Resisted speed training methods are often used to increase acceleration and maximal velocity. A quick first step is very critical for being able to make game-changing plays like blowing past defenders. Resisted speed training operates on the principle that when we work against a moderate amount of resistance, our muscles become stronger and are able to produce greater amounts of force, which in turn makes us faster when the resistance is removed.
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An important thing to note when using resistance speed training methods is that if they’re used improperly, this very beneficial training method can quickly become detrimental by altering our running mechanics. Because of this, it’s crucial to be aware of a few things when using resistance implements, namely:
- What aspect of speed is being developed
- The proper loading protocol to elicit greater force output without altering mechanics
- How to fit this implement into your training program
Here are five of the most commonly used tools for speed training and a guide to how to add them to your program.
Hill running is excellent for a number of reasons. It allows you to train at maximal velocities and it’s safer than running on a flat surface, because the slope of a hill shortens the distance your legs have to land, thus reducing impact. Hill Sprints improve the drive phase, which helps you reach maximum velocity quicker. The incline of hills also encourages proper sprinting mechanics, which in turn improves overall speed by making you a more efficient runner. Because of this, Hill Sprints are valuable in a speed training program to build acceleration and maximal velocity.
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Parachutes are a controversial tool for resisted speed training, because so many variables can alter their effectiveness. Wind is a major variable when you use this piece of equipment, because very strong winds can alter running mechanics in a negative manner. Likewise, wind direction can impact the intensity of the workout. Running into a wind stream is more difficult than running away from one. A study published in the Journal of Biology of Exercise found that four weeks of parachute training improved 0-20-meter acceleration by 3.3 percent compared to an unresisted training group. The study showed that the use of parachutes improved stride frequency during the maximal velocity phase. This makes parachutes a valuable training tool for improving acceleration and top end speed.
3. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are effective tools for developing speed, specifically by increasing neuromuscular ability to recruit more muscles. A variety of resistance bands are on the market, allowing you to provide resistance to specific body parts (hips, knees, ankles, etc.) and allowing you to work with resistance through a full range of motion with whatever body part might be weak. Resistance bands can be used for developing initial acceleration and first-step quickness.
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Sled training is typically employed in two ways to develop speed, either by dragging a sled behind you or pushing the weight in front of you. A study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that heavy sled towing (around 43 percent of the subject’s body weight) significantly improved 5-meter and 10-meter acceleration. A different study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that a load as light as 5 kg was able to improve acceleration within the first 20 meters, but unresisted sprinting was more effective during the 20-40-meter max speed phase. Thus, most research has shown sleds of varying weights are extremely effective for building acceleration.
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5. Weighted Vests
Unlike the implements on this list that provide horizontal resistance, weighted vests provide resistance from a vertical vector (the weight is pushing you into the ground). A common rule of thumb with weighted vest training is to use loads no heavier than 10 perent of your bodyweight (a 180-pound athlete wouldn’t go any heavier than 18 pounds). In a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research on the effects on sprint kinetics and kinematics of vest loading using 9 kg (19.8 pounds) and 18 kg (39.6 pounds) vests, it was found that stride length decreased using both loads. Peak ground force was noted during the maximal velocity portion of the sprint with the 18-kg vest. This information is relevant for athletes looking to use vests. Altering your stride length mechanics is not beneficial for increasing speed, but using vests to increase ground force production during maximal velocity exercises can be beneficial for improving speed. Higher levels of ground force production means you put more force into the ground to move your body a further distance with each stride. Use weighted vests as an added resistance to increase ground force production on bodyweight exercises and with stronger more advanced athletes on certain jumping exercises.
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