strength training program with safe and effective progressions will go a long way to help you realize your dream of becoming a speedy athlete. Hitting the weights helps an athlete to put force on the ground while sprinting.
It is also important to master your body weight so as to develop a good posture. Having an upright posture while doing sprints will have a postive impact on your movements around the field
Learn to adjust quickly
Athletes rarely run in a straight line in the field or court. They accelerate, change direction and stop from time to time. Athletes should learn how to keep the intensity of these movements high. Doing hill sprints is a great way to better yourself at this. Sprint up a hill for about 30 seconds and then walk down slowly. You can repeat this exercise for as many times as you can handle.
Work on your flexibiliy
Flexibility geared towards speed development does not entail anything as complex as acrobatic moves but on easing the movement of your ankles, knees and shoulders. The flexibility of these body parts can be worked out during warm-up.
Speed enables an athlete to move around the field or court like a great player should. Although there are several factors at play when one is changing direction or running, following the suggestions listed here is a step in the right direction towards speed development. And remember to have fun in the entire process. That’s what sports are all about!