What is SPEED? How can it potentially be improved?

Speed development is always a buzzword.  SPEED, SPEED, SPEED, I have the need for speed.  But what the hell is speed and is it possible to improve speed with strength movements? First, we must analyze competitive actions.  Speed in competition depends greatly upon the amount of resistance an athlete must overcome in their competitive sport.  For instance, a football player must overcome their own bodyweight and at times, the bodyweight of a competitor.  A shot putter must overcome their own bodyweight and a 16lb or 4k shot.  A tennis player must only overcome their bodyweight while an Olympic weightlifter must overcome the load of a heavy bar!

Another expression of speed is frequency of movement.  This is the ability that the nervous system possesses to produce force rapidly on a frequent basis. This is where special strength movements with rapid frequency may come into play to improve not only force development but force frequency.  This could be imperative for an individual that may be a sprinter, football player or tennis player or any athlete that uses locomotion for that matter!

Much of speed development has to do with INTENT of movement.  If the intent to move something fast is present, then the mind/body connection is powerful and high threshold motor units will be recruited. With that being said, it is also important to actually move a bar or implement fast, depending upon sport.  Sometimes increasing strength may only increase speed initially. As the athlete progresses simple tricks can be used.  

  • Shortening the time of a movement so much that the athlete is incapable of applying full strength (i.e. boxes in weightlifting, half turns in throwing, partial movements)
  • Use movements similar to the competitive exercise. This needs to be on similar planes and similar speeds.  For a shot putter, a DB throw or flat discus throw into a wall can lead to improvements in speed of movement.
  • Create speed barriers.  Have athletes run repeats at max speed.  For instance, a football player could see massive gains in speed by running 15 yard sprints at max efforts over the span of 10-15 minutes.  

 

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