10 Speed Training Myths Revealed
Each day we 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
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
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. And generally it
takes 36-48 hours to recover from high intensity training.
If athletes are doing too much, too often they become over
trained. Coaches can expect to see an increase in injuries,
kids complaining that they are sore more often, decreased
performance, higher levels of fatigue earlier in games.
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
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 to 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 backwards 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