Why Aren"t You Getting Faster by John Cortese

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Speed training is a very hot topic. Hell, it always has been. In sports such as football, baseball, and soccer, the faster players almost always have the upper hand on their opponents. Speed literally does take the life out of another team. No matter how well you prepare yourself for a given team, if they have a couple more speedsters than you do, they automatically have the upper hand.

How often have you been on the other side of being beat deep for a touchdown by a player who just was flat out faster and more explosive than you? How frustrating is it to race for the ball in the middle of an open field during a soccer game and get beat every single time by a player who had a better set of “wheels” than you? These are just some examples, but do you get the point?

I wanted to address this topic because of a comment I heard last night from one of the announcers during a high school football game. It was along the lines of “you can’t teach speed.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this before. I used to believe in this. No matter what I did in high school, it seemed that nothing worked to get me faster and more explosive. I was told I’d probably never break 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. My freshman year of college I ran a 4.66 40-yard dash weighing 176 lbs. A little over a year later (after some hard and smart training), I ran a 4.47 40-yard dash weighing 189 lbs while being significantly stronger!

What is the point of all this? Speed is a skill that can be taught to any athlete. Anyone can get faster than they previously were with some smart planning and hard work as well as just enough work to create an adaptation. Quick tip: Do enough to stimulate, not annihilate.

Here are some reasons why you may not be getting faster.

1. You’re doing too much: If you’re going out and running endless 100-yard sprints every single day, your body will start to break down. Injury will happen soon enough, or you’ll get frustrated as fatigue starts to accumulate and you get slower. My general rule is keep a speed session above 200 total meters/yards but no more than 500 total meters/yards in a given session and do no more than three speed sessions per week. The rules are rough guidelines, so follow them loosely. If your form starts to break down or you feel fatigued, call of the session. This leads me to my next guideline…

2. You’re not focusing on quality: If you try to turn these speed sessions into a conditioning session, you’re defeating the purpose! In order to facilitate improvements in speed, you must achieve complete recovery after each repetition in order to teach your nervous system what a fresh, full speed sprint feels like. You won’t be able to achieve the types of speed you’re looking for if you’re resting 30 seconds between 60-meter sprints. The effort might be there, but the times will show otherwise. Take home point—rest enough to make each rep quality.

3. You aren’t lifting weights: Yes, most young (and even some college) athletes are flat out weak. If you aren’t strong enough to apply force to the ground, absorb force (each sprint stride places around 4–5 times your body weight on each limb upon foot strike), and consistently do that rep after rep, you aren’t going to be as efficient as you need to be. Again, like number one, don’t overdo it and go and lift five days a week and expect to get faster. My rule here is lift after speed sessions (if speed is your main priority, this must be emphasized as supplemental to speed work) and keep it simple.

Often times, you may be too drained from a great speed session to lift. You might only be able to perform a few sets of heavy squats, cleans, or chin-ups. That’s fine as long as you’re striving to get strong and aren’t afraid to pay your dues in the squat rack. Most fast athletes are also very strong. (Ben Johnson, former world record holder in the 100 meters is said to have squatted approximately 600 lbs for two sets of six and bench press 440 lbs for two sets of five at a body weight of 175 lbs. He ran 9.79 seconds in the 100-meter dash.) Think about it like this—you need to add some horsepower in that engine of yours, so get stronger!

4. You aren’t warming up properly: A thorough warm up is critical in order to generate the heat necessary for your muscles to perform optimally. Because sprint training is such a high velocity activity, you must be warmed up prior to engaging in this type of activity. No, this doesn’t mean static stretch for five minutes and expect to be ready. I’m talking about a full dynamic warm up (lunges, hip circles, leg swings, skips, jumps, throws, push-ups, sit-ups, and drills). This shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes. Not only will you be ready to sprint, but you’ll notice a decrease in some painful problem areas such as your back, knees, and shoulders. Quick tip: Don’t turn the warm up into the workout itself. This should be something that gets you “warm” and lightly sweating before activity.

5. You aren’t resting: Your body adapts to training while it rests in between high intensity bouts of training, not during the training itself. A training demand of this nature requires you rest so your body can repair and come back fresh for the next session. The nervous system generally requires 48 hours in between bouts. So if you’re going to sprint on Monday, wait until Wednesday or Thursday to do it again.

6. You’re out of shape: Yes, even sprinters and team sport/power athletes must have some sort of general fitness in place. The key here is to keep this type of training in the lower intensity range. Low intensity activities can include extensive tempo running (“rhythm running” or strides at 60–75 percent of your best time over a given distance with short recoveries), body weight/calisthenics circuits, jump rope, incline walks, swimming, and even an extended warm up of 30–45 minutes without resting. The benefits of these types of activity are that they improve capillary density to promote greater blood flow and recovery between training bouts, increase the amount of high intensity activity you can tolerate (work capacity), decrease recovery time the day after a hard training session, keep the athletes “fit” with a low body fat percentage (ever seen a fat, soft, pudgy, weak guy who could run really fast? Not very often!), and promote rhythm through cadence. This can be done in between high intensity days. The younger or less fit you are, the more this type of work should be done. Start out with 2–3 times per week.

Note: There is a time and a place to partake in those gut wrenching, ball-busting conditioning training sessions, but keep in mind, the further away you are from your competitive season, the less you should do this type of work. (This is my opinion. Others may think I’m full of crap, but what are you going to do? You can’t please ‘em all!)

 

Putting it all together:

Ok, so we’ve established some general guidelines, but how the hell do you put a sample week together or a given training day? Here’s an example of a speed day:

Full dynamic warm up: Light jogging for 400 meters, leg swings, hip circles, knee hug/quad stretches, walking Spiderman lunges, crossover lateral lunges, A-skips, B-skips, pogo jumps, medicine ball throws; practice starts.

Speed work (acceleration focus): 5 X 10 m, 4 X 20 m, 2 X 3 X 30 m (complete recovery)

Jumps: Standing long jump 2 X 6, standing triple jump 2 X 5

Weights (full body): Back squat, 4 X 5 (increase the weight on each set to a heavy set of 5 on the last set); bench press, 3–4 X 5–6; one-arm dumbbell row, 3 X 10 supersetted with pull-ups, 3 X max reps; glute ham raise, 3–4 X 8–10; front/side planks, 2 X 60 seconds.

Regeneration: Foam roll for 5–10 minutes, static stretch for 5 minutes, consume a post-workout carb/protein shake, take a contrast hot/cold shower.

Here’s a sample training week for an 18-year-old football player:

Sunday: Off

Monday: Speed (linear)/weights/jumps

Tuesday: Tempo (1500 yards tempo running, 100-yard intervals at 70 percent with 30 seconds rest); body weight circuit of push-ups, sit-ups, and squats

Wednesday: Off or light skill work

Thursday: Speed (linear and non linear)/lower body weights/throws

Friday: Upper body weights/incline treadmill walk with weighted vest 5.0%, 3.5 mph for 20 minutes

Saturday: Tempo runs 3 X 6 X 60 yards at 75%, rest 20 seconds between runs, 60 seconds between sets; high rep abdominal circuit, soft tissue work/regeneration.

So there you have it. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Keep it simple—lift weights, do some speed work with complete recovery, recover smart, and break records each week. You should see yourself finally get faster! Although proper planning and periodization are also factors in creating fast athletes, the principles remain here. Don’t over analyze the situation! Assess your goals and get started!

Here’s to getting you faster, stronger, and more explosive! And remember, it’s not your fault—speed can be taught!

John Cortese is a full-time college student at Cal Poly-SLO, working toward his bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a personal trainer/performance specialist at a personal training facility. He works with athletes who want to get stronger, faster, and more explosive for their sport as well as with the “average Joes” who still want to train hard and be in kick-ass shape. You can check out his blog at http://CortesePerformance.com or email him with any training related questions or comments at john@corteseperformance.com.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.




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Submitted by DMorgan on Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:25pm.

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