United States Sports Academy
America's Sports University®

The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Speed Development Training

Speed is an integral part of most sports. Therefore, proper speed development needs to be a vital part of the athletes training regimen. Coaches need to realize that they need to take time to properly prepare their athletes to improve footwork and speed. Today, athletes have a renewed awareness of the importance of speed training. Trainers have used many devises and drills that claim to improve speed, yet many of these devises and drills improve the condition of an athlete but do not improve their footwork or running speed.

Coaches are overwhelmed by the amount of practice time needed to perfect the fundamentals used by their athletes in their sport. Therefore, speed training is an aspect that is not included in a daily practice session. Coaches need to know that if they incorporate 10-15 minutes of speed work into a practice session two to three times a week they will see significant improvement in their athletes’ speed and footwork. The key is to use the correct drills that will produce the speed improvements.

In order to improve speed, muscles need to be trained to act/react quickly. Speed development training is used to improve speed, agility and the ability to exert maximal force during high-speed movements. In order to improve high-speed movements training should include drills that quicken reaction time. To quicken footwork and foot speed an athlete should use a series of drills that improve the eccentric and concentric action of the muscles in developing quick leg response and improve speed. Proper sprinting
mechanics, posture, arm action and leg action are emphasized. Regardless of genetic makeup, any athlete can improve their speed with proper training.

Flexibility is an important aspect to speed improvement. Improving the range of motion in the shoulders, hips, and ankles will aid in speed improvement. A strong stretching-flexibility program needs to be conducted prior to and continued within a speed development program. Speed cannot improve with weak low back and abdominal muscles. Flexibility and strength in these two areas are vital to the speed development program.

One of the first aspect to speed training is to analyze the running mechanics of the athlete. A checklist of body mechanics should be used with this analysis. Alignment of the head, shoulders, hips, and knees should be observed. Check an athletes sprinting posture by viewing him/her from the front, back and side. The head should be in alignment with the torso, not pushing forward. The body should be at a slight lean, not bending at the waist. The lean comes from the ground not the waist.

Arm action is important to successful speed production. Arms should be held and maintained in a 90-degree angle throughout the forward and back motion. Proper arm action can create power and aid in proper stride length. Arms and shoulders should be relaxed with the arm swing coming from the shoulder joint. Shoulders should stay square to the direction of the run.

Proper foot placement on the ground or surface is essential in improving speed. All speed work should be conducted on the balls of the feet. When sprinting, the foot should come off the ground as quickly as possible with a lift of approximately 6”. This can be developed through proper drills, such as footwork drills using a 6” box..

Improving straight line sprinting will improve lateral and directional changing movements. If the body movement is mechanically, correct speed will improve with each sport specific movement. Training the body to perform correct movements will let the body do the right thing during competition, without having to think about it.

Sprinting mechanics should be continually corrected. The use of Plyometric drills are excellent training tools to improve speed and sprinting mechanics. Developing correct technique in a controlled situation will carry over into competition and help an athlete reach their full speed potential.