Speed Training Exercises
Every coach should have a handful of speed training exercises that they use with their athletes to help develop specific components of speed development. These ‘go to’ drills and techniques are invaluable for one simple reason: they work.
However, like with your overall speed training program, you must make sure that these exercises are going to accomplish the goals you have for that particular practice or training session, as well as fix whatever ongoing technique issue that is holding athletes back. In this article, I will go over some of my favorite speed training exercises and explain why I use them.
The first drill that I teach athletes is an arm action drill. Many athletes have serious problems with their arms. There are some tell-tale signs such as swinging the arms across the body instead of driving the elbows down and back. Another is called ‘doggy paddling’ where athletes let their hands turn outward on the backswing of the arms instead of keeping the palms facing in. One of the most common issues is breaking at the elbow where athletes let the arm angle open up past the appropriate 90-120 degree angle in back and let it close up to less than 90 degrees during front swing. I believe that addressing arm action must come before implementing more complex drills and exercises because its difficult to develop proper lower body mechanics if the upper body is not under control.
In order to increase running speed, athletes must focus on applying more force to the ground. It’s simple physics – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, the more force athletes can apply to the ground, the more it will give back in return. The result is increased horizontal velocity, or speed. There are two ways to make this happen. First, athletes must learn the speed drills that teach and reteach perfect running mechanics so that they put themselves in a position to apply as much force to the ground as their current strength levels allow. So from a drill standpoint, I recommend teaching the following speed training exercises in this order:
- ‘A’ March
- ‘ A’ Run
- ‘ A’ Skip
- Fast Leg
The second thing athletes need to do in order to improve their ability to apply force to the ground is increase their strength levels by committing to the weight room. All things being equal, you can’t get faster if you don’t get stronger. If you work with or are an athlete over the age of 14 and you’re not actively using the weight room as a method of improving athletic performance, then you are leaving out a critical element of your overall training program. So get in the weight room, lift heavy weights, keep the reps low (1-6 reps) and get full recovery betweens sets (at least 2-3 minutes). For work in the weight room, I recommend you make the following exercises the foundation of you program:
- Hang clean
You may think you need more than that, but if you want to improve speed, you don’t need any more than that. At the very least, build around those exercises.
There are a great deal of speed training exercises that you can use to your advantage as long as you’re willing to put in the effort to learn how to teach them with perfect form.
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