Myths Surrounding Speed Training
Top 8 speed training myths
Patrick Beith explains some of the myths that surround speed development
1. Static stretching prepares you to compete/practice
Static stretching actually reduces power output. Athletes should prepare for practice by undertaking 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.
2. Strength training makes females too bulky
This is a popular attitude 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 performed correctly.
3. You cannot train speed
For some reason it is a popular belief that you are born with a certain amount of ‘speed’ and you cannot improve it. Nothing could be further 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 programme designed to improve and develop the entire athlete.
4. Training slow makes you fast
I do not think athletes directly think this way, but their training implies otherwise. This is especially true in sports that involve a higher aerobic element, such as football, field hockey, lacrosse, etc. I see kids out running mileage and doing long, slow intervals of several minutes of continuous running. But in games I see kids jogging, jogging and then sprinting at full speed for 20-30 yards, run, jog, and sprint for 20-30 yards. If you want to improve your acceleration and top speed so you can get to the ball faster or get back on defence, then you have to train by running at full speed in practice.
5. You can train hard every day
The workout itself is only one 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. You can expect an increase in injuries, more frequent soreness, decreased performance and higher levels of fatigue earlier in games. It is always better for an athlete to under train than over train. Err on the side of caution to get maximal results.
6. The harder the workout, the better the result
Some athletes have this mentality, that if a workout does not reduce them to complete exhaustion and/or make them vomit, that it was not 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 returns.
7. 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 two to eight seconds of maximal intensity running with full recovery. That means at least three minutes of light dynamic movement between each effort. This goes against the experience of some athletes 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 cannot improve.
8. Flexibility will not help you get faster
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.