Are You Born With Speed? By Mark Strasser M.S. CSCS of CriticalBench.com
Speed is the difference between an average athlete and a great athlete. By developing speed, an average athlete can become good, and a good athlete can become great. That is why speed, for any athlete in any sport, is a good investment. If you put in the time, sweat, and hard work you will see the results.
There is a common misconception that people are born with speed. But speed is like intelligence; it is invisible until developed. Speed is a developed skill. One of the challenges of athletes is to recognize that speed is a physical attribute and can be enhanced through proper preparation in any athlete at any age.
Traditional speed training focused on increasing an athlete's muscle and power. The assumption was the stronger the athlete the faster the athlete. On those premises it is part of the truth. If you have ever been to a track meet, you can notice the difference between sprinters and distance runners. The difference between the athletes are strength, power, and lean muscle mass. This is not the determining factor of speed though. Contemporary speed training programs now incorporate a number of components in developing and maximizing an athlete's speed potential.
It has been proven there is various methods of training that contribute to enhanced speed. The methods will be explained and the objective of any program is to increase the stride length and stride frequency of the athlete. To truly understand the vision a program you need to understand the basics of what the program is trying to accomplish. The following section will outline the basics you will need to know to better understand the basis of training for speed.
Aims of the Training Program:
· To increase stride length
· To increase stride frequency
· To develop speed and power.
· To develop your Anaerobic Threshold - The ability to repeatedly perform high intensity work.
· To decrease recovery time.
· Quicker removal of lactic acid from muscles.
· Prolong the onset of fatigue.
Stride length is determined by your explosive drive off of the ground, and your ability to fully flex and extend about the hip, knee, and ankle. Either one of these variables has the ability to compromise your stride length if underdeveloped or overdeveloped (out of balance).
You will optimally improve your drive off of the ground by incorporating a progression of strength and power resistance training, plyometrics, and overload running. Your ability to fully flex and extend about the hip, knee, and ankle is a matter of flexibility, and it will be improved through a progression of flexibility movements.
STRIDE FREQUENCY = the number of strides taken in a set distance or time
To improve stride frequency you will implement over-speed neuromuscular training. These training techniques will force the neuromuscular system to operate at a much higher rate than would normally be possible. The key to this type of training is preparation and progression. You must work up to, and into these advanced drills. Never attempt these drills if an athlete is out of shape, or before proper warm-up and stretching. These drills include rapid-fire sprints, interval runs, and downhill sprints.
Speed performance will largely depend on the ability to improve the functioning of the nervous system and the coordination of muscles used to produce a movement pattern. The ability to coordinate muscle actions directly impacts techniques used to coordinate the muscles quickly and efficiently will result in slow speeds.
There are two phases within the process of running: The support phase and the recovery phase. Each leg has a support phase and a recovery phase. The support phase begins when the foot hits the ground and lasts until it breaks contact with the ground. The recovery phase begins when the foot breaks contact with the ground and lasts until it again makes contact with the ground.
In the support phase, the leading foot should land on the ground slightly ahead of the center of gravity (slightly in front of the hips). The foot should be driven down towards the ground by the hip extensor muscles; the hamstrings and glutei muscles should be performing the majority of the work during the hip extension. The quadriceps (knee extensors) is most important at foot contact since they keep the athlete's knee from flexing excessively and dissipating elastic energy. As the foot contacts the ground it should be dorsi-flexed, with the toe pulled up towards the shinbone. This helps to maximize the amount of energy that is stored by the calf muscles and then released to generate propulsion in a later phase of the running stride. The outside of the forefoot, not the heel, should contact the ground.
The athlete should then think about pulling himself over the support foot. The athlete should continue exerting force with the hip and knee extensors until his center of gravity passes over the support foot. At this point, the runner should focus on plantar-flexing the foot (pointing the toes) with the calf muscles. When the toes leave the ground, the support phase has ended.
As an athlete enters the recover phase, the ankle should immediately be dorsi-flexed by pulling the big toe up towards the shin. As the foot leaves the ground, the athlete should flex the knee and bring the heel up towards the hips/buttocks as quickly as possible. This helps "make the leg shorter" and allows the athlete to swing the recovery leg forward faster than he or she could if the limb was kept straight during the recovery phase. Remember, speed is what we are looking for, so even relatively "small" things like flexing the leg can help a runner makeup valuable time in a race or competition.
As the heel is drawn towards the hip, the leg should be swung forward. The athlete should imagine he is trying to step over the opposite knee with the ankle. This will keep the speed high for as long as possible. As the ankle steps over the opposite knee the runner should begin unfolding, or extending, the swing leg. It should be noted that the hip and knee extension that occur during this phase are due to a transfer of momentum, not an act of contraction of the lower limb muscles. As the leg unfolds and the athlete prepares for the support phase, he should focus on again activating the hip extensors to drive the foot toward the ground.
Obviously an athlete has to think about a lot of things going on in a short period of time when sprinting. This can be an overwhelming skill for many athletes to learn. I am going to break down the specific running form using easy to remember terms and specific drills that will help an athlete acquire the perfect running form. By using these specific tools you will aid you in acquiring the "ideal" sprinting technique and speed.
Critical Speed Manual by Mark Strasser M.S. CSCS
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