Strength is at the foundation of building speed. The more efficient we are at building strength and mastering control of the body, the better we will be at escalating skillful movement. Once an athlete is able to perform a task with greater ability, he or she can then do so at a faster rate. This is the definition of power. Power can be referred to as strength speed.
Now, I understand that certain lifts, movements, and drills can be performed at a faster rate in order to produce power output. But none of this can be done without the athlete first having built a foundation of strength in order to perform the most elementary exercises relating to strength. In other words, a novice needs to master the ability to properly perform movements such as push ups, squats, and dead-hang pull upsbefore trying to grab a bar to perform clean and jerks
"The more efficient we are at building strength and mastering control of the body, the better we will be at escalating skillful movement."
Additionally, strength is a necessary component and a key mechanism in helping an athlete obtain the specific speed elements of acceleration, deceleration, and lateral speed, as well as the ability to hit an efficient sprinting stride for linear speed during competitive athletic performance. Otherwise, a weak athlete may try to make a cut or abruptly stop on the field of play and fold up like a tent.
There are four types of speed that any versatile athlete must develop in order to be competitive:
- Acceleration Speed: From stop to go
- Deceleration Speed: From go to stop
- Lateral Speed: From side to side
- Linear Speed: Running in a straight line
Developing these different types of speed depends on a number of variables. But all these types of speed stem from the initial foundation of strength. Keep in mind this is only accomplished by placing proper stress on the body and subsequently producing specificity of a certain type of power output to foster the development of speed as it relates to these four given elements.
Plyometrics are exercises that produce short-burst, rapid muscular contractions. Jumping, skipping, and bounding are examples. The degrees of these drills can be varied in order to produce desired intensity and outcome.
The goal with plyometrics is to initiate the SSC (stretch shortening cycle) of the muscle and soft tissue in order to unleash the potential energy of the muscle for the desired physical outcome. As it relates to the four elements of speed, this is a valuable thing that allows us to acquire the trait of speed and multidirectional speed at a much faster rate. No pun intended!
Additionally, plyometrics condition the body to perform speed movements more efficiently, while also helping the body adapt to physical stress in order to become more resistant to injury. In a nutshell, if we are unconditioned to doing things quickly, then we may get hurt.
Enter Resisted Speed Training
When talking about true speed training, we want to force the body to work to move as quickly as possible. This may seem like an obvious application, but it’s not uncommon for coaches to get confused when attempting to apply this concept within a so-called speed-training model.
"When talking about true speed training, we want to force the body to work to move as quickly as possible."
To illustrate this, let’s take a look at a form of resisted speed training. Resisted speed training means that we add resistance to the athlete when performing a speed drill, but the athlete is still able to move with significant velocity. For example, an athlete running while dragging a sled attached to his or her center mass.
Imagine two different scenarios:
- Scenario #1:The athlete is attached to a sled with a harness. The sled is loaded with a fairly heavy load and the athlete drags the sled for a designated distance. With each stride, the athlete has to dig in his or her toes and gradually muscle his or her way down the running lane, dragging the sled behind in a struggling manner.
- Scenario #2:The athlete is attached to a sled with a harness. The sled is loaded with a weight that will add some resistance while still allowing the athlete to generate rapid velocity during the natural turnover of his or her running stride.
Scenario #1 makes for a pretty cool strength drill, but not such a good speed drill. With the trainee digging in and having to gradually muscle his or her way down the running lane, he or she is not producing any rapid movement specific for speed production due to the additional weight of the sled. Additionally, the SSC is not being initiated for the much needed production of power.
Remember, we defined speed as being able to increase the rate at which a task is being performed. Granted, you could argue the trainee is performing the heavy sled drags as quickly as he or she can. But the real question is, “Is he or she producing speed?” True resisted speed training is about the athlete being able to move the resistance with significant velocity.
Simply put, to be fast you must train fast. This is just the SAID principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands) being applied to the scenario. With the SAID principle in mind, Scenario #1 is good for training an athlete to drag heavy loads, while Scenario #2 is great for training the athlete to move resistance at a high velocity.