Mechanics produce efficiency, and efficiency produces speed. There is a caveat to this: Speed exposes flaws. Recall one of the most fundamental training formulas:
Speed x Strength = Power
This article addresses the first factor, speed. In our experiences, we have observed that speed without control is inefficient and subsequently not productive. The challenge in training is to maintain proper mechanics at the highest rate of speed possible. In sports terms, the challenge is to do everything at game speed.
NOTE: Speed training begins the moment you first say “go.” When athletes are warming up, watch to see that they have good mechanics. Some athletes get lazy during the warm-up, but we value the development of good habits throughout training. If athletes flop their arms or stay on their heels while jogging, these bad habits may carry over into sprinting.
Two places to start exposing flaws are the hurdles and ladder. With proper correction these flaws can be minimized or eliminated from an athlete’s form, which leads to greater speed on the court or field.
Hurdles: Start here and keep it linear.
From a logistical standpoint, observe your athletes from near the first hurdle. This gives you a good look at their start and their finish from behind. Keep it simple and instruct your athletes to do “1 Step” with a sprint off the end. Their start should be from a set position with an explosive first move, this trains them to be explosive on the court or field as well. Never let them jog into a drill or start slow, this trains their body to start slow. Since we are talking about speed exposing flaws, look for two things as they go through and off the end of the hurdles.
- Watch for arm position. Are they wild? Arms should be down at their side, with elbows bent near 90 degrees and “thumbs through the belt loops” as the arms pump.
- Watch body posture. Are they upright? Athletes should maintain the fall-tall position not bending at the waist. They should be tall with a forward lean.
Ladder: Move here for more lateral movements as well as a greater demand in cognitive skills. From a logistical standpoint, observe from next to the middle of the ladder. Keep it only as simple as necessary, mixing up straight-ahead and lateral drills.
- Watch for arm position and usage. Are the arms used? Are they wild? Arms should still be down to the sides with elbows bent near 90 degrees, but they tend to vibrate in place instead of actually swinging like on a run. If the arms are under control the feet will be better controlled and faster.
- Watch the feet. Is the drill executed correctly? Are boxes skipped or repeated? Make sure the pattern is being completed properly and that steps outside the ladder stay close to the ladder.
The best way to correct these errors is to have your athletes “Slow Down to Speed Up.” All training should be done as fast as you can with the qualifier “under control.” If there was ever such a thing as too fast, it is when an athlete is wrecking an apparatus. Athletes should start slower and speed up as they master the mechanics and movement pattern. Teaching athletes the proper technique and attentively correcting flaws in a controlled environment will lead to faster, more agile play and greater success.