Speed for Sport- Your Guide to Getting Faster
The off season in team sports is a super rare time of the year where you can get some speed coaching and actually get faster!
Team sport conditioning has moved forward leaps and bounds in the last few years but there are still those old school coaches out there (particularly in Rugby) who believe that athletes just need to “grit their teeth” and “run more” in order to get faster, and that “players are not Ferrari’s” and if they just run, somehow, magically they will get faster.
You may be able to tell that I am not of this opinion. Whilst a bit of good old fashioned hard work goes a long way, why not apply that work ethic and training time toward something that will actually make a difference?
Before setting out how to train to gain speed for sport let’s just recap on the simple laws of physics that govern how it all works.
- A body remains at rest until a resultant force acts upon it. Generally we want to create force in a horizontal direction in order to achieve greater speed.
- The direction and rate of acceleration of a body is proportional to the magnitude and direction of forces acting upon it. In other words the more force acting upon the body the faster it will move. (this emphasises the importance of harnessing greater efficiency in order to “aim” the maximum resultant force in the direction of travel but also the importance of gaining greater power)
- When a resultant force acts upon an object an equal and opposite force is applied back. Simply put, you have to apply force into the ground in the opposite direction that you want to go. (This emphasises the need to train structures of our body in a way in which force can transfer through them without any “leaks” or weak points)
In sport we have to run in straight lines, curved lines, make sudden cuts and decelerations, turn 180 degrees and of course jump.
In this article though I am just looking at speed in a straight line to keep things simple (ish).
We can breakdown speed for sport into 3 main categories.
Different to training a track athlete, a team sports athlete like a footballer or rugby player may have to create a resultant force from a range of different positions, for example;
- Rolling start (the most common in my view)
- Cut to sprint (a change of direction followed by a fast pickup)
- From stationary with right foot back
- From stationary with left foot back
- From stationary feet beneath hips
- Lying on your back
The list goes on…
Try to think of training the start as a team sports athlete as training your ability to react and create horizontal force whilst being flexible around the position from which you start rather than having an endless list of positions to train.
During the acceleration phase we want;
- A forward lean in order to allow us to apply horizontal force behind us.
- Apply WAY MORE propulsive force than braking force.
- Posture- you should be able to see a straight line from the heel to the head of an athlete in acceleration that is around 45 degrees “head to heel strong as steel”
- Ankles “stiff like a spring” amateur athletes are around 50-60% efficient in transferring force through their ankles compared with top sprinters who lose around 40% of force. Para Olympians in the T43 category’s blades lose about 9% as a comparrision.
- Shin angles matching each other.
- Longer ground contact time so we can apply more force into the floor.
- Swing leg (the leg that has just left the floor) imagine you are going to smash an imaginary glass wall in front of you with your knee.
- Stance leg (the one in contact with the floor) push the floor away from you as hard as you can!
Top End Speed- velocity max (VMAX)
At top end we have maximised the amount of propulsive force we can produce given our current level of power and efficiency and the focus shifts to limiting friction and time on the ground.
Speed is essentially stride length multiplied by stride frequency. We aim to maximise both and in training we may work on drills that will increase the frequency of the stride above what could ever be possible in sprinting and also work drills that will lead us to a longer stride length than would be possible.
During VMAX :
- Speed is higher so you have less time to apply force. Apply force in a “pulse”
- Rate of rotation is greater so speed specific core strength is vital.
- Higher friction so focus on getting off the floor fast!
- Minimise ground contact time to avoid friction and avoid applying braking force.
- Minimise repositioning time- if you are in the air you are not applying force. See Heel recovery below.
- Upper body relaxed, arms driving “hip to lip”
So here’s what you’ll be doing:
Ankling- training for ankle stiffness;
Dribble- increase stride frequency by training quickness in movement patterns specific to running fast.
Train the specific patterns you need to develop control through the torso during hip extension.
Unlearn useless movement and learn the correct posture for speed focussing on knee drive and powerful triple extension.
Drill your new movement patterns until they become familiar and your default pattern.
Limit braking force at top speed – Heel recovery run AKA the egg crack
Putting it all together- So when your finished it will look like this…scheea riiight! If you choose your parents wisely 😉
If you want to kill competition with speed this season here is my closing gift to you. My 5 rules for guaranteed speed:
- Lift weights- Control first, then strength then power…and yes even young athletes need to! Weight training will give you the ability to accelerate faster and more importantly decelerate and limit the chance of injury
- Train speed specific core stability at least 3 times per week.
- Practice efficient running form
- Train speed at least twice per week
- Take care of your body! Each individual requires their own unique maintenance whether foam rolling, stretching mobility of joints or adding “stiffness” to key areas.
Get going and get fast!
If you’d like to work with me or one of the team to get fast this season please use the contact form below. We are taking bookings for July and August now whilst writing this we have around 8 slots left with some half day intensives still available too.
Thanks to everyone in the S&C field for sharing the videos I have used, Vern Gambetta for last years seminar but especially to Keir from http://rugbystrengthcoach.com/ for sharing some awesome info on his recent seminar!
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