The Truth About Speed: You’re Being Lied To.

Whether you are attending a “speed” clinic, observing a team’s field work session, or watching some idiot on YouTube, I guarantee you have heard these words before regarding the training of team sport athletes, “(Said sport) is a game of repeated accelerations, therefore we have no need to perform absolute speed.” Are you shitting me?

Speed training, or lack thereof in today’s team sport setting is a disaster. Truth is, coaches are not enhancing the bio-motor ability they say they are. Truth is, they are developing repeated corrosive accelerations in a submaximal and lactic environment because they adhere to the “more work, less time” mantra. Truth is, they are not only limiting their athletes’ potential, but they are setting them up for failure, or worse – injury.

Now, I’m probably going to piss a lot of people off with this claim, All team sports need to perform max velocity (absolute speed).” I can already feel the daggers through the eyes of those reading this, but I don’t give a damn, it’s my article and I’ll say what I want.

Performing max velocity has a plethora of benefits:

  • If it’s strength you seek, max velocity sprinting will drive up weights, because its 5x ground reaction forces, 7x muscle-skeletal forces, and the organism (if elite) is applying ~800-1000 lbs. of force with each stride.
  • It is the safest expression of “fight or flight”. As my good friend, Derek Hansen says, “When a cheetah is chasing a springbok, does either animal pull a hamstring?”
  • Sprinting enhances the organism’s speed reserve. Simply put, as we raise the max output (absolute speed), the operational output (submaximal, game speed) raises as well. Sprinting builds endurance, endurance does not build speed.
  • It is a plyometric. Yes, sprinting is a plyometric. There is a flight phase in which both legs are off the ground, followed by a violent elastic reactive response or amortization phase to repeat the phenomena.
  • Max velocity sprinting prevents injury, but how? Ever see a breakaway run in American football and the dude blows his hamstring? He was never exposed to max velocity sprinting in training or practice, which lead to a misstep (no pun intended) in his neurological recruitment patterns.

Another phrase I know everyone reading this has heard during a field session, “To be fast you gotta train fast!” Couldn’t agree more, love it. The only problem is, you’re being lied to again. The coaches don’t mean train fast, rather they are implying that you look busy by performing at submaximal velocities with incomplete rest times in a lactic environment. As Bruce Lee once said, “To be fast, you must first learn to be slow.” What the hell does that mean? James Smith clearly states in his book, Applied Sprint Training for every 10m of work, a 1-2 min rest period is to follow for the development of speed.

  • 10m = 1-2 min. rest
  • 20m = 2-3 min. rest
  • 30m = 3-4 min. rest
  • 40m = 4-5 min. rest

An easy solution to look “busy” to appease the sport coaches is to simply film each rep taken. During the rest period, coach players up on their technique, be as animated as you want, and voila, you look busy, everyone’s happy.

Summary

The development of speed is not what it seems on the surface. Even though less than 3% of an entire game is played at max velocity, the benefits the athlete(s) can reap are more than enough to warrant micro doses of exposure.

Are most team sports a game of repeated accelerations? No question. But, if were looking to be as “sports transferable” as possible, then why don’t we just play the game(s) year round? At some point, there is going to be diminishing returns as our body will grow bored with that specific adaptation and actually regress. Same goes for the development of speed, if we only expose our athletes to acceleration work, sooner or later the body is going to stop adapting and progress will cease. That sounds a lot like the Law of Accommodation.

Truth is, acceleration is only one part of the equation. Truth is, looking “busy” is at worst, ineffective. Truth is, you’re being lied to.

Best,

HMC

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