Nowadays, speed training is all the rage in almost every sport. You can find “coaches” marketing weekend camps or group training at schools and parks everywhere. Because it’s so heavily marketed to teams and groups, you feel like you’ll be left in the dust if you don’t do it.
I think we can all agree that teaching the mechanics of running is essential for beginners because technique and form are necessary for achieving maximal speed. But with so much emphasis placed on getting faster, what is a parent or athlete to do?
In my opinion, “speed training” is the latest fad to squeeze money out of misinformed coaches, parents, and athletes. Some parents are usually torn between choosing to pay for speed training or strength training. Well, I’m pretty sure you can guess my answer to this dilemma! The biggest bang for your buck is achieved through strength training. The stronger you are, the more force you’ll be able to apply to the ground, which will make you faster.
To get faster, strength training is paramount because:
- Force = mass x acceleration
- Power = force x velocity
You’ll also get better triple extension (locking of the ankle, knee, and hip). We all want to develop more force and power, but what does triple extension have to do with all this? Without locking at the hip, knee, and ankle, maximal jumping and sprinting can’t be accomplished. Triple extension is the key to a faster athlete.
Let’s take a look at the NFL combine. The combine is made up of a series of tests—the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, three-cone drill, and shuttle run. Five out of these six events are lower body dominant, and they test the athlete’s ability to explode from a static position to an all out sprint, jump, or lateral shuffle. Guys running a 40-yard dash under 4.25 seconds are very hard to come by. If you can achieve this type of speed at a combine, you can pretty much assure yourself a very lucrative contract. Tenths of a second can mean the difference between thousands or millions of dollars for certain athletes.
Each position player is looked at as a whole, but the hips and legs are highly scrutinized so separating yourself from the pack is very important. With that being said, quickness is brought about by explosive movements such as cleans, snatches, squats, deadlifts, tire flips, and other movements. I’m willing to bet that the guys who stand out on these tests put in a lot of time performing these types of lifts!
Take a look at a basketball player going up for a blocked shot or a slam dunk. He explodes off the ground by applying as much pressure as possible in order to get as high as possible. Triple extension is very important for all jumping movements. With a proper weight training program, athletes can increase their vertical jump and speed and decrease their chances of injury.
Most people wouldn’t think that swimmers need to lift weights let alone incorporate triple extension exercises. But they have to start somewhere and usually it’s on land. If they’re competing in the backstroke, they push away from the wall with an explosive jump. The weights don’t have to be heavy in order to increase the power derived from triple extension. Jumping or deadlifting with light weight can make a big difference in a swimmer’s starting strength.
Wrestlers definitely need to utilize strength training because they are constantly battling an opponent’s weight and strength. However, do they need to encompass triple extension exercises? Of course. They’re creating tremendous power and force with every throwing movement. For this, we use different types of cleans with dumbbells, kettlebells, and sandbags in order to strengthen their hips. The tremendous grip work involved is an added bonus of performing cleans.
Being a coach, my ultimate goal is to get my clients stronger and faster than their opponents. I teach them technique first, and as they improve, I increase the resistance and workload specific to the demands of their sport. Running around cones and ladders won’t increase their speed nearly as well as a quality strength training program. Time invested in a weight room will yield better results than running with a parachute strapped to your back. It doesn’t matter what surface they compete on—by achieving powerful triple extension through the ankle, knee, and hip, we can create explosive and powerful athletes!