The Best Cues for Coaching Speed

This year Immaculata High School added a Sports Academy program for volleyball, soccer and basketball. And Okanagan Peak Performance Inc has been helping out with the strength and conditioning for this program. This morning we spent a good portion of the training session working on speed.

And there a number of cues for speed to apply to almost every sport. Below are a number of things that were shared with the athletes to improve their speed

1. Knee Up – Toe Up 

One of the biggest factors that distinguish a runner from a sprinter is the degree of knee lift. The best sprinters in the world will flex the knee and hip to lift the frontside leg.

Knee up toe up on the front side leg.

Knee up toe up on the front side leg.

Runners on the other hand have minimal frontside knee and hip flexion.

Runners have less knee lift compared to sprinters.

Runners have less knee lift compared to sprinters.

As for the toe up position this is what we refer to as a dorsi-flexed position. Toes pointed down is called plantar flexed. In order to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle and elastic potential of the foot and ankle we want to be in the toe up position.

2. Longer is Stronger

A longer core is a more stable core. If you trace from your tail bone to the base of your skull at the back of your head you can get an appreciation of the length of your spine. A taller posture lends to more stability than a shortened or slumped posture.

The next time you watch a race pay attention to how tall the better athletes are compared to the later finishers. What I mean by tall is whether or not they get shorter with ground contact or not? If they can stay tall they have a stronger core and can adequately absorb the energy from ground contact and propel themselves forward. Someone with a weaker core will collapse from the impact of each step, be more susceptible to injury and will be slower.

3. Cheek to Cheek

In sprinting we want the arm action to be from the shoulder and not the elbow. And the arm action should be balanced both in front and behind the body. Often times with young athletes we will see arm action occurring at the elbow and involving only front side movements. Athletes should be encouraged to swing from the shoulder where the hand comes up in front of the body and returns to backside of the body past the glutes or cheeks. No one will ever win the 100 meter race at the Olympics with their hands in their pockets. There is tremendous propulsion from the arm action to move the athlete and assist in maintaining balance.

4. Equal and Opposite

Although we’re working with athletes that may have not yet been exposed to physics that doesn’t mean they aren’t familiar with Newton’s Third Law.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We are reminding them of the value of a strong push into the ground as well as the angle of the push. A large step in front of the body will decelerate movement. A push right under the centre of mass will send us vertically into a jump. And a push behind our base of support will accelerate us forward.

5. Speed Hides Need

Have you ever noticed some things are easier to do quickly? In Kelowna during the summer there’s an inflatable obstacle course/amusement park called Wibit. And one of the stations involves walking across an inflatable bridge. If you approach this wobbly bridge with speed there is a good chance you will be able to make it across. However if you slow it down to a walk chances are you’re going down.

With a number of the mobility and core drills I put the athletes through I want to see how well they can do the drills slowly and under control. Because when we speed up we can hide our mistakes. In other words, speed hides need. There are times to go fast but when the goal is mastery of movement we are only cheating ourselves if we rush through a drill.

Keep these cues in mind as you proceed with your speed training. Getting really good at the basics sometimes isn’t all that exciting but it typically results in better performance in the end.







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