We've all heard it before: Speed kills. Every athlete is concerned about how fast they are and what they have to do to get "faster." Yet speed training is one of the most misunderstood areas in the strength and conditioning industry.
What makes an athlete fast?
An explosive athlete needs three distinct qualities. These three simple things are often overlooked, yet are the foundation for expressing speed and power.
- Relative strength
- Sound mechanics.
The truth is, you don't need ladders and cool-looking cone drills to train this. By its very nature sport is chaotic; teaching your athlete to anticipate a certain pattern or route will make them unequipped to react optimally to an on field situation. Ditch the fancy stuff and work on what will have an impact.
Relative strength is the foundation to speed and power. Without strength athletes can't be developed fully. Below are some indicators I use to determine where my athletes are in respect to lower-body strength. This in turn dictates the focus points in their training.
Indicators to strive for (males and females ages 16-20).
- Good: You're in a good position right now when it comes to strength. You should still be reaching for great. Speed and power work should be about 10% of your program.
- Great: You're in a great position and you should be seriously focusing on your speed, power and mobility.
- Elite: Exclusively focusing on speed, power and mobility. Perform heavy strength exercises to maintain your relative strength level.
Here are tutorials on how to perform these exercises correctly and decrease the risk of injury. These are complex exercises, and if you haven't worked on the basic fundamental movement patterns such as a Squat, Hinge and Lunge then you still need to earn your right to use these exercises in your program.
An increase in strength can cause your body to lose mobility unless you work on it regularly. Decrease in mobility will also result in a decrease in stride length. Your stride length will have one of the biggest impacts on your speed.
The athlete who takes the fewest steps will always be the fastest. To sprint effectively you'll need a big stride and the ability to achieve specific joint angles. If you do not have the ability to get in these positions your speed will suffer. This is where daily mobility will have a huge impact on your performance.
Here's a great routine to do as a daily routine.
The quality of your movement will always dictate the effectiveness of your performance. If movement quality is poor, you will suffer energy leaks in your form. This will result in not hitting your true potential for speed. Performing regular technique work will have another big impact on your ability to sprint fast.
Check out the video at the top of the article to see a break down of proper sprint form, and try the exercises below to develop these qualities.
Ladder drills and fancy agility exercises have their place in speed training, but it's important to understand the foundation of speed and how to develop it. When you have a good relative strength base, the proper mobility required to sprint and sound technique using power, speed and agility drills will have the greatest impact and truly have speed that kills.
- The 10 Best Speed Exercises for Athletes
- 4 Keys to Speed Training (Plus a 4-Day Workout Plan)
- 4 Speed Training Myths That Are Slowing You Down