9 Truths about Training for Speed
9 Truths I’ve learned about Speed
- It takes years to develop speed – It takes a month to get in shape.
You cannot walk into a gym 4 weeks before tryouts and expect to shave a half second off your 40-yard dash time. Developing speed takes time, dedication, patience and effort. In order to increase your body’s running velocity, we essentially need to increase your nervous system’s sensitivity to the signals it receives from the brain – simple right?
- For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
Ahh, Sir Isaac Newton’s third law. How many remember sitting in physics class wondering: “Self, when am I ever going to need to know this?” My answer: Never, unless you want to understand how to run faster… and a bunch of other stuff. If we want our cars to go faster, the most effective way is to install a bigger engine… it’s the same for your body. When you put your foot into the ground, you get the same amount of force from the ground in return. Hence, the harder you can drive your foot into the ground the harder the ground pushes back. As you keep multiplying this equation you will begin to understand why “force production” is key to running faster.
- The athletes who jump the highest, run the fastest and the athletes who run the fastest, jump the highest
Arguably the most publicized form of athletic testing and comparable data is the NFL Combine. If you analyze the data collected from Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, and 40 yd. dash, there is a distinct comparison among the results; the top 25% of each test is reciprocal, not necessarily chronologically but the top 25% of the guys in each category are the same across the board. Why? This again speaks to force production. Mechanically, running and jumping are the same with the variable being body angle (45-degree lean) and stance, 1 leg vs 2 legs. The greater your ability to push off the ground the faster & farther you’re going to move.
- Running distance makes you slow
I love this one because it’s controversial. The common assumption is running distance will increase your bodies conditioning. I agree with that assumption – if you are only ever going to run at that pace. To be fast, you must train fast. The body loves being comfortable, is very resistant to change, and is easily set in its ways. Imagine a continuum for performance; the far left would be endurance, the far right would be performance. You can be really good at one really good at the other or mediocre at both. As Mike Boyle would say “The easiest way to make a fast athlete slow is to run miles.”
- “Baby got back”
And this isn’t just about Sir Mix-a-lot – the glutes hold the power. I challenge you to find an elite sprinter or elite volleyball player with small glutes (butt). As a matter of fact, if one does exist I would guess they have chronic lower back and hamstring problems i.e. strains, pulls, knots, stiffness etc. The key to unlocking your true speed potential lies with your glutes. Your glutes are the most powerful muscle you have. Train them as such and you won’t finish last anymore, or pull that “hammy”.
- Single leg strength is more important two Leg Strength
You can only run with one foot in contact with the ground at a time. Bilateral strength & power has a cap on what transfers to single leg stance. A simple test on the difference: stand up with your knees slightly bent for 20 seconds. Now pick up your right foot – notice a difference? Pick up your left foot – How about now? If you don’t train on one leg – you won’t be strong on 1 leg. Given the importance here, I suggest we trade our leg presses for split squats, Pistol squats and 1 leg RDL’s.
- Too much is worse than not enough
The enemy of under training is over training. Just because 2 is good doesn’t mean 4 is better. Call to mind “The Price is Right” – as close to without going over. Your nervous responds to the stress of training only to a point once it becomes too much, the body goes into protection mode i.e. training lockdown. I could fill this up with about 30 more clichés but instead just know it doesn’t make sense to take shot of Demerol when an ibuprofen will work.
- The treadmill does not make you fast
Again, my fascination with controversy (or maybe starting controversy). Remember what we discussed in #2? This doesn’t apply here. You don’t gain reactive forces from the treadmill, instead you get the exact opposite a push. If you don’t move on the treadmill you get thrown off. If you don’t move on the ground, you stand still. If you were jogging down your sidewalk and someone came behind you and started physically pushing you trying to speed you up your body’s reflex is going to be to hit the brakes (protection mode) not speed up – there is a similar reflex when you hit the treadmill. Pretty simple: running at high speeds on the treadmill makes you good at running high speeds on a treadmill. This is why you will see videos of offensive lineman running at 20 mph on a treadmill – it looks impressive but that’s where it ends. He will still struggle to break 5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
- Genetics does play a role
I firmly believe anyone can be taught to do anything – proficiency however, varies based on the individual. Small groups of the population are wired differently than others. This explains why some of us gain or lose weight faster than others, why some of us learn at different speeds or different methods and why some of us respond differently to training environments. So, don’t beat yourself up too much – understand that your body will have some benefits and some limitations in gaining the speed you need.