Month: March 2011

How to Improve SPEED!

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How to Improve SPEED!
by Kevin Haag, CSCS, Youth Performance Specialist

 Who is the faster athlete….the one who gets there quickest


the one who can decelerate, change directions and accelerate most economically?

You better believe it is the latter!

Speed is every athlete’s need and many an athlete’s nemesis.  A complete speed training program develops the muscle movements and bursts of energy required to beat the competition.  Regardless of age, speed is the most fascinating component of sports. When an athlete displays speed on the playing field, it is eye catching.  Speed is known to change the outcome of a game in a single play.  In younger athletes, speed is more impressive due to the lack of tactics the opponents use to combat speed. 

Speed training programs should ideally start at a young age.  Drills for adolescent athletes focus on developing the correct mechanics and muscle memory required for quick sprints.  Everything from posture to arm movements should be practiced and repeated to increase fleetness and reduce injury.  Drills for pre-adolescents should be fun and more like a game.  The age of the athletes and specific sport have to be considered when deciding which practices to implement.

Teen athletes should develop a speed training program that calls for explosive movement and muscle strength.  If you want to get faster, do away with the long-distance running and long endurance exercises.  Rather, emphasize getting the maximum burst of energy from the very first step.  Shaving even just a few seconds off your speed time can make the difference between winning or losing the game.

 Any speed training program should follow a few basic elements:

  • Warm-up every muscle group before starting.
  • Concentrate on posture, head and shoulder position, arm movements and hip agility to help prevent injury and give your muscles the chance to show their best.
  • Vary the drills and speed required for each to avoid hitting a “speed barrier.”
  • Strength is a top factor in developing speed, so don’t forget the resistance training.
  • Do not add more than 20% of body weight if your speed training program includes sleds or resistance objects.  Anything over the 10% mark can have a negative effect on speed and actually slow the athlete down even when not weighted.
  • Optimal speed requires optimal health.  Don’t focus on speed training when you are not at your athletic best.  Instead, use those times to work on increasing range of motion, strengthening your core and other training specific to the sport.


Sample Speed Training Drill

Start with a Thorough Warm Up
Jog 10 minutes at an easy slow pace followed by some simple range of motion stretches for your shoulders, hips, ankles, neck, trunk and head. Move slowly and breathe deeply.

Maintain Proper Form
Good form means maintaining proper posture while focusing on how you move not just how fast you move. To ensure proper form, you should not be fatigued when you start drills. Form is the first thing to suffer when you are tired.

  • Avoid bending forward at the waist
  • Push from the balls of your feet (not the toes)
  • Focused your vision to the end of the course
  • Keep smooth forward/backward arm swings (not across the body)
  • Hands pump from shoulder height to hips (men) and from chest height to hips (women)
  • Elbows at 90 degrees at all times
  • Maintain relaxed arms, shoulders, and hands
  • Avoid head bobbing or twisting
  • Keep momentum forward and not side to side.

20 Meter Drills
Perform the following drills 2-3 times each session.

  • High-step walking: (lifting knees up to hip level)
  • High-step jogging: (lifting knees up to hip level)
  • Skipping
  • Crossovers: (Jog sideways while crossing right leg over left leg, then left over right leg)
  • Heel kicks: (while jogging kick heels to buttocks with each step)
  • Ladder drills: one foot contact per square
  • Plyometrics: single leg hopping, bounding, bunny hops, tuck jumps, jumping obstacles.

30 Meter Drills
Perform the following drills 2-3 times each session.

  • Double leg hops (jump forward over cones or another marker)
  • Zig Zag hops (jump forward in a zig zag pattern)
  • One Leg lateral bounding (jump sideways one leg, then the other)

Speed Drills: Take a 5 minute rest break between each set.

  • 5 reps / 10 meters /100 percent effort (full out from a 4 point start) walk back.
  • 5 reps / 20 meters /100 percent effort (full out from a 3 point start).
  • 5 reps / 40 meters /100 percent effort (full out from a 3 point start).
  • 2-3 reps of flying 30 meter sprints at 100 percent for acceleration (built up over 20 meters and at max for 30 meters).

Cool Down
Jog for 10 minutes at a slow, steady pace and finish with gentle whole body stretching.