Yesterday I was reading a forum discussion about
defining various elements of speed, strength, power,
The post was about how different people use
wildly different terms and definitions to define
the same concepts. And I agree that we have far too
many definitions for common training terms. Since
I have no aspirations of reinventing the wheel or
trademarking any new terminology, I think it’s
important that we all speak the same language. So,
once again, here is a link to some common training
terminology that I will be using to define certain
elements of the training plan.
It’s not a complete list, but certainly each term
should be one that you familiarize yourself with:
Last time we looked at the 5 biomotor abilities.
One of the main problems that many coaches have in
training speed is that they are looking at the
topic through a very narrow lens. Maximal speed
development is far more than just running some 40s.
With biomotor development, every single microcycle
should address all 5 biomotor abilities to some
extent. But where you are in your training plan will
determine the degree of emphasis that should be
Everything you do in your training must be done for
a reason. We live in a universe based on order.
Everything that happens, happens for a reason that,
given enough time, can be specifically identified.
That is why each element of an effective speed
training program must be based, ultimately, on
sound scientific and physiological principles.
At the same time, don’t be a robot. Coaching is
both a science *and* an art. My speed training
philosophy pulls from more coaches and sources than
it is worth mentioning here. But the point is that
I don’t *just* do what one coach says or *just*
regurgitate someone else’s theory. I study everything.
Then I test it out and see how it works with my
particular athletes. Some I keep, some I get rid of.
But that is how you develop your own system of
Now that I’m done with that brief rant, there are
6 fundamental training principles that I think should
be addressed so far as continuing to build a
foundation for understanding how you should approach
designing a speed training program for your athletes.
In essence, adaptation is the adjustment or
enhancement of fitness (‘fitness’ being a very
general term for the sum of the entire training
process) that comes from your specific speed training
protocols. Proper adaptation is the effect of relatively
stable changes caused by the training sessions you
Examples are the reduced resting heartrate seen
following an endurance training program and the
increase in muscle fiber diameter after a period of
strength training (Lamb 1978)
As I said before, everything happens for a reason.
The effectiveness of your athletes’ adaptation stems
from the effectiveness of your training.
Keep in mind, however, that rate of adaptation
depends on such factors as sex, genetics, biological
age, training age, level of fitness and motivation.
Such factors (called ‘biovariability’) must be
considered when establishing the goals of your speed
This is where you adjust your training methods to
the particular adaptive ability and response of one
This has to be done as much as possible in order to
get the best results. Biodiversity is a very real,
very obvious factor. Giving all your athletes the same
generic program to follow will result in the same
It can not be emphasized enough that you must
individualize your program.
If you’re working 1:1 or with small groups, the
program is easily tailored to the individual needs
of these athletes.
I understand first hand, however, the difficulties
presented in training the speed of a team of 30,40
even 50+ athletes and still indididualizing the
There are solutions to this that I will get into
later, but such things as testing, goal setting
meetings and organization are the first steps
toward getting the most out of your athletes.
Even breaking goals and expectations down based on
training age, fastest times, strength levels, etc.
will produce far greater results than the ‘one size
fits all’ ideology employed in most programs.
Yes, individualization makes your job harder. You
have to be more organized and efficient in your
coaching. Fundamentally this is where you separate
yourself from the rest of the pack.
Overload can be termed as any training stimulus
significant enough to elicit an adaptive response.
For athletes to continue to adapt, said stimulus
has to be increased along specific lines. The degree
of this increased load can be measured by:
Volume can be measured by the number of repetitions
performed, the total distance run or the total
For example: 10x30m = a volume of 300 meters
5 sets of 5 squats at 225 pounds = a volume of 5625
Intensity is the percent of maximum performance that
a particular exercise is performed.
An athlete with a personal best in the 100m dash of
11.0 seconds who performs one run at 11.58 seconds
equals an intensity of 95%.
Density is the amount of recovery between bouts of
exercise, but in relation to the amount of time said
exercise takes to complete.
An interval workout where an athlete runs for 45
seconds and jogs for 90 seconds is less dense than
a workout where the athlete runs for 45 seconds and
rests for 45 seconds.
Duration relates to the amount of time the athlete
is actually exercising as opposed to recovering from
A sprinters interval workout of 10x200m may have a
duration of 5 minutes even though the workout lasts
30+ minutes while a speed workout 6x50m lasting the
same length of time may have a duration of only
30 – 40 seconds.
It is important to consider all these factors and
their impact on general adaptation when designing
your speed training program.
Restoration, or recovery, is the *aided* return of
the athlete to his/her normal state through means
such as massage, nutrition, hydration, recovery
work, rest and relaxation.
The term also refers to the amount of time required
to go from the fatigued post workout state to the
point of super adaptation.
For example, it may take 48-72 hours to fully
recover from an intenste neuromuscular training
Some coaches have a mindset that if athletes are
not relegated to the point of complete muscular
failure, then they have not worked hard enough.
This ‘no pain, no gain’ mindset leftover from the
1970s is truly disturbing to see.
Adaptation takes place not from the workout itself,
but from the effectiveness of the recovery
mechanisms employed between (in the case of speed
development) neuro days.
Also known as ‘detraining’, this is the loss of
adaptation due to either lack of or inadequate
How long it takes to start to ‘get out of shape’
depends on many variables and is of particular
concern in track and field athlete
s during the
For example, aerobic enzyme production begins to
decrease after just 24 hours. Yet strength may
be maintained for several weeks of inactivity, though
muscle fiber size will decrease fairly quickly.
Once you lay a foundation of general fitness in the
preparation phases, your training must evolve toward
the specific speed requirements of your athletes
While general conditioning will have positive
effects on other systems, maximal training response
comes from training designed to stress the systems
specific to that sport or event, at the intensity of
and duration of the event.
This is why you can’t run slow all the time and get
An example would be improved reaction time and
acceleration following a series of starting practice
By considering how these factors will affect your
athletes, you are in a better position to design
a specific, individualized and effective speed
training program for your athletes, regardless of
the degree of biovariability within the group.
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