SPRINT TRAINING: HOW TO BECOME FASTER

Posted by J. Fallhowe, CSCS

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Sep 8, 2014 9:01:00 AM

 Every athlete knows that speed is king.  The fastest players on the field are the most dangerous and the most feared.  They’re like superheroes – spinning, jumping, defying gravity and making their opponents look like complete fools.  Most athletes think, “Man, if I were faster, I could be that good.”  They look to the internet or their coaches for guidance, hoping that by the next season they’ll be splitting defenders and taking punk returns to the house like Desean Jackson or breaking ankles with a mean crossover and throwing down.  The truth is that a lot of athletes train hard in the off-season but don't truly achieve that super human-like performance when they show up to camp in the fall.    
 

So what’s the deal?  If you critically evaluate speed programs, tips, drills, and YouTube one-off exercises, it’s easy to see why athletes aren't yielding amazing results.  All of these tips, suggestions, etc. may provide decent information, but they are presented too early in an athlete’s development to have a significant impact on their explosive strength and speed.  Speed is ultimately about ONE thing: the ability to generate massive amounts of force quickly.  

SPRINT TRAINING - STEPS FOR IMPROVING FORCE GENERATION: 

HubSpot-Sprint-Training-How-To-Become-Faster

 

HOW TO BECOME FASTER - A STEP BY STEP GUIDE:



STEP 1: DEVELOP POWERFUL GLUTES AND HAMSTRINGS 

Glute and hamstring development is the most important part of speed development.  Think of the glutes and hamstrings as the athlete’s engine: the bigger and more powerful the engine, the faster the car. Athletes continue to neglect their hamstrings and wonder why they’re not getting fast.  

If you’ve ever watched the men’s or women’s 100M dash, the first thing you’ll notice is how big their butts and hamstrings are!  These athletes have developed massive glutes and hamstring capable of generating large amounts of force very quickly.  

Here are a few glute ham raise variations to help you develop strong and powerful hamstrings.

 

 
STEP 2: INCREASING RELATIVE STRENGTH  
 
Relative strength is how strong you are in relation to your size.   The initial focus for every athlete should be to increase relative strength.  Foundational strength prepares the body for more demanding power and plyometric exercises.  Athletes need to be able to back-squat 1.5-2.0 times their bodyweight before taking on advanced plyometric activities like depth drops, explosive lunge jumps, etc.  If an athlete's back-squat doesn't meet this strength requirement, then he or she will not be strong enough to benefit from intense plyometric activities.  
 
Incoporate lower body compound (multiple joint) exercises into your training to get the most bang for your buck.

Examples:

  • Back Squats
  • Front Squats
  • Power Cleans
  • Bulgarian Squats

STEP 3: ABSORBING FORCE

When athletes run, jump or do plyometric activities, their muscles, tendons and connective tissue are subject to forces up to seven times their bodyweight.  If they haven't properly developed relative strength, they won't be strong enough to effectively absorb force.  Explosive energy will be lost during the amortization phase of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle and the athlete will not be able to harness that energy and turn it into explosive power. 

Phases of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle:

Phase 1 - Eccentric Phase: The stretching of the muscle, when elastic energy is stored.

Phase 2 - Amortization: The amortization or transition phase, which is the transition between the eccentric and concentric phases of an explosive plyometric movement.  

Phase 3 - Concentric Phase: This is the body's response to the eccentric and amortization phases.  During this phase, the stored energy is released through a violent contraction.  Force produced during the concentric phase is far greater than that of an isolated concentric muscle contraction. 

Speed Lunges are a easy/medium-difficulty plyometric that works great for training athletes to absorb force.

 

 
For more an introduction to complex training, click HERE
 
 

STEP 4: GENERATING FORCE QUICKLY
Generating Force:  The rate at which an athlete can generate force will ultimately determine how fast the athlete runs.  Elite sprinters' ground contact time, meaning the amount of time their foot is in contact with the ground when they run, is only about .1 seconds.  Great sprinters can apply massive amounts of force very quickly.  Improving rate of force generation comes down to exercise selection and exercise order.  
 
Complex training (combining load-bearing exercises with plyometrics) will train the athlete's nervous system and muscles to develop force more quickly and violently.
 

Intermediate Complex Training Example:

 

STEP 5: DEVELOPING REACTIVE STRENGTH 

Reactive Strength:  

Reactive training focuses on exploiting the explosive concentric contractions generated by the Stretch-Shortening Cycle discussed above.

Reactive training can produce amazing results incredibly quickly.  There are a couple caveats, however.  One, if the athlete is not strong enough to perform reactive exercises (i.e. progress through the stages above), then he or she will not fully benefit from reactive training.  Two, the benefits of reactive training are hard to sustain due to the intensive nature of the exercises. Diminishing returns can result from too much reactive/plyometric training. 

Reative Training Example - Lateral Tuck Jumps:

  

 


FINAL THOUGHTS

The final and most important aspect of speed development is the structure of the workouts (i.e. how workouts combine speed and strength training).  Speed training must be developed in a linear fashion.  An athlete must establish foundational strength > be able to absorb force > be able to generate force > be able to generate force quickly (reactive strength).  If athletes don’t approach speed training in this fashion, they won’t develop the strength necessary to run faster and jump higher.  The complimentary strength program must develop strength in the most optimal manner possible.  Strength gains are maximized in a nonlinear fashion, meaning that workouts should not follow a consistent 8-10-rep schedule.  They should instead include a number of rep ranges (i.e.  Power: 1-6 Reps, Hypertrophy: 8-10, etc.).  Combining these two training aspects appropriately will yield the greatest results.

 

 

 

MORE ON SPEED DEVELOPMENT:

Developing durable, strong and powerful hamstrings is probably the most overlooked aspect of speed development in athletic training today? Team SpeedBot has written and amazing eBook on hamstring training, that's guaranteed to bring your sprint training to the next level and btw, it's probably the best hamstring training eBook every written ;)

 

GET THE EBOOK NOW (PSSST - IT'S FREE)!

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