The Top 10 Speed Training Myths

Each day I receive questions about training speed. So we’ve taken those
questions that we hear the most and answered them in a slightly different
format.

(1) Static stretching prepares you to compete/practice
Static stretching actually reduces power output. Athletes should prepare for
practice by doing a dynamic warm-up that moves from basic, low-intensity
movements to faster, more explosive movements as the muscles loosen up.
You want to simulate movements that athletes will go through in practice or a
game. What happens when you try and stretch a cold rubber band? In a way,
you can think about your muscles the same way.

(2) Strength training makes females too bulky
This is a popular mindset with many female athletes that we have worked
with. Simply look at some elite female athletes like Mia Hamm, Lisa Leslie,
etc. These athletes certainly train with weights and no one would accuse them
of having manly physiques. Strength training will improve performance and
reduce injury if done correctly.

(3) You can’t train speed
For some reason, it is a popular belief that you are born with a certain amount
of ‘speed’ and you can’t improve it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Most young athletes are so physically weak and mechanically out of tune that
significant improvements in speed can be made often just by working on
technique and form. Athletes at any age and any level can improve speed
when implementing a complete speed training program designed to improve
and develop the entire athlete.

(4) Training slow makes you fast
I don’t think coaches directly think this way, but their training implies
otherwise. This is especially true in sports that involve a higher aerobic
element such as soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, etc. I see kids out running
mileage and doing long slow intervals of several minutes of continuous
running. And this will get them in shape. But in games, I see kids jogging,
jogging and then sprinting at full speed for 20-30 yards, run, jog, sprint for 20-
30 yards. If you want kids to improve their acceleration and top speed so they
can get to the ball faster or get back on defense, then you have to train by
running at full speed in practice.

(5) You can train hard every day
The workout itself is only a piece of the training puzzle. It is the time between
intense workouts, the recovery, where athletes make their improvements.
Generally, it takes 36-48 hours to recover from high-intensity training. When
athletes are doing too much, too often they become over trained.
Leading to an increase in injuries, decreased performance,higher levels of fatigue earlier in games and
Frequent complaints of soreness It’s always better to under train an athlete than over train.
Err on the side of caution to get maximal results.

(6) Strength training will stunt a young athlete’s growth
This is another myth held over from a different time. On a daily basis, kids as
young as 7 years old are playing organized sports year round, tackling,
getting tackled, sliding, falling etc. These loads on the body can have a much
greater physical impact than a well-designed strength training program.
Though we don’t usually begin training with weights with pre-pubescent
athletes, they can benefit from body weight exercises such as push-ups,
lunges, sit-ups, etc. This will increase muscular efficiency, speed up recovery,
improve coordination and overall speed.

(7) The harder the workout, the better the result

Some athletes (and coaches) have this mentality that if a workout doesn’t
reduce them to complete exhaustion and/or make them vomit, that it wasn’t
an effective workout. I can tell you that those who have this mentality probably
see a lot of injuries and frustrating performances. The purpose of a workout is
to stimulate an adaptation by the body. If the body is forced to do too much
work in a given time period, it will break down. The skill in coaching is to
stimulate the adaptation in the body, without reaching a point of diminishing
returns.

(8) Interval training is the same as speed training

Running repeat 100s, 200s, etc will not improve top speeds. Even running
repeat 40s with short recovery will not improve acceleration and top speeds.
Speed work is defined at 2-8 seconds of maximal intensity running with full
recovery. That means at least 2 minutes of light dynamic movement between
each effort. This goes against the experience of some coaches, but simply
put, is the only way to improve speed. An athlete must be able to focus on
proper form and maintain intensity in order to get faster. If they do not recover
properly from each interval, they will not be able to replicate proper mechanics
with consistency and they can not improve.

(9) Flexibility won’t help you get faster

Both coaches and athletes spend so much time on the skills of their sport,
speed training and conditioning that they often forget a fundamental
component of success: flexibility. After practice or a game, the muscles are
warm and loose. Now is the time to work on increasing flexibility. So many
athletes suffer injuries or compete below their capacity because poor flexibility
inhibits their range of motion and speed. We see this often in the hips and hip
flexors where athletes’ stride length appears conspicuously short. Most often
we see this in male athletes who will lift weights, train hard and then skip out
on their cool down and flexibility work.

(10) Lift your knees

I hear so many parents and coaches yelling at their kids when they want them
to run faster or when they are beginning to fatigue, “Lift your knees, Get your
knees up”. This is one of the most backward cues we can give to athletes.
The way to run faster is to apply more force to the ground. Every action has
an equal and opposite reaction, so the more force you apply to the ground,
the more the ground will give back. So when we cue athletes to lift their knees
we’re doing two things incorrectly. One, we’re telling them to use their hip
flexors to lift instead of their glutes and hamstrings to drive down. Just think
about the size of your hip flexor versus the size of the glutes and hamstrings.
Now which muscles do you think can create more force and therefore more
speed? Second, we’re cueing them to do learn a movement that is in
opposition to what generates speed. If an athlete learns at age 7, to lift their
knees when they need a burst of speed, that improper cue will be hardwired
into their brain. To unlearn that as a teen and try to do the opposite and drive
down, that athlete will have a difficult time coordinating an entirely new way of
running and will potentially have to take a step or two backwards. That’s why
it is critical to learn proper form early and get an advantage over those who
still aren’t getting the best instruction. So cue athletes to step over the
opposite knee and drive the foot down into the ground, with the foot landing
underneath the hip.
The Sports Performance group is designed for the athletes who want the complete training experience (speed-strength and skills training, nutrition, mental skills) and starts with athletes from ages 8 yrs and up. To be at the top of your sport you need to have a complete training program that has your body and mind operating at their highest possible level of performance .
The Sports Performance Group
40 Maple Avenue. Rockville Centre, NY 11570
516.442-3040

About the Author: Jude Massillon

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