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Designing an effective speed-training program - Part 2

Patrick Beith explains the seven steps to building your speed training programme.

In the first article, I talked about identifying the demands of your sport to design a training plan that will help you achieve your goals. For a speed-training program, it is important to determine where the focus is for your sport during the preseason and competitive season. We can break sports down into two categories:

  1. Team sports, e.g. football, rugby, hockey
  2. Individual sports, e.g. squash, Track & Field

Team sports like football, basketball, and rugby are going to have to focus the majority of speed and conditioning development in the preseason. Once the competitive season starts, the focus is going to be more on the maintenance of the improvements made during the offseason and preseason as opposed to specifically trying to make significant speed gains during the competitive season.

The problem I see with team sports is that there is no organized periodisation or progression of conditioning in the preseason or competitive season. This is why there is often a rash of burnout, mid-season performance regression (due to overtraining), and late-season injuries. The techniques you will learn here should prevent that from happening ever again.

On the other side, you have 'individual' sports, where we will consider track and field. Here we often train through early-season competitions with the goal being to have athletes run their fastest at the end of the season, instead of the beginning of the season like in team sports.

The training principles for both categories are the same. Before you can begin creating a specific training plan, you have to be organised. Here are seven steps that I recommend you follow before you sit down to write out the particular details of your overall plan.

1. Establish a clear, specific goal for the training plan

This is the same whether designing a plan for an individual or a team. Is the goal to improve your 40-metre time by 0.3 seconds by the start of the season? Do you want to win a State Title? Do you want to compete in the national school championships in August (what is there a qualifying time)?

If you identify a goal such as 'make me quicker' then how will you know if you have accomplished it? You have to set a time-related measurable goal. This is one of the most overlooked and difficult components of the training plan. However, if you do not start with the end goal, or end date, and work backward you cannot get a real understanding of how to progress your training.

2. Make a detailed analysis of the demands of your sport

Consider for your sport:

  • Is there a significant anaerobic and/or aerobic demand for your sport?
  • How about agility and change of direction skills
  • Does your sport focus on acceleration or top-end speed?
  • Do you hold, swing or carry an implement in your sport?

3. Establish a list of qualities and abilities needed to succeed in the specific speed applications of your sport.

This should be based on your analysis of demands. For example:

  • absorb impact and then accelerate
  • accelerate while in a state of extreme fatigue
  • develop consistent acceleration patterns out of blocks
  • hit a moving ball while running at top speed

4. Create a list of specific training activities

This list should be designed to address and develop the identified list of qualities and abilities. For example:

  • specific drills teaching how to take a hit and effectively accelerate
  • fartlek runs and whistle workouts to simulate the types of starting and stopping while tired that they'll experience in a game
  • drive phase development and block work session to teach a consistent, explosive sprint start
  • drills developing techniques for striking, kicking, or dribbling the ball while running at full speed

5. Create a list of general training activities

These should be designed to prepare the body to undertake specific training. For example:

  • an athlete must learn how to separately absorb contact and learn to accelerate before the actions can effectively be combined
  • athletes must develop their aerobic power, lactic capacity, and acceleration ability before they can succeed in combining those three elements successfully
  • athletes must develop a consistent acceleration pattern, understand the drive phase, and perfect running mechanics before successfully developing a fast start
  • athletes must learn how to kick, strike or dribble the ball, as well as learn acceleration and top speed mechanics before they can combine these skills

6. Organise the list of general and specific training activities into a logical training program.

With any speed program, skills must go from general to specific, basic to complex. Athletes must establish general conditioning before doing complex lactic acid workouts. They must develop the ability to accelerate before doing speed endurance. Also, these skills must be broken down further as well as addressing other fitness components that we will discuss shortly.

7. The training program must be administered and should undergo constant evaluation

Even the best plans must be modified. Weather, injuries, and a myriad of other situations and circumstances will arise that force you to change what you are doing. Sometimes your plan does not work. That is why a detailed plan, as well as note-taking and testing, will give you a good idea if your plan is progressing as expected.

Go through these seven steps and make specific notes on how they can be specifically applied to your sport or event. Bear in mind that even these seven topics are just a general overview of the pre-planning behind the training plan. Once you have established your lists, focus on the general areas that must be developed, then you can start to get more specific.

Fitness components

First, you must understand where the specificity comes from and why it is applied. In developing the speed of any athlete in any sport, five fitness components must be developed, regardless of the perceived differences between the sport/s being trained, age, gender, and skill level of the athletes. These five fitness components are:

  1. Speed
  2. Strength
  3. Coordination
  4. Flexibility
  5. Conditioning

Next part

In the next part, we will examine the five fitness components in detail and look more directly at specific principles for applying the results you came up with within the seven steps we covered in this article, as far as it pertains to designing an effective speed training program.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • BETH, P. (2007) Designing an effective speed-training program - Part 2. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 40/ March), p. 9-10

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • BETH, P. (2007) Designing an effective speed-training program - Part 2 [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

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 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), and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (PES). He is a USA Track and Field Level II Coach in the Sprints, Hurdles, and Jumps.