There are a few athletes that come to mind when we think of unteachable speed: Deon Sanders, Barry Sanders, Darrell Green, and Bo Jackson are just a few. As strength coaches we may never get some of the true ‘genetic freaks’ that were born to run fast; however, we should be able to improve our athletes speed, and maximize their genetic potential. According to Jim Kielbaso, CEO of the IYCA, running faster boils down to three things: A lot of force into the ground, very quickly, in the right direction. Sounds simple right?
Being able to drive a lot of force into the ground comes from strength training. It is impossible to drive a lot of force into the ground if you can’t produce a lot of force in the first place; so, as with almost all athletic movements, strength is the foundation of our speed pyramid. Outside of powerlifting, strength shouldn’t be observed as just an athlete’s one rep max, ideally it is viewed in the scope of an athlete’s strength per pound ratio. If there are two athletes of the same height, limb length, length of pull etc. and they can both trap bar deadlift 400 pounds, some would say they are equally strong. However, if athlete A only weighs 200 pounds, while athlete B weighs 300 pounds, athlete A is significantly stronger relative to their size. Some strength coaches may claim that there is a magical strength per pound ratio, I will leave that up to the individual coach, however an athlete with a higher strength per pound ratio is the equivalent of having more horsepower in a smaller car.
Once your athlete has enough horsepower to drive into the ground, they need to learn how to drive it into the ground quickly. This is moving on to our power development phase of speed training. Power being the relationship between work performed in a given amount of time, reducing how long it takes an athlete to perform the same amount of work is a simple way to improve power production. Let’s say we have two athletes, A and B. If Athlete A produces 400 joules of work in half a second, and Athlete B produces 600 joules in one second Athlete A is actually more powerful. In this scenario, Athlete A is producing 800 watts, while Athlete B is only producing 600 watts. Improving the rate at which we complete work is imperative for power production, which is why plyometrics, or other light load high velocity training tools, are important.
Let’s say you have an athlete that is strong for their size, produces a decent amount of power, and now just needs to work on speed. This is where technique, and movement patterns, become imperative. For an athlete to run forward they must drive their foot back, and maintain a forward lean through acceleration. If an athlete just drives their foot down, they will get too vertical too fast, and run slower. To drive your foot back, instead of down, there must be enough mobility in the big toe and ankle to produce the power at the correct angle, and enough mobility to ensure a relatively even stride length. Being able to drive your foot in the exact opposite direction you are trying to go takes a lot of practice.
Strength is the base of the athletic pyramid for most sports, with the subsequent levels being strength per pound, power, speed, and sport speed, respectively. For an athlete to run fast they must work on all of those attributes. See the video of Jim Kielbaso, CEO of the IYCA, explaining speed development below.:
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Baseball player’s at the highest level play 162 games in around 180 days, and if you are lucky you get to experience the post-season. Many youth and high school players’ schedules resemble this intense one to two games a day with some tournaments having three games on the final day. The body takes a toll and therefore needs a consistent plan to prepare for the rigors of the game from shoulder health, to grip strength, to legs, mid-section, upper body, and conditioning too. Learn about how you can begin your comprehensive athlete development program with STT when you CLICK HERE.
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Training the back side of the upper body can be a lot of fun. The Lat Combo Pull offers a ton of variety from different handles to independent arm training. Looking to change angles, you can easily switch to the rope attachment and get after it too. Watch the videos on some of the protocols we use here at STT when you CLICK HERE now.
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