Best Lifts for Speed Improvements
Your training has been weak. Motivation is low, your work in the weight room seems to be dwindling and your performance on the athletic field is faltering rapidly. Slow, weak, pathetic. That is how you are feeling. You need something to jumpstart your speed and those lifts need to get your nervous system firing on all cylinders. What can you do?!?!
What is needed?
When comprehending speed, there needs to be a full analysis behind the elements that spark speed production and display of movement. Too often we see athletes and coaches just shooting in the dark. There is minimal regard for program design, minimal regard for periodized growth or even coordinated planning, let alone comprehension of sporting qualities needed!
The first key behind speed development is recognizing the importance of the start. The athlete that can produce the greatest amount of force in the shortest period of time will put themselves in the best position for dominating opponents. The start comes down to overcoming strength and rate of force development. This stems from a strong neural drive and excellent mobility! These are aspects that take time to develop and years to master.
Building out of the start is the next step. How can athletes take a strong start with a rapid rate of force development and turn it into excellent acceleration. This takes us into the drive phase. Biomechanics goes a LONG way during the drive phase, know what the center of mass is doing, understand trunk control and analyze shin angles. This will optimize the drive phase. In most sports, the drive phase is the most important aspect behind speed training.
The final element behind speed is implementing strong maximal mechanics. When sprinters, football players, soccer players and other field sports reach top end speed, their technique MATTERS! They need to have proper posture and mobility for proper stride frequency. When technical precision is on point, maximal speed carries over incredibly well and the athlete is able to pull away from the pack.
What strength movements can we use?!?!?!
1. Power Clean
Many strength coaches FEAR making you a better athlete. They are fearful of having to coach their athletes to comprehend technique. They are fearful of the challenge behind development long term. This is a “risk” in their mind and too much of a challenge.
The power clean teaches athletes how to accelerate a load rapidly. It teaches the athlete how to absorb force and decelerate the object by turning on the brakes through trunk control. The power clean also helps the athlete improve their proprioception and neural drive. Why wouldn’t coaches want to teach this movement? Do you need to improve your rate of force development? Then the power clean is your first step!
2. Back Squat
Back squats can stimulate growth throughout the entire posterior chain. They are an excellent tool to use for improving mobility and stimulating serious muscular growth while also triggering a hormonal response. The execution of the back squat should be rapid and through various joint angles and positions.
Why are so many athletes afraid of squatting? IT’S DIFFICULT! It’s hard to back squat. The load can be heavy and challenging but fear not, the results will blow up your strength and power. Use the back squat through full range of motion AND through partial ranges!
3. Barbell Step Ups
Unilateral strength work goes a long way in development of speed and power. There is a factor behind trunk control as well as coordination behind the glutes and the quads and hamstrings. The barbell step up can dramatically improve mechanics during the drive phase while also negating any structural issues an athlete may possess. Oftentimes, one side of the body may be stronger than the other side, hitting unilateral work is key to structural integrity and performance!
4. Single Leg Squats
Again, unilateral work stimulates massive growth throughout the entire body. When the body is under tension over a long period of time, the trunk is forced to control posture and positioning and transfer the energy produced by the ground and lower limbs into forward propulsion. The single leg squat is another way to enhance the usage of ground reaction forces. This is the BEST lift we have seen that correlates to speed.
5. Glute Ham Isometrics!
Why the isometrics? The health and growth of our hamstrings lies in the best form of stimulus specific to the hamstring and that is from dynamic isometrics. By holding this lengthened position, the athlete can find dynamic trunk control that is coordinated with hamstring recruitment. When the hamstring coordinates optimally with the trunk, the athlete will move more rapidly while wasting less energy! Add in a few perturbations and the hamstrings will GROW.
Know the key elements behind speed. Don’t forget the aspect of rate of force development, acceleration through the drive phase and maximal speed mechanics! Use these five lifts regularly. It takes years to develop speed and acceleration, don’t shy away from work and constantly improve your training.