3 Myths about Speed Training
Speed training as it pertains to athletes has been a buzz word for over 10 years now. Surprisingly, I still see a ton of Coaches touting themselves as 'Speed Training Guru's,' yet I find their content and programming to be subpar, or downright inaccurate. I shouldn't be surprised anymore since anyone can get a certificate and become an entrepreneur nowadays, but I cannot let you be fooled anymore. After all this time with consideration how far the strength & conditioning world has come in the last 20 years, you would think there would be more legitimate Coaches out there. Guess not since we live in the 'drive-thru' era of instant gratification and self-proclamations.
Got that drive-thru phrase from a fantastic article about plyometrics training- find it RIGHT HERE.
Let's get down to it:
Myth #1- You can't teach speed.
Uh, actually you can. In multiple ways, in fact. First and foremost you can teach speed by teaching athletes how to become stronger so they can increase their rate of force development. Secondly, running mechanics play a huge role in speed, agility and quickness. Another great way to teach speed through a well thought out individualized plyometrics program. Those 3 ways to teach speed also include a multitude of other factors that can improve an athletes speed as well. Flexibility, joint stiffness, tissue quality, muscle contractions and firing patterns just to name a few.
Video's like this are hilarious, but deserve no praise (rolling my eyes as I copy this link):
Myth #2- Agility ladders, bleacher sprints and cone drills are the best way to get faster.
This is probably the biggest culprit of them all. Throwing together a bunch of cone drills and cool agility ladder techniques certainly has it's place in training. I do it all the time, but the objective isn't usually categorized as speed training. Doing those drills will definitely improve coordination, proprioception, and athletic conditioning, but unless the Coach is progressing from eccentric qualities, to acceleration mechanics, to deceleration and change of direction along with re-acceleration they're not teaching speed. Athletes will definitely get better (faster) at drills that they do on a regular basis, but that is not a measure as to whether they improved their rate of force development. Rather, they got more proficient at the drill as a result of repetition.
As I said, I use those types of drills all the time and I happen to really enjoy having athletes do them. In a team setting the Coach can ignite competitiveness amongst the team, which will get the athletes to work hard and form a strong team bond. Agility ladders, cone drills, hurdles and the like can also be great tool for warming up and waking up the CNS.
Myth #3- If you wanna be fast, you've gotta train fast!
I'll admit, I've used that catch phrase a few times and it is partially true. However, it really depends on what the Coach means when they make that statement. Taking little to no rest throughout a strength workout or 'speed workout' is great for conditioning and work capacity, but that won't carry over to improved speed on the field/court/mat. Training fast with methods such as medicine ball work, olympic weightlifting, speed squats/deads can help make an athlete quicker and more explosive. The key underlying factor with those methods is that the Coach must be highly educated and fully understand how to program and cue those lifts in order for them to be effective. Furthermore, the Coach should be selective as to which method he/she uses based on the needs of the athlete. Athletic qualities of the specific sport need to be considered as well.
In closing, I'm not one of the regular 'haters' against other Coaches and the content they put out. I just find it misleading and deceptive that some utilize a web presence along with social media to draw business to themselves without being 100% honest about what they can do for today's athlete. I certainly don't claim to be a guru in the field of speed training. With that said, after about 9 years of training thousands of athletes combined with a relentless pursuit to mastering my craft as a Coach I can sincerely say I know a thing or two. I believe all Coaches should share that same passion and always put the aspirations of the athlete before their own credibility and social status. After all, a young persons athletic career is always short-lived. Even the ones who make it to the pro's wish they had more time to be the best. Don't we as Coaches owe it to them to provide the best (and the right) type of training for them??
Dominate Another Day.