This week we need to look at the energy and body
systems that we’re training when trying to develop
the speed of our athletes.
I try to look at training from a slightly different
Instead of designing training based on trying to
guessappropriate sets, reps, density, etc. I
considerthe theme of the training session that
provides theoverview of the goals I’m trying to
accomplish duringthat particular mesocycle,
microcycle and/or trainingsession. From there,
I create workouts by taxingthe energy or body
system I’m training in a way thatwill elicit the
results I am looking for.
By understanding how these systems work and how a
particular prescription of exercise develops that
particularsystem/s, I can facilitate more effective
First, we’ll briefly look at the energy systems
we’reworking with in our speed development.
There are three that we have to be concerned with.
1. ATP/CP System (which we’ve already discussed)
2. Glycolytic System (commonly called the lactic
3. Aerobic System
Ultimately these systems describe the metabolic
pathways available to replace ATP concentrations.
From a pure speed development standpoint, we are
goingto be primarily concerned with the first system
which wascovered in depth in last week’s newsletter.
In the glycolytic system, as hydrogen ion
concentrations increase, enzyme activity decreases
and glucose or glycogen breaks down to pyruvate to
In short, this is the burning, lactic acid feeling
that you get during speed and special endurance runs.
That pain is essentially the muscles shutting down.
If you’ve ever run a 400m dash or seen the last 100m
of that race, you have seen the full effects of this
energysystem. We call it ‘rigging’ short for ‘rigor
The name says it all.
I’m not going to get into the aerobic system here,
exceptto say that when it comes to most speed
developmentprograms (though I may be preaching to
the choir here) this system gets far too much
But to truly design an effective program, knowledge
of your sport/event and how these energy systems
affect success in that sport/event is critical to
The next topic requiring some attention is that of
understanding the 4 body systems that must be
developed with your training.
There are actually 5 body systems, the first of
which we call the ‘energy systems’ and they comprise
the three systems I just highlighted.
The Neuromuscular System
This system consists of the elements of the Central
Nervous System that control skeletal muscle
activityas well as muscle tissue that is involved
in creatingforce production during athletic
performance. The degreeof effectiveness of the Central
Nervous System is the single greatest factor in
performance. Developingthe neuromuscular system
should be the most important focus of your training.
As I’ve mentioned on countless occassions, this
systemmust be trained in the absense of fatigue in
order to elicit the best results. Despite its
importance, this system is widely underdeveloped in
The Neuroendocrine System
This system operates by releasing hormones into
the blood stream during exercise. By having certain
hormones in the blood stream, strength development,
recovery from workouts and other metabolic functions
are significantly enhanced. So certain types of
exercise produce clear responses to the endocrine
system where effectively designed training can
result in marked improvement in performance.
The Musculoskeletal System
This system consists of the muscle tissue
responsible for force production, connective
tissue and the bones. It is important to note that
force created and force applied are *not* the same.
The musculoskeletal system facilitates the
transformation of created force to applied force.
From a training stand point, it is critical to
develop postural stability as well as postural
alignment in order to enable efficient movement
patterns as well as prevent injuries.
The Proprioceptive System
This system’s job is to sense and provide the body
with information concerning body position, movement,
coordinative abilities. Many movements and actions
in speed development, as well as in athletic
performance as a whole, are considered reflexive.
Thus they are reliant on proprioceptive function.
Athletes who can quickly and easily respond to their
body position and movement are at a decisive advantage
in regards to overall skill development and therefore
performance. In order to effectively and efficiently
develop this system, athletes must engage in
activities that challenge their coordination and
Because all 5 of these systems contribute to speed
and performance *all* of them must be developed.
There is a level of interconnectedness between all
5 systems. So in developing one system, you will
be developing others at the same time. This does not
change the fact that your speed development program
must address all of these systems with some degree of
*planned* balance. This balance in training is just
as important to overall speed gains as the
development of any one system in particular.
That being said, it is important to consider the
demandsof your sport/event, the age (training and
otherwise) of your athletes, skill level, etc. in
order to determine the most appropriate balance of
Coaches will often overemphasize the aerobic energy
system with respect to inappropriate development of
the neuromuscular system. At the same time, many
programs entirely ignore the proprioceptive and
neuroendocrine systems. All of these fatal flaws in
program design adversely affect speed gains and
consistency of performance. According to
Cliff Rovelto (2006) ‘the cause of most injuries is
the overdevelopment of the neuromuscular system with
respect to the musculoskeletal system.’
So how do you make sure that you’re effectively
developingall of these systems and getting the most
out of your time and effort?