Most sports are played in a confined spaced, forcing athletes to stop and start quickly while reacting to each other and the flow of the game. A play is often decided by an athlete’s first few steps, whether it is a wide receiver beating a DB off the line or 100-meter sprinter coming out of the blocks. Because of this, first-step quickness and acceleration are incredibly important for all athletes.
Developing first-step quickness comes down to performing explosive, ground-based movements that force you to rapidly accelerate from a start position into full speed as quickly and powerfully as possible. Box jumps, loaded starts and plyometric exercises are great tools for training your body to produce the power needed to get up to full speed.
In addition, reaction drills that force an athlete to respond to different stimuli are great for training both first-step quickness and acceleration in a sports-specific manner.
Athletes who can produce a powerful first step and use proper mechanics during the acceleration phase will reach top-end speed as quickly as possible. This is a deadly weapon for any athlete.
Top-end speed, the maximum speed at which someone can sprint, is crucial for any athlete looking to break away from the pack. Having a faster top speed makes a huge difference no matter what sport you play, but it’s particularly important for track athletes, since the faster their top speed, the better chance they have of racing to victory.
To improve top-end speed, it’s important to refine your sprint mechanics, which will enhance your top sprinting speed by making your stride more efficient. Also, overspeed training, which forces you to sprint faster than you could without a band or partner providing assistance, is another key component to developing top-end speed.
Other drills that require an athlete to reach full speed and maintain it, like flying sprints, also develop this coveted top gear of sprinting.
Want to be able to run fast in the closing minutes of a game, or maintain speed during the home stretch of a long race? You need speed endurance, which enables you to run faster longer. And the longer you can run fast, the more impact you can have at the end of competition when fatigue sets in.
As you begin to fatigue, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, causing a burning, heavy-leg sensation and resulting in slower running and the breakdown of sprinting form. Speed endurance training helps condition your body to delay the onset of lactic acid accumulation by increasing your anaerobic threshold.
As your body gets more efficient with speed endurance, you will get better at adapting to the buildup of lactic acid, and in time, your body will be able to more quickly remove it.
Interval training is one of the most effective ways to improve speed endurance, since it involves repeated bouts of intense activity separated by brief periods of rest or lighter, less intense activity. Running gassers is also a good way to condition your body to maintain a fast pace and proper form when fatigued.