Speed development is arguably the most desired goal of recreational and elite athletes alike. Many sports involve sprinting, and the victorious athletes and teams are often those who complete their movement task faster than their counterparts. Speed development has long been shrouded with mysticism and gimmicks. Only coaches and facilities in an elite and exclusive circle seemingly possessed the secrets of the trade. This could not be further from the truth. Improvements in sprinting speed can be had by anyone who remains consistent with their training and focuses their efforts in the right direction. In this article I’ll discuss my three P’s of speed development, which offers a simple approach to running faster.
The first “P” is for POWER. Whether your sprint mechanics makes on-lookers cringe, or you look like something out of a textbook, adding more power to your engine is going to make you sprint faster. This is the first area of training that should be addressed, and I believe offers the greatest margin for improvement. Strength and power improvements have the potential to be very extensive, especially if an athlete has not been following a periodized resistance training plan. It is essential to increase our body’s capacity to apply more force into the ground with every foot strike if you want to run faster. Even if sprinting mechanics are never addressed, putting more force into the ground will allow you to run faster. Power training should be begin with building a foundation of strength through squatting exercises, be followed up with a large dose Olympic weightlifting movements and variations, and be tied together with some high velocity weighted and un-weighted jump exercises.
The second “P” is for POSTURE. At the root of proper sprint mechanics exists a need to maintain ideal postures across the various sprint phases. Improving posture is both a physical and cognitive challenge. Joint and tissue restrictions may make it impossible for an athlete to hit the ideal sprinting postures, so flexibility and mobility drills are often necessary to allow for unrestricted freedom of motion. Emphasis on the hips and shoulder are often the best places to start. Aside from flexibility deficits, it takes great power to maintain ideal body positions when sprinting. This is why power training is my first go-to as it serves a dual purpose. As an athlete becomes more powerful it may be easier to hold an effective forward lean in the drive phase and remain stiff at top speed. Lastly, an athlete needs to learn the desired postures. This is where a coach is most needed to provide cues and feedback for as many sprints and drills as possible.
The third and final “P” is for PLAN. After you’ve become more powerful, and can hit the appropriate postures, following a sprint training plan is the area that can take you to the next level. Many methodologies exist to organize sprint training, and finding the best approach for your needs will always be debatable. Worry less about whether you are following a short-to-long or long-to-short-approach, and worry more about believing in a system of training and adhering to the plan. That is what really matters.
Follow my blog to find out the specifics of each of my three P’s of speed development in upcoming posts.