Developing your speed (part 3) - Conditioning
In the third of seven articles on speed development, Patrick Beith explains the importance of correct conditioning
'Long slow distance makes long slow runners.' What does that mean?
From experience, the level of intensity (and therefore productivity) of these fun runs can be pretty low. There are more beneficial, less time-consuming ways to improve aerobic conditioning than spending that time out running slow for a long time. Remember, train slowly to run slow. We are not saying that athletes in sports such as soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, etc., should not do any work on the roads. There are other ways to improve conditioning that can fulfil other training requirements at the same time.
In the end, it does not matter how fast your athletes are if they are not in good enough shape to finish strong at the end of the game. Traditionally, coaches use running workouts to improve aerobic conditioning. However, those types of workouts only cover one of the many areas that are required to get athletes in great shape. That is why we use general strength circuits as a means of getting athletes in the overall condition that wins championships.
These circuits are usually bodyweight exercises that do not involve any external loading (weights). This type of workout not only provides the aerobic benefits that many running workouts give but also helps the body both prepare for and recover from intense speed days and improve the physical strength. Additionally, the core strength that most young athletes lack can be properly addressed, as can improvements in balance and coordination, which is a major part of getting faster. There is only so much time in a day and an opportunity to accomplish multiple tasks in less time only means that athletes can spend extra time working on the particular skills of their individual sport.
We can use these workouts to develop core strength as well. For athletic purposes, the core consists of the abdominals, hips, glutes, lower back, as well as the shoulders. The power required for maximal running, jumping and throwing is transferred through the core. If athletes neglect to train this area with consistency, strengths gains made from other areas of training are reduced significantly. It is not enough to do some crunches for the first two weeks of the season and then stop.
The entire core region must be trained in order to get the most out of any athlete's abilities. When training the core, especially the abdominals, be sure to focus on stabilization exercises. When running, athletes must stabilize the torso to create maximal force and maintain technique.
General Strength Circuit
We are going to use a jump rope (skipping rope) in this circuit. The reason the jump rope was added, besides adding variety, is to help increase foot speed, work on balance/coordination, and increase aerobic capacity (work capacity).
You combine all of those great benefits along with the benefits of doing general strength work listed above and you have created a completely efficient workout that will only take about 25 minutes! Jump Rope Circuit: (performed on grass)
When you repeat this exercise, you can change the exercises (e.g. add lateral lunges, split squats, etc.) and also change the order of the jump rope exercise. Additionally, try switching core exercises for the jump rope exercises. For a more demanding workout, increase the pace of the jog between exercises.
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About the Author
Patrick Beth is a co-owner of Athletes' Acceleration, Inc, a company devoted to performance enhancement whose mission is to improve the knowledge base of motivated coaches and athletes in order to improve athletic performance. He is a Performance Consultant certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS), the American Council of Sports Medicine (HFI), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES) and is a USA Track and Field Level II Coach in the Sprints, Hurdles and Jumps.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: