Hey guys – I just wanted to quickly address a misconception and a physics-based approach to how we should be training speed in a safer, more effective method…
The misconception is that more sprints at practice or at your workout are going to make you faster… Sure a few max effort sprints will improve your efficiency and will gas you, but there are better forms of conditioning and more effective ways to be faster. If you are training max effort sprint work for reps without optimal rest (minutes in between) your body will not be able to produce peak force each sprint. You will start moving slower, and your body will get used to this and make it a habit. There is a time and place for conditioning, but when you are trying to train absolute speed.. it is not the time.
Speed is our ability to produce as much force as possible off the ground in the quickest amount of time. When we are sprinting we are producing maximal force each stride, exhausting the glutes and hamstrings. Repetitive overload of these muscles is not sustainable and this is why we see so many hamstring pulls in over-trained, sprinting athletes. Elite level sprinters will produce over 1,000 lbs of force into the ground during each push off in a sprint. The amount of work done during one 100 m dash is essentially more than an elite powerlifter will do in one week. If sprinting is our only form of sprint training, there is no way we can sustain maximal power output throughout a full training session, without slowing down or getting hurt. So how can we train the muscles necessary for sprinting in a more effective manner? We need to work on not only STRENGTHENING the muscles involved, but simultaneously improve our fast twitch velocity off the ground. Where does this happen??
THE WEIGHT ROOM!
The formula for power in the physics world is Work/Time (P=W/T). Work being the energy transfer that occurs when an object is moved over a distance. So it should’n’t be taboo to think that our training methods should be similar to those of POWERlifting athletes. Sprinting is a a power movement and must be trained as such. We need to improve our glute and hamstrings ability to propel and accelerate the body forward. We cannot just force a longer stride length by making an effort to reach further out each stride.. We need to truly develop the muscles that generate the legs extension and launch it forward. Think about the movement of the leg during a stride… Pretty similar to the mechanics of a deadlift right? Extending the leg, bracing the core and powering off the ground in a timely manner.
Same goes for exercises such as the sled push and sled pull. Going heavy on these gives us the opportunity to produce maximal force each stride we take maintaining postural integrity that is similar to our take off position in a sprint. When going heavy on a sled push, its important that we do not go for maximal speed, but maximal force production off the ground and knee drive. If we try to move a heavy weight too quickly, then we will compromise our sprint form and maximal power output of each stride and deviate from our proper mechanics. Just like anything in sports, we can practice good mechanics or bad mechanics… but enough reps is going to make it a habit.
At the same time, everybody knows a big guy that can deadlift and squat a lot of weight but can’t run for his life… Why aren’t these guys fast on the field? 1) They may have mechanical errors in their sprint form. 2) They may have a lot more mass on their body to propel forward and 3) They haven’t trained their explosiveness off the ground.. Through jumps , various plyo drills, and speed lifts we are training our bodies fast twitch muscle fibers to produce as much force as possible off the ground in the quickest amount of time. For example, if we have a strength lift like a deadlift or a squat in our programming, it is important that we also put just as many if not more jumps and speed lifts into the regiment. Some of these will include deadlifts for speed at 55-65%, weighted jumps, depth jumps (producing force off the ground in the quickest amount of time), speed squats, split jumps… the list goes on and on. It is important that you get strong and it is important that you learn how to move your own bodyweight and other external forces quickly. This sounds pretty similar to the concept of speed production doesn’t it? This IS speed and this method of training is a proven physics based approach to speed training. Get in the gym, I’ll see you there.