As an athlete or manager, you should always look for ways to improve your performance or the performance of your athletes. Speed is one of the most important performance characteristics you should seek to improve. A common misconception is that you can't train speed, and you are either fast or you're not.
I am here to tell you that is not the case—You can train Speed! You can get faster!
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will know one of the techniques that successful managers and athletes use to increase their capacity for speed.
One of the best ways to train speed is through Resisted Speed Training. Resistance training, combined with sprints and exercises tailored to a particular activity or job, aims to increase movement quality and speed.
For the majority of sports, particularly football, rugby, baseball, basketball, tennis, and lacrosse, achieving a high maximum sprinting velocity is crucial.
Resisted Speed Training
To this day, most athletic training programs use free weights and the Olympic lifts (Clean, Jerk, Snatch) for their high-intensity speed-strength training exercises. These "power" lifts combine strength and speed. They are effective because they improve muscle strength and the capacity to move heavy loads quickly. This translates to an increase in an athlete's potential to be more powerful and move faster. Think about a vehicle with a large motor; it can produce more horsepower than a vehicle with a smaller motor.
However, many managers are moving towards resisted speed training because most of the power training that is done in a gym has a vertical force emphasis (up and down). An athlete who needs to run fast must train these power movements with a predominantly horizontal emphasis. (side to side) Running fast is about pushing the ground down and back/away to produce horizontal force-velocity, not simply down.
One of the other benefits of resisted speed training, rather than training for speed in the gym, is that you can focus on the different phases of sprinting. The acceleration phase is everything that happens before you reach maximal velocity. Maximal velocity is also referred to as absolute speed or top-end speed.
Research shows that resisted speed training should mimic the type of sport movement but with added resistance. There are various ways to create resistance. The resistance can come from an elastic band, towing or pushing a weighted sled, a parachute, wearing a weighted vest or uphill sprinting. But to achieve the best results from specificity, your movement patterns should remain similar to those done while unloaded or unresisted.
Although high-intensity strength training programs (power, plyometrics) have been demonstrated to be successful in improving performance traits like speed, the concept of training specificity states that for the best results, the exercises must attempt to closely mimic the requirements of the respective unloaded activity.
One study that examined the effects of resisted speed training versus traditional power training showed that there were larger improvements in sprint performance and running kinematics (higher sprint velocity, stride length, shorter ground contact time) with resisted speed training. This is a result of horizontal training force-velocity and not vertical force-velocity.
How To Do IT
Resisted speed training involves working against a resistive force--such as a sled, parachute, or elastic band while running drills and sprints. The added resistance forces the athlete to work harder to move faster, which helps improve their overall speed, technique, and power profile.
Studies have shown that some of the benefits of towing a sled can benefit the different phases of the sprint. Training the acceleration phase should be done with a sled weighing more than 20% of your body weight but not heavy enough to disrupt proper form and technique. I recommend using a harness rather than a belt to reinforce torso-angle and midline control.
The benefits of the acceleration phase are: increased ground contact force, leg strength and drive, torso angle control, and low back-leg swing.
Training the maximal velocity phase should be done with a sled weighing less than 20% of your body weight not to disrupt proper form and technique.
The benefits of the top-end speed phase are: decreased ground contact time, upright torso, and cyclical leg movement.
Let me reiterate--This type of training stimulus must be done without inducing detrimental changes in the sprint technique.
Although the acceleration phase is particularly relevant in sports that involve short bursts of speed, like tennis, acceleration performance, and maximum sprint velocity are separate and specific qualities. They should be trained individually and ideally on separate days.
Resisted speed training not only leads to improved muscle strength in the lower body but also reinforces coordination, agility, and balance. Your torso, shoulders, and hips all must maintain a coordinated balance between stability and mobility.
One study showed that resistance speed training also has mental health benefits in addition to physical improvements since it requires focus and concentration to execute each exercise properly. By pushing yourself during each drill or sprint, you are challenging yourself mentally, as well as physically, while also learning more about your body's capacity for performance control. It is no surprise that many athletes find this type of training incredibly helpful in their quest for improved performance. That said, it is important to note that each rep of resisted speed training happens in short bouts with correct technique and adequate rest in between.
After just four weeks of training, numerous studies examining the effects of resisted speed training all found significant gains in joint strength, rate of force development, balance, and midline posture and control.
The specificity training principle must be followed to maximize the benefits of resisted speed training. Research on resisted speed training programs adhering to the specificity of exercise has demonstrated great adaptation to in-match performance. In accordance with the principle of training specificity, resisted speed training protocols have become popular within sprint training regimens. The correlation between increased MPH and decreased sprint times is evident. The success of these regimens has validated inclined surfaces, weighted vests, parachutes, sleds, and elastic bands as adequate means to increase load resistance.
One study showed that after six weeks of resisted speed training in the form of pulling a sled with a harness, athletes had improved their speed performance by 30% more than the passive control group that did the same training regimen without resistance.
Resisted speed training is an effective way for athletes to develop greater levels of power and explosiveness on the pitch or court. It will help sprinters run faster and sports athletes play their positions stronger and quicker. Whether you use a harness and sled, belt and bungee, weighted vest, or run uphill, resisted speed training is something you should definitely include in your training program if you want to get faster or train others to get faster.
"Michael Cummings is a strength and conditioning manager in San Diego, CA. For more than 20 years, he has managed Olympic and professional athletes to youth athletes. He is also a certified Rehabilitation Specialist and Brain Trainer. He is passionate about upgrading the performance of all athletes."