Speed Training: You Don’t Need Frills

November 12, 2017

Speed is critical to sports performance. One of the side effects of the systematic incorporation of strength and conditioning into sports is that athletes are becoming bigger, stronger and they are a lot faster than they used to be. This means that if we have prospective athletes, speed training is something they are going to have to incorporate into their programs. Nowadays, lifting weights and practicing the sport are not enough!


In a previous post ( http://www.cissik.com/blog/2017/10/speed-running-fast-is-a-skill/ ), we talked about the fact that running fast is a skill that needs to be practiced. From a marketing and client-generating standpoint, having a lot of toys and special drills is a great idea. But from the development of groups of athletes, this isn’t the best use of their time. In this post I’m going to put out some ideas about speed training with teams of athletes.


Before diving in, let me begin with some disclaimers. First, athletes don’t function as sprinters during team sports. Last time I wrote something like this someone got all bent out of shape on Twitter. Let me explain, basketball players don’t line up in the starting blocks, react to the starting gun, and then run in a perfectly straight line for 100 meters. This means that analyzing a basketball player’s movement patterns in sprinting terminology is going to have limited effectiveness.


Second, I believe that if you are a normal, healthy person then you know how to recruit your muscles. So, in my opinion, speed issues aren’t due to the inability of you to recruit your gluteus minimus (for example). Rather, they are due to a combination of factors including strength, force application, will, and genetics.


Third, while we often train speed training in isolation, it needs to be done in the context of the sport. Remember, outside of track and field we don’t run in a perfectly straight line for a pre-determined distance in other sport situations.


Finally, a lot of things have to be trained simultaneously. I think we’ve done strength and conditioning a disservice with the idea that we spend x number of weeks working on hypertrophy, then x number of weeks working on strength, then we do power, etc.


What needs to be trained simultaneously? For me, these are the things that give us the biggest return for our time:

  1. Strength: for reasons we talked about in the last post, strength is important for exerting force against the ground and for maintaining posture.
  2. Force application: We have to exert force horizontally to run fast, this is where your plyos come in.
  3. Long and strong hamstrings: For injury prevention, we need hamstrings that are strong in the lengthened position. This trained with strength, but also via warm-ups and cool downs during speed training.
  4. Mobility: If there are limitation to our ability to move through our full range-of-motion, then these limitations will potentially limit our speed. This is your warm-up for speed training.
  5. Straight line speed: This teaches “ideal” techniques. The cues we work on here will be carried over to the next point. I’d start speed training sessions out with this.
  6. Speed in the sport’s context: This means using the ball, the field, opponents, and situations and using our speed technical cues during them.


In the next post, we’ll put all this together and show some workouts that incorporate all of this.