If there was one quality I would always choose as a coach it would be speed. You can have big players and strong players. You can have fit players and smart players. But the truth is that speed kills. Period.
So knowing the importance of speed how do we get faster? Unfortunately many still believe this is the way to develop speed.
And while ‘speed’ ladders might be useful for working on different footwork patterns, coordination or simply to help an athlete warm-up they don’t do much in terms of speed development.
Below are four ways to improve your speed and dominate your game.
Speed Tip #1 – Increase Your Stride Rate
There is formula that gets passed around coaching circles that speed = stride rate x stride length. While there is some truth to this there is more than be done than simply working on these two qualities.
When we talk about stride rate we are referring the the turnover of the legs. How quickly can an athlete take a given number of steps when sprinting. And primarily what we are concerned with here is training the relevant muscles to fire quickly.
And to do so is not so much a questions of strength or fitness as it of nervous system development. There have to be elements in the training program where the athlete is performing movements at high speed with sub-maximal loads.
Speed Tip #2 – Increase Your Stride Length
Have you ever seen an athlete whose arms and legs are moving really fast? But the weird thing is they aren’t moving faster than any of the other athletes in the game. Some coaches get fooled into thinking some of their athletes that move like this are really fast. But when you test them they aren’t fast. And in games they never win a battle or a race.
So what gives? Well these athletes are doing their best at generating a high stride rate but they there is little to stride length associated with it.
No don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re advocating over-striding which we’re not. Instead we’re talking about an athlete who is strong enough to generate high levels of force into the ground and cover some serious distance.
Think about it this way…if you asked the athlete moving their arms and legs really quickly to take longer steps when they run they wouldn’t appear as fast.
In order to increase the stride length the athlete needs to get stronger. They need to be able to bound more forcefully from one leg to the next while sprinting and as a result cover more ground.
Speed Tip #3 – Better Body Position
If you ever watch the 100 m final at the Olympics you will notice the forward body position of the sprinters.
And if we were able to freeze frame these sprinters as they contact the ground we would notice the dorsiflexion of their ankles. And we would notice the nice straight angle from the ankle through the knee-hip-shoulder and ear.
Compare this to how most people sprint which is with:
* the heel striking first
* the ankle in a plantar-flexed position
* incomplete hip extension
* a short body from ankle through the head
* the neck hyper-extended craning to look at the finish line
In other words if we were to think of the best sprinters as being a super ball dropped off a table we would be like a tomato. But before you rush and look to add more stability drills to your training make sure you had complete mobility first then look to control this added range of motion.
Speed Tip #4 – Relax
The interesting thing about sprinting is that the best sprinters in the world don’t necessarily produce the highest levels of force. And some of them don’t even produce force at the highest rate.
What the best sprinters do really well is reduce activity to a muscle more quickly than the average person. Don’t think of it as turning a muscle off. Because if your muscles have turned off there be bigger problems than how slow you are.
The best sprinters in the world can:
* develop high levels of force
* develop this force very quickly
* reduce this force very quickly as well
When you hear of how the sprinters from Jamaica train one thread that is repeated is the concept of rhythm training. They train to keep the body relaxed because a stressed body is slower to respond and fire the relevant muscles.
Take a moment and evaluate your own sprinting. Which of these 4 tips do you lack the most? Once you identify your weakest link work on developing that aspect and then get out there and dominate your sport.