Speed and Strength Training Specifics

Speed and strength training is locked in a loop that feeds off itself! It is impossible to be fast and yet not strong. However, power is the true measure of performance potential. Therefore to be more powerful speed must be synonymous with strength.

Body Types and Fast Twitch Fibers

Of the 3 body types, (ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs) sprinters tend to be ectomorphs who are (pardon the pun) morphing into mesomorphs and actual mesomorphs. Although there are only three what are called “soma types” most of us are neither one nor the other.

We tend to have traits of at most two types, with attendances to one more that another. Regardless, these morphing ecto/mesomorphs and actual mesomorphs tend to be athletes who can generate massive amounts of power, especially for their body weight (relative strength).

As well as an appropriate body types, sprinters are born with a greater amount of fast twitch muscle fibers than most other athletes. A muscle contraction is activated by a nerve impulse, the nerve and the muscle it activates is called a “motor unit”. Fast twitch muscles tend to have larger motor units than slow twitch muscles. Large motor unit makes it possible to exhibit a large amount of force. This is another reason why sprinters tend to be strong athletes.

Speed and Strength = Power

speed and strength training

The most reliable performance indicator in any sport is the amount of power an athlete can produce in a given action. Power is defined as - strength multiply by speed – that is the highest force which can be developed in the shortest possible time. This means that if you want to be faster as a sprinter you need to be able to generate greater and greater power in each and every stride.

The good news is that you are already blessed with the ability to move your limbs fast (that's the speed part of the equation). What you need to do now, is to become stronger. With improved strength, you will be more powerful and with increased power, your potential for improved performance is more certain. And that's how you can benefit from speed and strength training.

But, you have to train smart…

Speed and Strength Training

Sprinters should only train for strength in a certain way. The structure of a sprint race will provide you with the clues as to how you should implement your speed and strength training routines. A sprint race is divided into the following phases:

  1. Acceleration phase
  2. The pick-up phase
  3. The maximum speed phase
  4. The speed maintenance phase

Each of the phases requires a different quality of strength:

  • The acceleration or drive phase begins with zero velocity – the body has no momentum. Your body is low and you must overcome your body weight to get things moving. To accomplish this task well, calls for excellent maximum strength abilities.
  • The pick-up phase is aligned with the acceleration phase and is the transition from acceleration into top speed. This phase calls for you to have the ability to move relatively high loads very quickly through a predetermined range of movement. It is quality we call dynamic or explosive strength.

  • Once you get up to maximum speed you have got to maintain it for as long as you can (usually no more than 20m). This is the maximum speed phase. The strength quality you require in this phase is reactive strength. Allow me to explain, during this part of the sprint, the time you spend on the ground is minimal – by that I mean you don’t have a lot of time to push the ground away to keep moving forward. Therefore you need the ability to create and release force very quickly. This is achieved through reactive strength training or plyometric training, where energy is stored in the tendons of the legs and released very quickly to aid muscle contraction.
  • The final 20m - 30m of the sprint is a battle to maintain your maximum speed - it is a losing battle. Nevertheless, you have to put up a fight. At this point your muscles have become fatigued and less power is being produced with every stride. The strength quality that is required here is strength endurance. This is achieved by performing to fatigue, a loads that permits high power output.

So there you have it, speed and strength training in one package. At the end of the day the goal you seek is power development. The suggested training will enhance both speed of movement and the ability to generate great force in the shortest time possible.

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