No matter the sport, speed is a highly sought after quality in all athletes. This quality likely separates good athletes from the great. Speed training workouts are a type of rigorous exercise that can be used to increase speed and agility. Most great athletes have an intense speed training program.
The purpose of any speed development session is to improve power, neuromuscular coordination, athleticism, and economy (increasing the body's efficiency by using less energy.)
How does speed training work?
Speed training is designed to create muscles that can go faster for longer. Athlete speed training works by strengthening muscles and creating a better form at higher speeds.
Without strengthening the muscles first, you likely won't reach your full speed potential. The body's muscles must first be capable of the power movements before they can perform them at a faster pace.
Speedwork will make you uncomfortable, by forcing you to change your breathing, stride, and effort.
3 types of speed training
Great athletes typically use a variety of these types of training for speed.
1. Quickness and acceleration/ deceleration training
Most sports rely on the athletes ability to stop and start quickly. Quickness and acceleration training is designed to amp up the speed of acceleration and footwork. Examples of this type of training would be short sprint bursts, quick feet ladder steps, and resistance training.
Acceleration is the action of speeding up, while deceleration is the action of slowing down. Correctly incorporating both of them into your workouts to increase speed can help you achieve your goals faster.
2. Top end speed training
Top-end speed is the body's max velocity (or top speed). When you sprint your hardest, you will have met your top-end speed or maximal velocity.
Top end speed drills like lifting weights, running high mileage, and even sprint workouts can make a significant difference in your speed.
3. Speed endurance training
Speed endurance is the body's ability to maintain top-end speed or maximal velocity for an extended amount of time.
Lifting weights, variable sprints, and resistance training are great speed endurance training.
How To Begin
Properly stretching is a key component of the best speed training program. Loosening up the muscles will get them ready to perform before you start your exercise and then giving them a good stretch after working out will give them the ability to relax back out so that they can recover and build up more muscle.
Even though you may think you are only stretching to increase speed, you will also get the added benefit of helping ward off injury while training. Warming up the muscle fibers before putting them under high stress, is important no matter what kind of exercise you are doing.
Be sure to add this to your routine before and after every workout.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! We cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure that you have plenty of fluids into your body.
If you are not properly hydrated, your entire body (including your heart) is subject to unwanted amounts of stress that will take away from any progress you are trying to make in specific areas.
Also, the muscle burn you feel during and after training sessions won't be quite as bad if you're drinking plenty of water.
Be sure to start drinking water the day you plan to workout. Hydrating your body begins days before.
Set a goal
Have a goal in mind before you start your speed development exercises.
Setting a goal can help you focus your time and effort in each workout. Athletes are more likely to stay motivated to achieve the reps and strength needed for optimal competition when they set goals.
Easy does it!
It's time to get to work, but don't jump right into the most difficult athletic exercises. Start out slow, no pun intended, to avoid major injury. If you are just beginning, don't set yourself up for failure by trying to max out everything on the first day.
When developing a speed training program, make sure to begin with the basics and gradually move up. If you can repeatedly do the simple things well, you'll build a great foundation that will help you perfect your skills over the years to come.
Speed training does take time, but, done consistently, you can see vast improvements in just a few short weeks.
7 exercises to increase speed
Here's a list of a few simple exercises to help you increase and maintain speed.
Work HARD and stay MOTIVATED!
1. Warm up
Before you dive headfirst into the workout, make sure to warm your body up first. Do a few rounds of squats, calf raises, and lunges or go for a quick jog just to prepare your muscles for the strenuous workout to come.
A successful speed training workout will be stressful on your body. Help lower the risk of injury by properly warming up before you begin.
Even just a few minutes of warm-up can protect you from sprained ankles or pulled muscles.
2. Resistance bands
Training with resistance is a great way to increase speed. By using bungee resistance bands, you can increase speed agility.
Running with a resistance bungee band attached to you will force your body to work harder and build up muscles that you may not be able to build up by just running on your own.
The extra pull provided by a resisted speed training can help improve speed-strength and stride length.
What do sprinters do for training? They SPRINT! If you never run fast, you won't get any faster. A low dose of sprints in your normal training can give you the power, strength, and efficiency needed to set your next personal best.
Short burst sprints fine-tune acceleration, deceleration, and speed agility.
Long sprints improve top-end speed.
Variable sprints improve speed endurance. Use a combination of sprinting and resting, and gradually decrease the rest-to-work ratio. Try starting with a ratio of 3:1 (three minutes of rest for every minute of sprinting) and then move to 2:1 (two minutes of rest for every minute of sprinting), and continue to slowly taper it down.
Hill sprints are great for acceleration, top-end speed, and conditioning. Hills that take 5-15 seconds to sprint are ideal.
4. Sled pulls and pushes
Sprinting while pulling or pushing a sled will help to increase speed and strength.
Be sure to use a light enough weight that you're still able to maintain a good speed while pulling or pushing the sled.
By weighing the sled down with a ton of weight, you could argue that the athlete IS gaining strength and the athlete IS going as fast as he or she can. However, true speed training is about moving the resistance with high velocity.
Squats are a typical option for any kind of training but specifically for strengthening the lower body.
You can build a base of strength with higher rep ranges of 10-15, but if you choose to add weights a lower number of reps can also be very beneficial.
6. Jumping rope
Jumping rope is a great workout to build speed in short bursts. Jump as fast as you can for 20 - 30 seconds at a time to work on the fast- twitching muscle movements in your calves and thighs.
7. Running downhill
Assisted speed or over-speed training such as running downhill actively causes the body to move at a faster rate than it can on its own. This type of exercise helps train the body to move faster.
If you don't move faster, you won't get faster.
Moving faster with assistance helps train your body to eventually move faster without the assistance.
You can also dramatically improve your deceleration speed by working on stopping as fast as you can while running downhill.
Adding speed work to your normal workout routine just one to two days a week can produce great results—especially if you’re new to it. Just be sure to give your body enough time to recover before your next high-stress workout.
Don't compare yourself to other trainers. While staying ahead of the competition is ideal, working on improving yourself is the main goal. Put on the metaphorical blinders, and get after it!
Use these exercises to up your A-game and transform yourself into a better athlete.