1. Optimum speed
Although it may not be apparent, on occasions too much speed can be detrimental to performance. If a long jumper, for example, builds up too much speed on the runway, he or she may be unable to take off into an effective jump. This is because there will be too little time on the take-off board to generate enough force to convert speed into height and distance. Research indicates that most long jumpers, for example, take off at ‘only’ 96-98% of their actual maximum velocity.
In this report we are primarily concerned with the development of linear out-and-out speed. There are sprint workouts where the speed of performance is indicated at 95% (or other) effort – this allows you to concentrate on optimising your sprint technique and also to preserve neural and physical energy across the training plan as indicated. Training adaptation would be compromised if you were to try to perform sprint sessions and their associated other conditioning programmes at 100% effort day in day out.
2. Out-and-out speed
There are obviously some activities that demand the full unbridled release of speed – sprinting being the most obvious example. But it is important to note that, whilst the sprinter needs to move his or her limbs as fast as possible, this must be performed with relaxation, since the effort involved in ‘trying too hard’ will tighten muscles and inevitably slow performance. Out-and-out speed therefore calls for mastery of relevant technique, plus the ability to relax while the body is operating at maximum intensity. To perform a sports skill as fast as possible the CNS system is crucial – muscle firing rates must be optimised and training must be constructed to permit this
In order to achieve out-and-out or optimum skill/sports speed, a period of acceleration is usually needed. Sprinters leave their
blocks from a stationary start, whilst a footballer may need to turn and sprint from a relatively static or off-balance position in order to get onto the end of a pass, whilst a tennis player must deliver his or her serve from a stationary base. Developing this accelerative ability calls for different training methods and practices from those used for out-and-out speed and other speed type development. The PP speed programme contains specific training ingredients designed to boost your acceleration and therefore your out-and-out speed – hill sprints, for example, are included in the month-by-month workouts, as well as starts from different positions.
Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners and triathletes, often neglect speed training but it is actually crucial to their success. The faster an endurance athlete is:
- The easier it will be for him or her to cruise at slower speeds during training and competition (they will have better ‘running economy’ – note this also relies on lactate tolerance)
- The more power they will have for challenges such as hill climbs
- The better he or she will be at surging during a race to burn off the opposition
- The more he or she will have in reserve for a killer sprint finish
Endurance speed is defined for the purposes of this special report as the ability to sustain repeated powerful and fast muscular contractions over predominantly aerobic race and training conditions.
In many sports, a skill has to be performed in response to a cue. This cue could be aural, as with a sprinter reacting to the starting gun, or visual, as with a boxer avoiding a punch, a footballer responding to a change in the opposing team’s formation, or a cricket batter reacting to a delivery. The neuromuscular drills are designed to enhance your reactions.
6. Speed endurance
Speed endurance can be defined as the ability of the body to perform an activity at a very fast speed under conditions of anaerobic energy production. Examples include, 200, 400 and 800m running and tennis match play over long rallies. This speed differs from endurance speed in that the training methods used to condition it are more short-lived and focus on the anaerobic energy systems. Interval training is a key training method for speed endurance.
Interval training basically divides periods of ‘effort’ up with periods of rest. Performing 6 x 40m sprints, with 3 minutes’ recovery between efforts is an example of an interval training session, in this case one that would develop out-and-out speed.
7. Body part speed
For some sports a particular limb must move as fast as possible – to throw an implement, as required by the discus throw, for example. Although speed and power are needed throughout the thrower’s body, their arm is the crucial link in the ‘speed chain’, as it ultimately advances the implement to optimum velocity at the point of release. If the arm is not fast enough, distance achieved will obviously be compromised.
The need for team speed is obvious in the case of a sprint relay team but is also crucial to the success of virtually all other team sports, where players must move quickly and in concert, for example, in order to score a try or defend as a unit in rugby. Developing this ‘shared speed’ should be a training requirement in such sports.
9. Rotational speed
Rotational speed is a vital quality in many sports. Footballers rotate their bodies to turn and chase down opponents or the ball, whilst tennis players have to ‘wind’ up to hit a serve, a baseline forehand or backhand pass. In track and field, discus throwers spin with almost balletic grace before releasing their implements and with the incredible force needed to achieve huge distances. Rotational speed can be vastly improved by the use of appropriate drills and training methods.
10. Agility speed
Agility is another key sports speed requirement, characterised by quick feet, body coordination and fast reactions. Its execution depends on a mixture of balance, out-and-out speed, acceleration speed, strength, flexibility, coordination and, crucially, sports specific skill. Although the athlete’s agility, relies heavily on the possession of optimum sports technique and ‘match sense’, it can be enhanced by specific agility speed conditioning.
It should be considered that agility is really a form of power training and not necessarily, despite the inclusion of it in this list of speed types, a separate entity. Additionally, too much agility training can programme in spurious motor engrams (patterned ways of moving and reacting stored in the brain) that are actually not relevant to sports requirements. This is why the PP speed programme predominantly uses specific sprint action patterning drills, rather than arguably less relevant ones, such as speed/floor ladder drills.
This is the term used to describe training efforts that allow athletes to perform a speed skill to a level beyond which would normally be achievable. It can involve the use of specialist equipment, such as elastic cords, which literally drag the athlete to higher velocities and other specialist speed training systems and protocols. Lower-tech options include downhill sprinting and throwing lighter implements or balls than those used in competition for throwing athletes. The PP speed training programme utilises downhill running. For this, the gradient should only be very gradual – between 1-4 degrees.
All the sprint workouts should be preceded by sprint drills; an array of these should be performed as part of your warm up – see the warm up section. These will help improve your running technique and specifically strengthen your sprinting muscles. They will also ‘fire up’ your mind and muscles for your workout.
The aim of your first month of training is to prepare your body and mind for sprint training. The majority of the sprint sessions are performed at optimum speeds and below. There is also a slight emphasis on improving your speed endurance, see for example, week 1, session 1, content A – this is designed to boost your ability to handle the anaerobic demands of sprint training. You need to create within your muscles an elevated capacity to generate and recover quickly from anaerobic training – within a session, ie between reps, and between sessions. Sprint training relies on the immediate anaerobic energy system, which supplies high-powered energy for up to 6-8sec. It relies on stored body chemicals, such as creatine phosphate and there is no reliance on oxygen to provide energy. Regular speed training will develop the capacity of the body to re-charge more quickly between efforts – boosting your recovery.
Non-track wise, ie with your weights and plyometric training, the first month is designed to develop a base of specific power in your sprinting muscles that will transfer comfortably into out-and-out speed – it’s all about putting more horse-power into your muscles.
Month 1 – week 1
20m sprint drills. 4 drills, do each one twice @ 70% intensity Walk 50m; run 50m @ 75% effort; repeat 5 times, walk 400m and repeat
Weights Squats, shoulder press, lunge, leg curl, calf raise 3 x 8 @ 75%1RM Core exercises (of your choice, eg the plank and fit-ball back extension)
20m sprint drills, 4 drills, do each one three times @ 80% intensity 6 x 80m @ 85% effort sprints
Weights – same as day 2
After 10min. 3 x 10 hops on the spot (left and right) 3 x 10 line bounce 2 x 10 straight leg jumps Take 30sec. between sets
Take a good recovery between the weights exercises and perform them fast but safely, and with adherence to good technique Perform calf raises to a lifting count of 1 and a lowering count of 4-5. This will boost the strength of your Achilles tendons
3 x 4 bunny jumps
Focus on technically correct execution
* slow lowering phase of calf raise
Month 1 - week 2
20m sprint drills, 5 drills, do each one three times @ 80% intensity
Walk 50m; run 50m at 85% effort; repeat 5 times, walk 600m and repeat
4 x 10 hops on the spot (left and right)
4 x 10 line bounce 4 x 10 straight leg jumps
Take 30sec. between sets
These low intensity plyos will develop your reactive ability and improve your foot-strike over time
Concentrate on smooth running technique while performing the running part of section A. These sessions are designed to build a base of specific fitness
20m sprint drills, 4 drills, do each one three times @ 80% intensity
Walk 50m; run 50m at 85% effort; repeat 6 times, walk 400m and repeat
Squat, shoulder press, lunge, leg curl, calf raise 4 x 6 @ 80%1RM Core exercises (of your choice, eg the plank and fit-ball back extension)
15m sprint drills, 3 drills, do each one three times @ 80% intensity
3 x 30m sprints from standing start @ 95% effort
Squat, shoulder press, lunge, leg curl, calf raise
1 x 8 @ 70% 1RM
2 x 5 @ 75%1RM
2 x 3 @ 80% 1RM
Core exercises (of your choice, eg the plank and fit-ball back extension)
Take 10min. rest
3 x 200m @ 70% effort
3 x 8 bounds from standing
2 x 6 hops (left and right leg) from standing
Take a good recovery between the weights exercises and perform them fast but safely, and with adherence to good technique
For the 30m runs use a standing start. Lean forward and push the ground behind you as you accelerate
For the 200ms take sufficient recovery so that you are able to run each one with good relaxed form
For the plyometrics take 45 sec. – 1min. between each rep and 2min. between sets.
Focus on quick ground contacts and transition into the next step or hop