How Does Lifting Weights Increase my Speed

Thousands of athletes a year reach out to speed coaches for help expecting to accelerate their speed and improve their game, but often question why they need to be hitting the weight room just as hard as speed drills on the field. The reason they question the need to be in the weight room is simply misunderstanding what is going to make them faster. Solely using field drills will not produce optimal results, neither will solely using the weight room. However, if you can make the two coincide, and work together to produce optimal results, you would be amazed at the speed increases achieved. On the field, we should work on form, turnover rate, and ground contact time. In the gym, we should work on relative force production, rate of force development, tendon stiffness, and postural strength.


Relative Force Production

Relative force production is simply how much force you create compared to your body mass. When it comes to speed, no one cares if you can squat 500 but you weight 315. True relative strength is when a 180-pound athlete squats 400 pounds or a 220-pound athlete squats 500. As an athlete, you should be able to move much more weight than you yourself weigh, this is where your power will com from. The athlete that has a better bodyweight to strength ratio will almost always be more powerful and explosive, leading to much more speed, agility, and more explosive jumps. We can achieve increased relative force production in the gym by engaging in strength cycles and monitoring the athlete’s weight and body mass.


Rate of force production

Rate of force production is how fast you can produce a high amount of force. If you take two athletes, both weighing 200 pounds and squatting 400 pounds, the one that moves his/her weight faster will have the higher rate of force production. In sprinting, you want you foot on the ground for as little time as possible, leaving you a small window to create the amount of force needed to propel you at maximal speeds. In the weight room we can help produce high force quickly, by progressively moving an external load faster over time, and monitoring bar speed in each movement we do throughout a preseason cycle.


Tendon Stiffness

Tendon stiffness, in a nutshell, is how well tendons carry force produced by muscles through a joint. In untrained individuals, tendons (fascia that connects muscles to bone) are very loose, causing certain amounts of force produced within the muscles to be lost, therefore transmitting less force on the active joint than what would be optimal. Lifting heavy weights causes the body to become extremely efficient at moving heavy loads, and one of the ways it increases this efficiency is by tightening the tendons to transmit force better. Lacking tendon stiffness while sprinting will cause you to have long ground contact times, slowing you down and killing any momentum you try to create. By tightening these same tendons, you can decrease your ground contact time, increase rate of force production, and begin to create more momentum toward generating top speeds.


Postural strength

Postural strength is going to be your body’s ability to stay tall and long while you are sprinting. When you are lacking in this area, each time you drive your foot into the ground, your body slumps over and absorbs any energy being driven up through your body. Being in the weight room, your body adjusts to high forces on the body, making it more resistant to absorbing energy from the ground. When we have created more postural strength, every bit of force we put into the ground, is transmitted straight back through us, propelling us at our maximal speed. We become more efficient in the fact that none of our energy is wasted, and an efficient sprinter is a fast sprinter.


Chris Still

BS Exercise Science

CSCS, USAW-L1SP

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