Monday, January 4, 2010

Top 10 Speed Training Tips

You need my top 10 speed training tips because every athlete wants to be bigger, faster and stronger. To improve your sports speed, you must train the whole body. These training tips will apply to straight ahead speed only.

Every athlete can improve strength, power and speed with hard work and the proper training methods.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #1 Strengthen and stabilize your total body (and joint structures), including core strength. Without the proper body strength and flexibility, you will never reach your running speed potential! Strengthen your core every day. Exercises like planks, side planks and bridges can be done every day. A strong core is important for speed endurance. Arm strength will help you pump your arms faster which, in turn, will help you run faster.

Leg strength is critical. A male should be able to squat his body weight 8-10 times and a female should be able to squat about 75% of her body weight 8-10 times. If you are not able to squat, then you should be able to leg press about 1.5 times your body weight 8-10 times. Having enough lower body strength will enhance your running speed and power (how fast your muscles can produce force).

Some great lower body strength exercises are squats (including single leg), deadlift, lunges, step ups, power step ups (pictured below) and hang cleans. Single leg exercises like step ups and lunges use the same pathways that it takes to run fast.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #2 Strengthen and condition your hips, glutes, thighs and hamstrings. These groups make up your athletic "power center" and great athletes dominate with these muscle groups. In addition to the exercises mentioned in Tip #1, add exercises like good mornings and glute/ham drops.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #3 Be willing to change your eating habits! Sixty to 70% of your sports fitness goal success or failure will depend on good nutrition. YOU NEED TO EAT LIKE AN ATHLETE TO BE ABLE TO PERFORM AT A HIGH LEVEL. ALSO, IF YOU HAVE TOO MUCH BODY FAT, YOU WILL NOT REACH YOUR RUNNING SPEED POTENTIAL! Get to know your body and what types of food you are better off not eating. For example, grains/starchy carbohydrates cause some people to not make progress with fat loss.

Cut out these type foods: sodas, sugary fruit juice drinks, candy, cookies, donuts, fried meats and fried foods, fast foods, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, foods in a bag

Add these type foods: oatmeal, salad greens, nuts, low-fat dairy products, low-fat yogurt, fruits, veggies, unsweetened tea, water, lean meats (baked, broiled or grilled), olive oil, cinnamon, mustard. You get the idea!

SPEED TRAINING TIP #4 If you want to improve your running speed, you must first master the basic running mechanics.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #5 You must train fast to get faster! Any speed workout should begin after a 10 minute dynamic warmup. Exercises such as butt-kickers, jogging, lunges, prancing, ankle bounces and medicine ball drills, etc. get your body ready for activity. Perform static flexibility stretches after your workout to bring your muscles back to normal length.

When training for speed, distance running should be kept to a minimum because it reduces explosiveness. You can condition for your sport by doing metabolic training, which is training that closely mimics your game-time competition.

Do all of your speed drills with maximum effort. Training at less than maximum effort will not improve your speed. Take adequate rest breaks (1 minute rest for every 10 yards sprinted).

SPEED TRAINING TIP #6 Improving your power (how fast your muscles can produce force) will improve your running speed. Improving your standing vertical jump height will improve your straight-ahead speed. Using plyometric exercises like squat jumps and weighted squat jumps will help you improve your standing verticle jump and therefore your speed and power.

Likewise, improving your standing long jump will also improve your speed and power. A more explosive, powerful athlete will be a faster athlete. The NFL Combine 40-yard dash results for the last 10 years shows that those with the best standing vertical jumps and the best standing broad jumps have the fastest 40 yard dash times.

You should progress to plyometric exercises after your body has enough strength to withstand this high intensity, high risk type of exercise. Jumping and landing techniques should also be mastered before progressing to full speed plyometric exercises. Never do plyometric exercises on hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #7 Improve your speed acceleration. During intense sports competition, getting to the spot quicker is often more important than being faster than your opponent. Maximum speed is rarely reached in many sports, so your acceleration speed becomes crucial to your success. A sprinter can win a race without being the fastest runner in the race by attaining his or her maximum speed before the other sprinters. Researchers from New Zealand found that athletes with quicker ground contacts produced better acceleration.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #8 Apply more force to the ground with your feet! This running technique is often overlooked. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The more force you apply to the ground, the more the ground will "give you power."

When you run, don't lift your knee past your "thigh being parallel" to the ground. This way, you will use your "power center" (glutes and hamstrings) to apply force to the ground instead of the less powerful hip flexors. In other words, running "with high knees" is not the best way to run! Also, step over the opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground to create maximum force.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #9 Make sure your feet land under your hips! (your center of gravity)! And, when the foot leaves the ground, it should follow a path straight up to the buttocks. It should not flail from side to side. One of the most common running mistakes is over-striding.

When you over-stride, your heel lands first with your foot well ahead of your body's center of gravity. This causes "braking" and slows you down. It is also a good way to get injured. The heel should never touch the ground when you run.

SPEED TRAINING TIP #10 Improve your speed endurance. When I played college football, the teams who were stronger and faster in the fourth quarter often won the game. This applies to any sport, whether individual or team. Speed endurance is the ability to maintain maximum velocity or a percentage of maximum velocity for a prolonged period of time or in a fatigued state. When you are fatigued, it is important to maintain proper running mechanics. Doing so will give you an edge over your opponent.

Several sports require speed endurance including football, lacrosse, basketball, soccer, field hockey and tennis. These sports require repeated sprints followed by short periods of rest (walking or jogging).

Interval training for speed endurance is different than regular speed training. Speed endurance sprint intervals last from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Also, recovery time is reduced to prevent complete recovery by the athlete. A variation would be to use metabolic speed endurance training to simulate actual game time activity. An example would be for an offense in football to simulate the entire game in practice (i.e., huddle, run a play, huddle, run a play).

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
Your Fitness University
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  1. Enjoyed the read. Best of luck in 2010.

  2. Thanks coach!

    What are you guys doing for nutrition? I’ve started taking Fast Fuel from RSP Nutrition. It’s the first nutritional supplement for speed training and apparently a bunch of the NFL combine guys have been using it for 40 training and swear by it. Gives great energy throughout the workout and I can hold my speed for much longer when taking it. Check them out at

  3. You are absolutely right that every athlete wants to be bigger, faster and stronger.
    Your tips are great, I will definitely follow them. I am an athlete and have to make my career in running.
    Thanks for your tips, really appreciated the efforts you have put into to write this post and sharing this wonderful idea.

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  4. This blog suprises me every day (: .
    This will definately increase my speed which is highly needed in Muay Thai.

  5. Nice post on speed training, something people tend to overlook is not enough water intake, which is crucial that you get enough. Creatine might be something you might want to look into as well for an added boost.


  6. Hi there,
    The top 10 training tips are great to improve speed.


  7. I like this post. It was well detailed and I find it helpful. Big thanks for sharing.


  8. Speed workouts are an important base for any sports fitness routine. It's crucial to develop that fast twitch muscle fiber to improve all around performance. Great tips Sports Fitness Hut!


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