Training for Speed
Every athlete wants to get faster! Ask any athlete what their concerns would be in their training or what it is that they would like to improve the most and aside from jumping higher, getting stronger, kicking further, going the distance and a host of other athletic abilities that can be improved I guarantee that the most common answer, if not number one, would be to get faster…whether it’s lateral speed, turning the corner more quickly or just plain linear speed! And why does every athlete want to get faster…well as the saying goes…Speed kills!
So what exactly is ‘speed training’? How do you design training programs to get athletes faster? Let’s start with the ‘what’. Speed is the rate of change in motion (this does not include the aspect of direction) and is usually used interchangeably with velocity in athletic training. So, to make that definition really simple, speed is moving from one point to the next in the shortest amount of time. The resynthesis of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate ) has a supply that is readily available in everyone and that initial “burst” of energy lasts 1 to 2 seconds. After that, the resynthesis can last for another 4 to 5 seconds, thus bringing the total resynthesis of ATP a total of 7 seconds and for argumentative purposes we can even say 8 seconds taking into consideration the start of deceleration. So taking the above information and as scientists (we as coaches and athletes are scientist, except we don’t wear white coats and work inside a building, we work outside, that’s our lab and our training is the experiment and the outcome are the results) we can theorize that speed training involves work that lasts 2 to 8 seconds in length and is high in intensity. This type of training occurs without oxygen and without the build-up of the chemical that inhibits muscular action because of long durations of exercise commonly known as lactic acid (for future references, lactic acid is a good thing, lactate is an energy system which we will get into in another article, but it’s the build-up of hydrogen ions and calcium deposits that really inhibit muscle functions making it harder to continue to exercise). This energy system is known as Anaerobic (without oxygen) Alactic (without lactate) Energy System (the ‘a’ means without). So therefore if you are training for speed and wanting to improve speed, then this is your primary energy system that you will be working within.
Now that we have that information, how do we design training programs to get athletes faster? At this point, it takes careful consideration, knowledge and proper planning and program design to make sure that athletes can achieve their full potential. This requires knowing what the athlete needs to achieve for that training session, what needs to be taught, technical issues that need to be reinforced, a good warm up is a must (as a matter of fact, make it a must on a daily basis) and having a good balance of rest days and speed days mixed with strength training days and other days that cater to the needs of your particular sport. Applying the short to long approach is advised, especially when dealing with amateur athletes. This means that you start with low volume and work your way up to high volume as the weeks go by.
So, to put pen to paper and in real world training, let’s go to the lab and workout this experiment shall we! Here’s a 4 week (1 mesocycle-a collection of 4 to 6 microcycles (a microcycle is 7-10 days of training sessions and, yes, rest is considered a training session)) sample speed training program for an intermediate athlete who runs track who is training for the 100m-200m-400m-Hurdles (Yes, ALL sprinters should learn the 100m acceleration pattern). My goal is to get the athlete to training in an overall volume of 500 meters total for sprint training, but I’m going to have the athlete start out with low volume and really reinforcing particular technical issues such as fast hands or low heel recovery, driving the foot downward or high recovery as they transition to max velocity and so on. Design speed training AT LEAST twice a week to allow for stabilization and adaptation.
Stay tuned for more in depth examples!
Continue in knowledge my friends!