The one constant among all sports is speed. Speed training is one of the most important facets of training and everyone has the ability to increase and improve their speed by staying dedicated to the program so that the athlete can perform to the best of their abilities.
Speed is a combination of strength and power. With each step is an explosive activation of the muscles in your legs. Power comes from the weight room from exercises like squats, which encompasses all muscles in the leg, big and small. Each of the muscles in the leg works in harmony to produce a strong muscle contraction not only when performing exercises such as squats, but also when jumping, and of course, when sprinting. The stronger an athlete is, the more muscle fibers can contract with every step, creating a forceful forward drive. With more force created with every step, the athlete will be able to sprint faster, jump higher and be more direct with the cuts when changing direction.
Drills to increase speed starts with understanding proper running mechanics. Producing a high amount of force does no good when the sprinting form is poor. So, teaching athletes to properly produce fast-twitch forces through agility drills and sprinting, or even jumping, will teach the athlete how to absorb the force the ground produces and generate force with every step.
Some drills that are designed to increase speed are:
A Skips/ B Skips
Single-Leg High Knees
Series of Sprint Start Drills
The easiest way to understand the importance of fast-twitch force is to look at the first step. The athlete needs to go from a stationary position to the acceleration phase in a blink of an eye, however, extensive practice needs to be done no matter the leg strength.
Speed training has many benefits, all of which directly improve an athlete’s performance. Some of the benefits of speed training include:
Increased flexibility and range of motion in the ankle, knee, and hip joints
Bilateral (both sides of the body) muscle balance
Decrease risk of injury due to exerting positive stress on muscles that are injury-prone
Increase endurance levels because oxygen circulation improves
To recap the importance of speed training, it is important to understand the parallel between strength and speed even though speed training is very particular. Strength occurs in the weight room, but strength also develops by producing powerful muscle contractions through the act of sprinting and jumping. Athletes need dedication and focus to develop proper techniques to be able to transfer the strength in their legs to positive production of force!