Speed can be defined as the ability to cover a certain distance in the shortest time possible. Every coach wants athletes who run fast—after all, the fastest team usually wins. And while speed is somewhat determined by genetics, all athletes can increase their speed to some degree.
Speed is an attribute that can be improved through a proper training program. Concentrate on the following four factors to increase your speed.
For speed work, flexibility is extremely important, especially in the hip flexors, hamstrings, chest, shoulders and upper back. Full range of motion will enable consistently correct running form, because your muscles will have the ability to function properly. Perform dynamic warm-ups to make sure your body is warmed up. Then you’ll be limber enough to perform speed drills.
Good form (a.k.a. proper mechanics) during speed work or training drills is a must. Repeating poor technique over and over forms bad habits that are hard to break. Using using proper mechanics will give you the best chance to reach your potential and run faster. Have a coach watch you to ensure you’re employing good form.
Developing speed is all about applying force into the ground as quickly as possible. All phases of a sprint should be done with violent force without sacrificing proper technique. Force training is accomplished by performing strength exercises in an explosive fashion using a full range of motion. Plyometrics will also aid in developing powerful force.
Once proper technique is attained, begin to progressively increase the speed in which you perform drills—and how often (a.k.a. frequency). Doing so will train your body to remember the muscles recruited in each movement and how to perform the action as fast as possible. A-Skips, B-Skips and Arm Swings are a few exercises you can incorporate into your speed workout to improve this facet of your athleticism. Resisted sprint work at max effort will help you reach the tempo and intensity you need to achieve your peak performance.
Shelton Stevens is a member of the strength staff at the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to joining USM, he was the head strength coach at Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). He has also worked under LSU strength coach Tommy Moffitt, helping to train the Tigers’ nationally-ranked football team and their 2009 national champion baseball team. During his career, he has worked with four national champions, seven conference champions and 12 All-Americans. He is CSCCa, SCCC, USAW, NSCA and RSCC certified, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in athletic administration.