Speed has often been touted as the key to success in sports. You often hear coaches and athletes saying things like “speed kills” and “you can’t compete with speed”. It is a common misconception that speed is genetic and cannot be taught. One thing everyone will agree on is that speed is an advantage in any sport. Every individual athlete has genetic limitations, but speed can be trained and enhanced.
One of the first things I ask new athletes that I train is how much sprint training they do? I am often amazed when they say that most of the running they do with their teams is slow, long distance running usually around 1-3 miles/day. This type of conditioning is NOT sport specific and is detrimental to the athlete’s goals of becoming as fast and explosive as they can be.
Sprinting uses fast twitch muscle fibers, which are recruited during moments when an athlete is exerting maximum effort for example is sports like football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. The other muscle fiber type is the slow twitch fiber. These muscle fibers are endurance fibers capable of maintaining lower work force over a longer period of time. (long distance running, swimming, triathlon, track distances great than 800 meters) Athletes have varying combinations of slow and fast twitch fibers.
When designing a training program for your sport it is important to look at the demands of the sport, and use that as a template for your training sessions. As a soccer or football player you are making plays in short bursts lasting 1-10 seconds. The explosive movement is followed by a recovery period of less intense, but constant movement lasting anywhere from 10-40 seconds. The main concept behind your sport specific training program is to train you’re muscular and nervous system to recruit fast twitch fibers for explosive movement and then train that system to quickly recover for repeated explosive bursts lasting the duration of the game.
Sprinting is a sport specific skill. Think about a batters swing or a quarterback’s throwing motion. Proper mechanics are crucial for success. The same applies to sprinting, proper sprint mechanics are essential for achieving maximum sprint speed. Teaching young athletes proper body position, arm action will full range of motion and elbows at 90 degrees, maximizing stride length, and reducing ground contact time will help the athlete reach maximum speed potential.
The funny thing about athletes today is how much time they spend on sport specific skills. How much time do soccer players spend kicking and juggling the soccer ball, when in reality how much time of the 90 minute game is the ball at their foot? Answer: 1-2 minutes total. The rest of the time they spend running to try to get the ball to make a play. It makes sense for athletes to work on sprinting technique and training to improve explosive speed.
So Sprint, don’t jog and satisfy your Need for Speed!!!!!