Speed Training and Dynamic Warm-ups Revealed

Posted: June 24, 2012 in Nutrition & Fitness
Tags: , , , , , ,

One area of training that I would like to discuss in more detail is speed training and proper running techniques, the need for speed crosses over into all sports.  The biggest difference in any sport as you advance from one level to another is the speed of the game.  Today’s athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before, in order to excel every athlete needs to incorporate at least a day or two per week to focus specifically on speed enhancement.  One of the phrases that I constantly preach to my athletes is, “if you wanna be fast, learn to jump.”  Many of the movements I have my athletes perform on their speed training days involve jumping, explosive bounding, and ballistic style movements.  Think about it, ultimately every stride you take when your sprinting is an explosive forward jump, or at least it should be.  If your still not convinced, think about this, at the 1989 NFL combine Deion Sanders ran the 40 yard dash in a time of 4.19.  He achieved this time in only 18 strides, that means he covered a distance of 6 feet 8 inches with every stride he took, so like I said “if you wanna be fast, learn to jump.”  The four components of speed that I teach to my athletes are 1) stride length 2) stride frequency 3) how fast one accelerates 4) how little one decelerates.  Physics tells us that we are always in a state of either acceleration or deceleration, in order to be faster than the other person or team you must accelerate faster and longer.  I do want to point out however, that at times in sports there are instances when rapid deceleration is required, and these types of movements should also be incorporated into an athlete’s training protocol.  When sprinting it’s important to maintain a proper forward drive position, ideally you want a torso tilt of about 5 degrees.  Be sure to stay on the balls of the feet when running, this will also help maintain proper drive position.  Think of your heels as your breaks, the more surface area of the foot that has contact with the ground the slower you will run.  Proper arm angles and arm drive can make a glaring difference in how fast an individual can run.  Keep in mind when running, opposite arm and opposite knee synchronization is necessary for proper movement patterns.  Meaning, when the left leg is in stride the right arm is punching forward, this should be pretty natural but never the less, still important.  The angle of the arm at the elbow should be between 90 to 100 degrees, and there is no need to clench the fist to the point of white knuckles.  For maintaining proper arm swing the phrase I like to use is “hip to chin,”  the front hand should be near the chin and back hand toward the hip or back pants pocket.  Even when you are in an all out sprint your body should remain relaxed, it will actually hinder your speed when you tense up, clench your fists and/or grind your teeth.  If you get a chance to watch elite sprinters you will notice they stay relaxed to the point where their cheeks and face muscles flap around as they run.  When choosing exercises for speed training days I try to stress movements that closely mimic the natural running motion.  This ensures that your strengthening the muscles in a functional manner that translates to the field.  Some of my favorite speed enhancement exercises are alternating split squat jumps, bounding lunges, resisted running, and forward, as well as, backwards body hops.  Be sure to incorporate multiple angles and various planes of motion, keep in mind that we’re not always running in a straight (linear) line come game time.  Due to the bounding nature of jumping rope I highly recommend that athletes incorporate several minutes worth into their routines.  I find jumping rope to be especially useful for active recovery and also as part of your dynamic warm-up** routine (**explained further post script).  In the past speed has been thought of as one of those intangibles that you either have or you don’t, well I’m here to tell you otherwise.  By following an intense training program designed for speed performance I’ve seen athletes drop incredible amounts of time from their 40’s and 60’s.  The best athletes in the world go into a slump or get in a rut at some point during a season.  Regardless of how a player is hitting, catching, or knocking down jump shots the only aspect of the game that remains unaffected is speed, “speed never slumps!”  

**Prior to any athletic event it’s very important to warm up properly.  The way I see it the warm up is a prequel to what’s about to take place, this is the time when the nervous system and the muscular system prepare for explosive neuromuscular contractions.  I like to use the phrase, dynamic warm up, I believe it is superior to static stretching alone which has seemed to be the standard method of warm up for years.  A dynamic warm up to me, is a hybrid of plyometrics type movements couple with stretching done with relatively short rest periods.  Performing this type of warm up not only ” wake’s up” the muscles but is also great for lubricating the joints by circulating synovial fluid throughout the joint itself.

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