Increasing strength is by far the most important aspect to helping athlete’s improve speed. Improving basic sprint mechanics and body angles helps as well because it puts the athlete into a better position to apply force into the ground but what if they don’t have any force to put into the ground (aka very weak)? This applies to basic linear sprint speed, lateral starts, and multiple changes of direction. Put it simply, if you cannot decelerate–>you will surely have a hard time accelerating. What is running, planting, changing direction? They are a series of quick deceleration and acceleration reps and whoever can do them most efficiently wins. Another way to look at speed is to look at a maximum strength analogy…
Maximal Strength (the person’s current level of strength) is the empty shaker bottle (20 oz.)
All other qualities that make up athletic performance are the liquid that fills up the bottle. If you’ve done every speed and agility clinic you can think of, you have probably topped off your bottle. By increasing strength (the size of the bottle), we can continually improve the athlete’s potential to improve those athleticqualities, namely, speed.
The maximum strength analogy isn’t new to many of us but it is a great way to approach parents who continually ask, “My kid needs to get faster, do you do speed and agility?” Answer: Well yes, we do but it is not what makes them all that better. In my opinion, running speed and agility clinics are good, but if the coach is not addressing the big rocks to the parents to provide basic fundamental principles about strength and it’s effect on speed, you should look elsewhere. Of course, the sport will require different strength levels. A baseball player is going to spend much more time of pure strength and power as opposed to a soccer player. However, they are both going to need a solide strength foundation to improve upon other qualities.
Where to start?
Since we now have an idea on the impact of strength on all other qualities where do we start with training? When it comes to teaching movements, the majority of athlete’s are going to need to learn how to perform them correctly. Slow strength, is a term I learned from Dan John. Slow strength is basically learning the movements correctly (don’t worry about weight just yet). These could be isoholds that mimic the position of the main lifts.
Front plank holds before push ups/presses
Batwing Holds/Low Pulley Row Holds before Rowing/Chin-Ups
Split Squat Holds before Reverse Lunges (single leg variation)
Hip hinge before Deadlift variations
Goblet Squats before Back/Front Squats
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