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Designing an effective speed-training program - Part 3

Patrick Beith continues his series of articles on designing an effective speed training programme by providing an overview of the components of fitness that contribute to speed development.

As I said at the end of part 2 of this topic, five bio-motor abilities must be trained to maximize the performance of any athlete. And this is true regardless of sport, age, talent, or experience. These five abilities must be trained in every workout. However, depending on the time of year, sport, and individual training goals, some will need to be trained more frequently than others. So let us review and cover these five fitness components before getting into the specific program design. The five bio-motor abilities are:

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


The need for flexibility varies by sport and event as well as from muscle group to muscle group. However, rarely have I ever seen an athlete who appears to be 'too flexible.' However, a lack of flexibility is an ever-present issue. For our purposes, there are two types of flexibility that we must address in our program:

  1. Static flexibility
  2. Dynamic flexibility

The need for static stretching before a workout or competition is a subject for debate and, like many training factors, is a matter of preference. However, static stretching as the sole means of improving mobility before a game or practice is a recipe for disaster. Excessive static stretching is known to decrease short-term strength and power output, so it cannot be the primary method of preparation for activities requiring strength and power output. Save static stretching for after practice as this is where the biggest gains in flexibility will be made.

Dynamic mobility exercises must be the foundation of any practice or competitive situation. Dynamic stretching ensures muscles will be appropriately warmed up, and the core body temperature is raised.


The lack of coordination is one of the single most significant limiting factors to the success of young athletes, even the 'best' ones. The development of coordinative abilities is a requirement for success in all sports. These abilities include:

  1. To spatially orient oneself
  2. To kinaesthetically differentiate
  3. To react
  4. To keep rhythm
  5. To maintain balance

Also, co-coordinative ability develops before sexual maturity. Thus, it is believed that these skills must be developed during pre-pubescence since they are seen to regress during puberty. There is an infinite number of activities that develop the coordinative abilities including, but not limited to:

  • change of direction drills
  • agility ladder work
  • dynamic exercises
  • hurdle mobility
  • plyometrics
  • proprioceptive work
  • speed drills
  • medicine ball throws
  • strength training
  • sport-specific activities (blockwork, batting practice running routes, running approaches, kicking a ball, etc.)

All of these activities, when structured correctly within the overall macrocycle (yearly plan), will develop the coordination required to succeed on the track, court, or field.


Endurance is the capacity to maintain a certain degree of speed in the presence of fatigue. Specific endurance requirements vary by sport. Sending a football player or 100-meter runner out to run 3 miles is an unacceptable waste of time, but entirely appropriate for a soccer player or miler. We can break down endurance into two broad categories:

  1. General Endurance
  2. Specific Endurance

General endurance is the ability to maintain a level of performance for an extended period. It includes the neuromuscular, central nervous and cardio-respiratory endurance systems. General endurance is often equated with aerobic endurance because of its long-term nature. Specific endurance refers to the unique endurance required to perform activities from playing football to running a marathon. Different sports require different specific endurance and knowledge of physiology allows you to design training specific to your sporting needs.


Strength is another requirement of optimal speed that is often either ignored or performed incorrectly. Common sense tells us that athletes cannot expect to get faster if they do not get stronger. This is because they will be unable to move their bodies forward due to limitations in their force output. There are, of course, different types of strength. Absolute strength is the ability to produce great force, regardless of the speed of movement. This quality is fundamental to all types of strength and governs the body's ability to control internally generated forces.

Power, the product of strength and speed, is the ability to produce force quickly. Overcoming one's bodyweight is critical to acceleration, the fundamental element of speed development. General strength is the ability to control one's body and overcome internal resistance. Think of it as a combination of strength and coordination. This is a critical area of development for young (high school and below) athletes who either lack this type of strength or focus on developing other areas and neglect this area, at a cost. Use general strength for postural stability, a substitute for weight training, endocrine system development, coordination, and recovery.


A traditional definition of speed is: 'The ability to move the body or its parts quickly.' As with all training, I look at the demands of the activity regarding its energy system requirements. We can break speed down into the following categories:

  • Acceleration: 0 - 40 meters (0 - 5 seconds)
  • Maximum Velocity: 40 - 80 meters (5 - 8 seconds)
  • Speed Endurance: 80 - 150 meters
  • Special Endurance I: 150 - 300 meters
  • Special Endurance II: 300 - 600 meters

Outside of track and field, most athletes will not focus much time and energy beyond speed endurance. Take the time to consider how these five bio-motor abilities should be factored into your training.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • BETH, P. (2007) Designing an effective speed-training program - Part 3. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 41/ April), p. 8-9

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 3 [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.