The basketball player that gets to the loose ball, the tennis player that gets to a drop shot, and the football player that bursts through the line on his way to a touchdown. In the world of sport, the athlete that has speed usually has a major advantage over others. Today athletes seem to be utilizing speed more then ever before. Are some athletes just born with speed? Is speed only something that those few athletes can truly use? NO! Speed can be improved in any athlete, if they train correctly and with intensity.
Sure genetics play a large part in how fast someone can be, but we are not always looking to make our athletes the fastest, just faster then they are now. As Frank Costello, former strength coach of the Washington Capitals, says “a slow athlete may not become fast, but he or she may become faster.” This article will cover some of the basic concepts to help improve any athletes’ speed.
To improve speed we must break down the components of speed development. They are flexibility, running form and technique, stride length and stride frequency. Other components that will help are reaction time, acceleration, strength and power. We will focus just on the first four main components of speed.
Increasing ones flexibility is key to improving ones speed. They are several ways to improve flexibility and the best way is dynamic flexibility. Sprinting is dynamic so that is why we at Explosive Performance always stretch our athletes dynamically. Dynamic flexibility is repeated swinging movements that warm the muscles and stretches them at the same time.
Examples of dynamic flexibility exercises:
1. High knees
2. Butt kicks
3. Knees to chest
5. Carioca with high knees
Other stretching techniques:
1. Static Stretching: This technique is the most common of all flexibility exercises. With proper form the athlete will hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds and preferable 60 seconds. Techniques of static flexibility can be obtained through Explosive Performance.
2. Proprioceptive Neuro Muscular Facilitation (PNF): This is used a great deal by professional trainers and coaches to increase flexibility. It is excellent for rehabilitation or to work on extremely tight muscles. It is mainly done with a partner and is most beneficial with someone who has done it before. To learn more on how to perform PNF contact the trainers at Explosive Performance.
Running Form and Technique
This is of course a key component to improving speed. “An athlete can only run as fast as his or her technique will allow,” says Tom Shaw, former sprint coach at FSU. Without proper form an athlete can not properly execute the drills and exercises that help improve speed. But you must Remember, we are not trying for perfect form, just proper form.
Six Basic Rules of running form:
1. Run pretty and be efficient (no wasted energy)
2. Elbows 90 – 110 degrees (relaxed, not locked; hands drive behind hips and go to shoulders)
3. Neck, shoulders, arms, hands relaxed
4. Stay on balls of feet (drive feet under center of gravity, pushing not pulling with legs)
5. Keep acceleration lean (Straight line from ear to ankle)
6. Keep head up (look where you are going)
These are only the basics to look for in proper sprint form. To truly improve sprint form, an athlete should be evaluated by a certified speed and conditioning trainer.
Improving stride frequency is said to be the most important component to improving speed. Stride frequency is the number of strides taken in a given amount of time. If we can increase the number of strides we take, we will most likely increase our speed. Keep in mind that we do not want to sacrifice proper form just to increase stride frequency. The most common way to improve stride frequency is Sprint-assisted running.
Sprint-assisted running drills.
1. Downhill running (slope must be no greater than 3 – 7 degrees)
2. Assisted running with bungi-cords (pulling athlete faster then the normally run) This needs to be done with a certified speed and conditioning trainer with the proper training.
3. Must keep Proper form, or drills will be useless
Stride length is the distance covered in one stride during running. We must try to increase stride length without pulling with the leg. Meaning we must not reach out and try to pull ourselves forward using our hamstring muscles. Sprinting is always a pushing movement not a pulling movement, so we must use the quadricep and gluteal muscles to perform this action. If we can properly increase stride length we will definitely increase speed. The most common way to improve stride length is to do sprint-resisted running.
Sprint-resisted running drills:
1. Running steps
2. Running uphill (no more than a 35 degree slope)
3. Weighted sleds
5. Manual resistance (partner resists athlete as he/she sprints)
6. Bungi-cord resistance (usually done with a partner)
7. Must keep Proper form or drills will be useless
If an athlete works on these areas and learns the drills and techniques from a qualified sprint trainer, he or she will improve their speed. An athlete must be dedicated to their workout and have a well-rounded program that includes strength training and proper nutrition.
For more information on this or how TrueAP can design a program for your team or program call Rob Rose at 703-568-5657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
True Athlete Performance is one of the leading sport-specific training providers in the nation. Established by Rob Rose, TrueAP has grown from training a few hundred athletes a year to training over 2,000 athletes each year. Specializing in first step and reaction training, Rob Rose has developed a professional performance staff with degrees in the field of exercise science and certifications from nationally recognized organizations that certify trainers to train athletes. With their proven training techniques and methods, the TrueAP staff has improved athletes of all levels, youth to professional. With a Focus on form and technique first, each athletes realizes his or her potential immediately and then focuses on improving their overall athletic ability. Given hard work and dedication, each athlete can improve to his or her maximum potential. TrueAP will continue to make progress in improving the training and being a front runner in the field of athletic training.