Speed Training Systems

Speed can be developed – if it is trained first and foremost in the training program. Speed should be considered first in the plan daily, weekly and monthly.  Speed must be trained concurrent with other systems in order to maximize the ability.  If speed training is delayed in the training cycle until the athlete is “in shape” or until the athlete perfects their form, then it is usually too late to incorporate the speed protocol due to the demands of the season. Speed should be started early in the training cycle, first in the day and early in the week. The rest and recovery from each bout of speed repetition should be a minimum of 3:00 – 5:00 minutes, depending upon the distance covered and the fitness level of the athlete.

Key Techniques of Speed

Posture – the correct posture for starting, transition, change of direction and absolute speed must become an automatic response. This posture requires a braced core, flat back, retracted shoulder blades in a “tall” posture attitude.

Core strength – is a key in order to limit energy leakage from shoulder to opposite hip as the athlete attempts to put force into the ground.

Stance – The stance is the key to the start and the start is the key to race to the finish line, the base, the ball and/or the opponent.  Whether starting up or down, linear or laterally, the stance determines the ability of the athlete to impart force into the ground, the length of the ground contact time and the ability of the athlete to maintain the proper techniques for acceleration during the second or get away step.

Casted ankle – this technique of “toe up” is key in order to impart force into the ground in a short amount of impulse time.

Thigh Separation – this cue is excellent in creating mastery of individual stride length abilities.  It tends to enhance both knee punch as well as glute extension which are critical techniques in linear speed.

Arm Drive – Arm drive is from shoulder height with the hand in front to almost shoulder height in back with the elbow (which is very limited in many over bench pressed athletes) with the hand passing even with the shorts pocket during the downward stroke.

Leg Drive – Leg drive consists of knee punch, thigh separation, high recovery with the ankle crossing above the knee and the heel just brushing the buttocks.  During the drive phase the toe never gets ahead of the knee.  In fact, as the knee begins the downward drive to the ground the knee and toe should be in a perpendicular line to the ground.

Head Position – is in the anatomical position with the “eyes on the prize”, be it the finish line, the ball or the opponent.

Speed Progression of Training Pyramid

(thanks to Dr. Bob Ward)

Over Speed

Speed Endurance

Absolute Speed for Speed

Plyometrics for Power and Acceleration

Resisted Sprints for Power and Acceleration

MediBall Drills for Speed, Power and Acceleration

Moderate Load Olympic Style Strength Training 2 – 10 sets of 1 – 3 reps

Big Load Heavy (Power Lift Style) Strength Training 3 – 8 sets of 1 – 5 reps


Speed Drills

Flying Stick Drill Set up a series of sticks or strips that begin at 7’6” between each stick.  Allow for an acceleration zone of a minimum of 15-20 yards.  The total number of sticks should allow for a minimum of 7 sticks and a maximum of 16 sticks.  The number of sticks will be determined by the speed fitness of the athlete.  If the athlete is fast and fit, the number of sticks will be in the mid-teens.  If the athlete is slow or does not possess adequate speed fitness, then the number of sticks will be in the high single digits.  Once the athlete becomes comfortable, the next lane of sticks is set at +6” or 8’.  The next lane is 8’6”, the next lane is 9’.  If the athlete is national class and/or tall, then the stick drill can be increased in 9” increments – 7’6” to 8’3” to 9’.  As soon as the athlete loses form and begins to reach then he must move back down one level, increase his speed or maintain better form.

Speed Tests

10, 20, 40 and 60 yard sprint – from a start utilizing either a 2 (upright) or 3 point stance, begin timing on the athletes first movement.  Stop timing as the athlete’s core passes the finish line.

Flying 20 and 40 yard sprint – utilizing a 15 – 25 yard acceleration zone time the athlete from one end of the flying sprint zone to the other end.

3 Step 5 and 5 Step 10 Drill – Have the athlete with national or world class speed attempt to 3 step the first 5 yards and 5 step the first 10 yards of the 20, 40 or 60.  Do not count the first step (which just gets the athlete to the start line).

Stride Length – Utilize a 20 – 25 yard acceleration zone and measure the 2 longest strides from the tip of the rear toe to the tip of the front toe.  This should equal out to 1.265 multiplied by the athletes height in inches, + or – 4 inches.

Sample Speed Training Programs

Absolute                           Sport                           Sport

Sport                                Speed                         Special

Speed                            Endurance              Endurance I

Intensity                                           95% +                             90 – 95% +                   90 – 95% +

Distance of Run                           15 – 35 yds                       40 – 100 yds                100 – 200 yds

Reps                                                       3 – 6                                    3 – 6                             1 – 5

Sets                                                         1 – 3                                    1 – 2                             1

Total Distance in Session          45–630 yds                     120–1200 yds             100–1000 yds

Recovery / Reps                              2 – 5 min.                          2 – 5 min.                 5 – 10 min.

Recovery / Sets                               8 – 10 min.                      8 – 10 min.                    N / A

The key to speed and acceleration is to train it first, foremost and it must be the overall focus of the program.  Strength is easy, lift heavy stuff and people get strong.  Hypertrophy is up to the athlete and what food choices they make and how they utilize nutrient timing.  Power is the combination of speed and strength and should be a by focus of the focus on speed.  If speed is to be enhanced, then it must be a focus of the program.

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