What is speed?
Speed is the quickness of a limb's movement, whether the legs of a runner or the shot putter's arm. Speed is an integral part of every sport and can be expressed as any of, or combination of, the following: maximum speed, elastic strength (power) and speed endurance.
How is speed influenced?
Energy system for speed
The anaerobic alactic pathway supplies energy for absolute speed. The anaerobic (without oxygen) and alactic (without lactate) energy system are best challenged as athletes approach top speed between 30 and 60 metres while running at 95% to 100% of the maximum. This speed component of anaerobic metabolism lasts for approximately eight seconds and should be trained when no muscle fatigue is present (usually after 24 to 36 hours of rest).
How do we develop Speed?
The sprint technique must be rehearsed at slow speeds and transferred to runs at maximum speed. The stimulation, excitation and correct firing order of the motor units, composed of a motor nerve (Neuron) and the muscles it supplies, make it possible for high-frequency movements to occur. The process is not very clear, but the complex coordination and timing of the motor units and muscles must be rehearsed at high speeds to implant the correct patterns.
Flexibility and a correct warm-up will affect stride length and frequency (strike rate). Stride length can be improved by developing muscular strength, power, strength endurance and running technique. The development of speed is highly specific, and to achieve it, we should ensure that:
When should speed work be conducted?
It is important to remember that running speed is a complex process controlled by the brain and nervous system. For a runner to move more quickly, the leg muscles must contract more quickly, but the brain and nervous systems must learn to control these faster movements efficiently. If you maintain speed training throughout the year, your muscles and nervous system do not lose the feeling of moving fast, and the brain will not have to re-learn the proper control patterns later.
Speed work should be done during the training week after rest or light training. Speed work should be conducted after the warm-up in a training session, and any other activity should be low-intensity.
The following are sample speed workouts for competitive runners (Dr Karp 2012)
All speed workouts should include an appropriate warm-up and cool down.
Reaction Speed Drill
The athletes start in various positions - lying face down, on their backs, in a push-up or sit-up position, kneeling or seated. The coach standing some 30 metres from the group, then gives everyone a signal to jump up and run towards them slightly faster than the race pace. Repeat using various starting positions and with the coach standing in different places so that the athletes have to change directions quickly once they begin to run. Speed reaction drills can also be conducted while controlling an item (e.g. football, basketball, hockey ball) with an implement (e.g. feet, hands, hockey stick).
Murray (2005) looked at weighted sledge training and its effect on sprint acceleration, and they concluded that training with a weighted sledge would help improve the athlete's acceleration phase. The session used in the research was 4 x 20m, and 4 x 50m maximal effort runs.
Lockie et al. (2003) investigated the effects of various loadings and concluded that using a sledge of approx. 10-15% of body weight should be used so that the acceleration technique dynamics are not negatively affected.
Starts over 10-20 metres performed on a slight incline of around five degrees have a significant conditioning effect on the calf, thigh and hip muscles (they have to work harder because of the incline to move) that will improve sprint acceleration.
Downhill sprinting is a method of developing running speed following the acceleration phase. Use 40 to 60 metres to build up to full speed and then maintain the speed for 30 metres. A session could comprise 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 repetitions. This method's difficulty is to finding a suitable hill with a safe surface. A hill with a maximum of a 15° decline is most suitable.
Over-speed work could be carried out when there are prevailing strong winds - run with the wind behind you.
The general principles for improved speed are as follows:
Seven Step Model
The following is a seven-step model for developing playing speed.
For several sports acceleration and speed over a short distance (10 to 50 metres) is very important, e.g. American Football, Basket Ball, Baseball, Cricket, Field Hockey, Rugby, Soccer etc. An explanation on how to develop a program to meet this need can be found on the 40-yard Dash page.
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