Speed is one of the most sought-after characteristics of great athletes, no matter the sport. With so many gurus and coaches pushing different ways of improving speed, how do you know who is telling the truth? Some coaches use techniques that are basic, making their players do drills that look too simple. Other coaches use flashy and sexy techniques. The truth is, without understanding what causes an athlete to increase speed, neither coach nor technique will be successful in the long run. Some athletes may gain speed, but not all. How can we make every athlete get the results they need to become more competitive on the Field?
What is Speed?
Speed is a mixture of high force output and power. Power is simply how much force we can put in the ground in a small amount of time. The more powerful the athlete, the faster they will be able to sprint. Factors that coaches look at when analyzing a sprint could include joint angles, stride rate, and ground contact time. If an athlete’s joint angles do not line up (hips do not extend, torso too far forward etc.…) they may not be able to create the power necessary to reach their speed potential. If an athlete has a long ground contact time, this can tell a coach that the athlete is not producing enough power to get off the ground quickly. The more time we spend on the ground, the slower we will go.
How do I improve Speed?
Now that we know the biggest aspect of speed is power, we can investigate how we can create more power. The first and most important thing we can do to get that power increase is to set the body up to create the power. Sprint technique is the setup to create the power. We want straight lines in the body so that every bit of force we put in the ground, the ground puts into us to propel us up and forward. Just like throwing a ball, swinging a bat, running a route, or dribbling a basketball, speed is a skill and should be practiced as such. The next step in increasing speed is getting in the gym. We need strength. Not only do we need strength, but we also need high strength compared to our own bodyweight. My general rule is that girls need to squat a minimum of 1.5 times their bodyweight for 1 rep, guys need to squat a minimum of 2 times their body weight. The stronger you are, the better chance you have at being fast. Not only will lifting aid in producing force, but it will also cause your tendons to stiffen up and act similarly to rubber bands. This will help your muscles produce power, as well as help you stay injury free.
B.S. Exercise Science