Our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut, who has been a strength and conditioning coach for 10 plus years, told us he has trained thousands of athletes, and that if there is one thing that every athlete has wanted, it is Speed!
“Linear Speed is the ability to get from point A to point B in the shortest time possible,” said our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut. “Agility is the ability to brake, accelerate, decelerate, change direction, and re-accelerate in the fastest time possible. Both can fall under the umbrella of the general term of ‘speed’ and both have very specific training methods.”
He tells us that speed training differs from other fitness goals because, unlike getting “bigger and stronger,” you cannot simply lift weights to get faster.
“In my experience,” says our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer, “there is a very specific recipe that produces the most efficient speed output. There are three steps of training that need to be addressed and the order in which they are addressed will affect the efficacy of the results.
First is form technique; second is loaded runs (resisted or assisted), and finally, tertiary methods such as resistance training and agility.”
He told us that the first thing to teach is form technique. Form will have the largest effect on speed output. The body is a system of levers and pulleys, and the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If anything in the kinetic chain pulls the athlete off that straight line, they will be slower. Proper technique will ensure that the athlete stays on a straight line getting to their destination in the shortest time possible.
Our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut outlined the proper technique, as seen below:
The ball of the foot should strike the ground in a clawing action.
The neck should remain neutral; your body will go where your eyes lead it, so you should be
looking about 20 yards ahead of you on the ground.
You should keep the jaw relaxed (even open); this will ensure all of the neck, trap, and shoulder
shoulder musculature stays relaxed.
Keep a relaxed reciprocal arm action– the hand should be opened (not in a tight fist), elbows should be at about a 90-degree angle and should move from side pocket to chin in a smooth but fast motion; the athlete’s legs will mirror the arm action.
Knee drive should be as follows: The “up” leg will have triple flexion (flexion of the hip, knee,
and ankle) while the striking leg is in triple extension. This is where Newton’s 3rd law has the
most effect. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, meaning, as the leg strikes
the ground, it will propel the body in an equal and opposite direction. You want the striking leg
to propel the athlete forward, powerfully.
Leg turnover needs to be rapid, yet stay within a full range of motion.
Trunk should be at a 45-degree angle leaning forward, in the starting position; the head, shoulders, hips, and back heel should all be in a straight line at 45 degrees. The goal is to maintain this lean for as long as possible.
“There are various drills that we perform to ensure that the form is taught properly and constantly reinforced,” stated our West Hartford Connecticut personal trainer. “Just by teaching proper form an athlete can almost instantly get faster.”
Once proper form is established, it is necessary to reinforce it with loaded drills. These loaded drills will have two beneficial factors. One is reinforcing proper technique, but the second is almost as important as form technique. These drills will teach and produce improvements in stride length and stride frequency. It is important to create a balance in these two factors. Our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut says,
“Stride length is the distance between each foot strike. This is important because the goal would be to clear as much distance between each step. The fewer the steps, the faster the athlete will reach their target while preserving energy. BUT, if the stride length is too long, steps will be labored and almost create a bounding effect, slowing the athlete down.
Stride frequency is the speed at which, and the amount of times, the foot strikes the ground in any given distance. The faster the foot strikes the ground, the faster the athlete will be propelled. However, if the stride frequency is too fast it will create short, choppy steps that will inevitably propel the athlete vertically, rather than horizontally, which will slow the athlete down.”
According to our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut, it is imperative to create a fine balance between stride length and stride frequency. To train stride length, we use methods of resisted runs. That means we weight the athlete, and make them pull harder with each step. We can use parachutes, sled pulls, cords, etc. to resist the sprints. Stride frequency can be trained with assisted sprinting. Essentially, assisted sprinting allows the athlete to run faster than they may be able to go on their own. This can be done with an over-tow harness on a treadmill, running downhill at a five degree angle (no more), cord tows, etc. This type of training is very taxing and should only be performed by an experienced athlete that has been properly prepped.
The final step of speed training would be resistance training, drills, and shuttle runs.
“The drills and shuttle runs will reinforce everything that has already been taught,” says our personal trainer in West Hartford Connecticut. “These drills allow the athlete to train proper technique at full speed.”
He goes on to tell us that the resistance training (weight training) is crucial, as it will build the necessary musculature for proper explosive and powerful sprinting. This, too, is also a fine balance.
Many lesser experienced trainers my go straight to the resistance training, assuming that the stronger the muscle is, the better it will be at propelling the athlete. While this is true, too much resistance training can tighten up muscles, and also, increase overall weight, meaning that there is more weight to propel forward. Too much resistance training can actually slow an athlete down. The resistance training also needs to be performed in the proper energy systems that the athlete will need when they are ready to perform.
The common factor is every step of training is balance. It is crucial to balance everything properly to ensure the athlete has the best speed output possible. Too much of any of the training factors will inhibit the others, slowing the athlete down. When used properly and taught by a trained, experienced professional, this is the best recipe for creating the fastest athlete possible.
To learn more about how to stay on track during Thanksgiving and the Holidays, look up one of our other articles!