Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Top 6 Exercises for Speed Development

The following exercises are currently my main exercises of choice for athletes when I am working on developing linear and multi-directional speed. Efficiency of movement in speed development is also important of course and should be trained concurrently with the exercises I am recommending.

  1. Deadlift- In my opinion is the best all around strength development exercise. In terms of muscular recruitment it gives you the most bang for your buck! In terms of specificity to sprinting, its a posterior chain focused exercise meaning it targets the muscles of the glutes, hamstrings and lower back which is perfect for the maximum speed phase of sprinting.

  2. Split Squats - Sprinting is a single leg activity and the demands placed upon the body during unilateral activities are much different from bilateral movements, therefore we need to train for this in the gym. Split squats are a good choice for this because it can be easily over loaded and a number of different stance widths can be used to emphasize different muscle groups. The shorter stance emphasizes more quadricep development which a good choice for the acceleration phase of the sprint while the wider stance requires greater use of the glutes and hamstrings. I personally like them because it requires torso stabilization, balance and they are hard as hell! Either way splits squats help build a better well rounded athlete.

  3. Hip Flexion Work - Muscles of the hip flexors (iliopsoas, if you don't know what this means, its the muscles that allow you to lift your leg up), are highly under developed in most athletes. The hip flexors are huge contributors increasing stride length in sprinting which mean faster running ability. I like to use cable machines for hip flexion and begin in supine and work to a standing position over time. The supine position allows for greater loads to be used while the standing position ensures that the core is engaged fully in a unilateral stance. Remember when doing hip flexor work lift the knee above 90 degrees as this places the stress on the psoas more so than the hip flexors.

  4. Bounding and Variations - Up to now the exercises have been focused on loading in a vertical plane but sprinting requires forces to be transmitted in a horizontal plane and I think bounding is an awesome choice for developing this type of force production capability. There are other options such as broad jumps, single leg hops, skipping, but for the purposes of this blog bounding is my choice. Bounding can be used with all levels of athletes as well as all types of sprinting based sports and is highly applicable. In the early phases the exercise should be done with a hold on one leg emphasizing quiet landings between each repetition and progress to quicker, shorter contacts emphasising horizontal propulsion through the ball of the foot.

  5. Sled Dragging- Sled dragging is considered by some to be a specific speed strength exercise, its focus is primarily on the posterior chain muscles while mimicking the driving phase of a sprint. You get triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip all which is important for explosive movement. There have been many disputes that sled dragging will not increase overall speed development. While I agree sled dragging will not increase top end speed it will aid in increasing an athletes acceleration phase of the sprint! The ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 is a greater asset to most team sports than top end speed. The sled can be used with as little of 10% of the athletes body weight to sprint over short distances or as much weight as one wants to increase strength in the horizontal plane.

  6. Weighted Rows - This will probably be a shocker for those who know me as the pull/chin up king! Yes, yes I know it doesn't sound like me talking but as I evolve as a coach so is my exercise selection for performance enhancement. Rows play a key role in posture and the athletes ability to increase speed throughout the upper torso when sprinting.

So there you go. There are so many other exercises you could put into this list. As I said these are my go to exercises, give them a shot and see if they will help you increase your speed.

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