Nov 18th, 2015
Category: Athletic Performance Training
Speed, Strength and Weightlifting… quick tips to enhance your training
By, Mark Wine BA; CSCS; USAW; NASM PT, PES, CES
How many times have you heard a coach say “Speed is something that you are born with?” Although this statement reflects truth, speed can be enhanced by incorporating efficient movement pattern training; understanding the muscular requirements of sprinting and training for it; and programming proper training variables, which include load, volume, sets, reps and exercises.
The following are 5 tips are critical components in speed training:
- Hamstrings need to be trained heavy and with lower repetitions.
Hamstrings have two primary responsibilities, extension of the hip and flexion of the knee. Both actions are critical in sprinting and should be trained extensively. Strength within the hamstrings should be considered a primary goal in athletic performance training because the application of force upon ground contact increases speed ability. Strengthening the hamstrings may also prevent ACL and hamstring tears.
Hamstrings, particularly the biceps femoris, are fast twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers require heavier loads, lower repetitions, explosive movements and higher volumes. Two exercises that should be incorporated into all hamstring / speed training are Romanian deadlifts (RDL) and mid-thigh hang cleans. RDL’s should utilize around 4-6 sets with 2-8 repetitions. The load that is selected during this exercise should allow you to successfully reach that repetition protocol with a struggle. Mid-thigh hang cleans should utilize sets that range from 4-6 with 3-5 repetitions. The more the load increases the slower the bar will be moved. However, continually increasing the load is critical to generating greater levels of explosive strength. As you go up in load keep in mind that the first priority must be to move the bar by utilizing an efficient movement pattern (i.e. proper technique).
- Balance between your quadriceps and hamstrings are critical.
Muscle symmetry is one of the most over-looked and critical components in athletic performance training. As it relates to sprinting I am going to specifically speak about quadriceps versus hamstring strength. In sprinting, hamstrings are primarily responsible for the concentric muscle action and the quadricepses are primarily responsible for the eccentric muscle action. One action, concentric, propels you horizontally while the other action, eccentric, provides stability and control during ground contact. Strength coach Charles Poliquin recommends that “the best way to determine structural balance between the quadriceps and hamstrings is by testing your 1RM front squat and back squat. If your front squat strength is less than 85 percent of your back squat strength, then you have a structural imbalance.” Focus on both the front and the back squat with heavier loads; sets ranging from 4-6; and a repetition range from 3-8.
- Upper Body strength is just as critical.
Upper Body strength is critical for speed development. In fact, upper body strength can help enhance acceleration and the coordination between the lower and upper body. Acceleration is derived from the upper body as it generates the initial power production. One successful mechanism that should be utilized to train the upper body is heavy ropes. Heavy ropes require a concentric application of force from the upper body (i.e. as does sprinting) while the lower body generates additional force production; the two halves can even perform two entirely different movement patterns simultaneously thus creating total body connection.
- Resisted Sprinting must be kept to no greater than 20 yards.
The drive phase of sprinting is never greater than 20 yards. Think of a 40 yard dash. Athletes are in an upright stride position by the time they reach the 20 yard line (if they are doing it right of course). Once past the 20 yard mark speed is more reliant on power endurance as the muscles are required to continually apply force upon ground contact. Therefore, during training one should not engage in resisted sprinting or sled pushing for distances greater than 20 yards because it is not transferable.
- The core is responsible for stabilization and the transfer of power.
The mistake people make in core training for sprinting is by solely performing mainstream abdominal exercises such as leg raises, sit ups, etc… During sprinting the core maintains the upper body’s posture while transferring ground contact force from the lower body into the upper body. Any rotation during sprinting results in slowed times and inefficient sprinting. Core training should be likeminded. Exercises such as farmers walk, plank, stability ball mountain climbers and torture twists are just a few example exercises that can significantly increase your core stabilization and strength.
Speed is quickly becoming the most important component in modern day athletics. As strength coaches gain more access into educative resources, such as clinics, case studies and writings, the modern games are now quicker, faster and more explosive. Follow these tips and you will quickly become one of the athletes categorized in the quick, fast and explosive category.