The first and most important of the three P's of speed development is POWER. Building power should be at the heart of any athlete's speed development. Putting more force into the ground is critical in the pursuit of more speed. Power training is the solution. Since strength is needed in abundance to truly maximize the effect of power training, it will be discussed in this article. This article will outline the key strength and power exercises and methods that assist in speed development.
If generating more force in a shorter period time is the key to running faster, let's first discuss the solution to generating more force. Strength development and force development are synonymous. Increasing your absolute force development will also increase the potential for future rate of force development improvements. The most important strength training exercises are squats (back and front) and deadlifts (conventional, sumo, and Romanian). If you are not strong in these movements, stop reading this article and go seek out the closest barbell and squat rack and get to work. Strength in these foundational exercises will open up a lot of doors on your path to reaching your full speed potential including improvements in structural integrity, flexibility, and most importantly your force generation potential. Periodize your set/rep schemes so that you spend a lot of time doing 3-5 working sets of 3-6 repetitions. The loads and volume that these ranges impart on your body will get you strong in a hurry and make your dynamic power training more efficient.
As we move through different phases of a sprint, the forces and velocities imposed on the body can vary greatly. When we train for power, it makes sense to accommodate the needs of each sprint phase by training with heavy loads and lower velocities along with lighter loads and higher velocities. Three categories of exercise that I use to meet that need are Olympic weightlifting movements and variations, ballistic resistance movements, and unloaded plyometrics. My top choices in each category are the power clean and power snatch, the barbell jump squat and squat jump, and hurdle hops and depth jumps. Spending the bulk of your training in the area of 3-6 sets of 1-4 repetitions will allow you to reap the most benefit from these movements. When these standard set/rep prescriptions fail to yield results, moving to complex/contrast training can be a useful progression. Complex/contrast training involves alternating a set of a heavier slower exercise with a lower load fast exercise (Ex. Alternating a set of barbell jump squats with a set of depth jumps). This method of training makes use of the phenomenon known as post activation potentiation (PAP) to aid in neuromuscular efficiency.
Up next we'll discuss posture, the second P of speed development.