Get Faster with High-Speed Treadmill Training

Training on a high-speed treadmill can help athletes get faster.

 

The high speed treadmill (HST) is one of those unique instruments that, although highly effective, has come under much scrutiny. Early Russian research supported the benefits of inclined and over-speed applications for the enhancement of sprint performance through the use of towing, most commonly with a car or motorcycle. The high-speed motorized treadmill was developed to bring both of these applications together.

With a high-speed treadmill, the coach is able to teach mechanics and body position at specific velocities, inclinations and time, to progressively enhance ability and performance in a safe environment.

For straight-line sprinting speed, using a high speed treadmill has the same benefits to lower-extremity strength and power as traditional lifting techniques like the Back Squat and Power Clean.

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Criticisms

Common criticisms of HST training are that the treadmill does all the work, running mechanics change because of the moving belt and running over-ground is completely different. However, consider these points:

  • The kinematics, ground-reaction forces, and metabolic cost of locomotion are nearly indistinguishable from over-ground locomotion when the treadmill has an adequate motor and flywheel, and the belt speed does not vary. Basically, a stiff and powerful treadmill emits the same forces and physiological adaptations to the body as ground-based running.
  • Speed training on a treadmill provides load resistance based on spatial position and gravitational pull during bouts performed on inclines greater than 0% grade. If the HST is at an incline anywhere above 0% grade, the body has to apply force in the same sequential firing pattern to propel the body both vertically and horizontally while adequately holding its position on the treadmill.
  • Inclined treadmill sprinting creates adaptations in stride frequency by increasing lower extremity muscle activation and joint angular velocities. Similar to resistance training with lower-body movements to improve both muscle force and power, using an HST to induce these adaptations is no different from using a heavy Back Squat to improve force development, or a Power Clean to improve lower-extremity power.

Benefits

Two key components determine speed improvements on an HST—raw miles per hour and duration at a particular velocity. In addition, you can calculate total work performed and power outputs per bout and training session.

The HST allows athletes to work within a "True Velocity Training Zone," which is categorized between 80 and 90% of maximum velocity. The incline adds a "speed-strength" component, increasing muscle activation in the correct mechanical sequence, preventing over-striding and eliminating excessive braking forces. Since you work concentrically when performing inclined HST training, you can increase the frequency of training because of the diminished eccentric forces (braking forces induced by flat ground contact).

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How-To

HST programming can vary based on the sport and time of year. Typically with HST training, especially with inclination, gradual progressions help you acclimate to the incline and the non-traditional sensation of treadmill sprinting. A rule-of-thumb with HST applications is as the elevation increases, time on the treadmill decreases. The goal is to keep running velocity as high as possible without losing control or breaking proper mechanics. Here is a basic HST progression for an experienced high school athlete:

Speed (mph)

Sets

Elevation

Time (sec)

Rest

5%

:20

:40

10%

:15

:60

10

15%

:10

:60

11

20%

:08

:75

12

15%

:06

:60

13

10%

:06

:60

15

5%

:08

:60


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: POWER CLEAN | RUNNING | POWER | CLEAN | SPRINT | MECHANICS | VELOCITY | TREADMILL | HIGH SPEED