When it comes to athletics, the old saying “speed kills” continues to hold true. The fastest guys and gals in the game are always able to put themselves in the best position to dominate their opponents. If speed doesn’t come naturally to you, make it a priority in your training and watch your game rise to the next level.
1. WEAK MUSCLES ARE SLOW MUSCLES
The ability to accelerate from a still position to your top speed is highly dependent on your level of strength. That is why many top athletes in strength sports like Olympic lifting are exceptional short-distance sprinters. They are able to contract their muscles with great force and accelerate quickly. In order to maximize your speed, you need to build strength. Make sure your training program involves strength work with big compound lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press) performed for heavy sets of 2 to 4 reps.
2. UNILATERAL AND BILATERAL LEG WORK
Being fast while running in a straight line is great, but most sports involve the need to quickly change direction. When you change direction, the bulk of your weight becomes supported on one leg, which greatly increases core activation in order to properly stabilize the body. By increasing your strength and stabilization through unilateral training (single-leg exercises), you will be able to better stabilize yourself on one leg while generating the force needed to quickly change direction. Because of the need for more stabilization, you won’t be able to use as much weight as you would while doing bilateral leg exercises. You need to include heavy bilateral squats and deadlifts in order to work with your maximal weights. Make sure to include both unilateral and bilateral leg training if you want to be as fast as possible!
3. DO PLYOMETRICS AND OLYMPIC LIFTING
Any exercise that is performed as fast as possible will help to train your central nervous system to move quickly. Some examples are Olympic lifts and various plyometric exercises. When performing these exercises, make sure to focus on proper form. Here is an example of each of these class of exercises you can include in your program to increase your speed.
Clean and Jerk:
- With a barbell in front of you, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart over the bar. Your toes should be pointing forward with shoulders over and slightly past the bar. Your shins should almost be touching the barbell.
- Squat down and grip the bar with a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width grip while keeping your back and arms straight and your chest pointing up. Make sure you have an overhand grip.
- Deadlift the bar upwards by extending your hips and knees. Your back should remain the same as you lift the weight.
- As the bar reaches knee height, explode by extending your hips, knees and ankles in a fully erect position to move the bar upwards in a straight line as fast as possible. Execute this while curling in your wrists towards your body.
- Pull the bar up towards your chest and drop down underneath the bar, catching it in a half front squat position with the bar resting on your clavicle and shoulders.
- Stand straight by pushing the weight through your feet while maintaining the barbell at the rack position (resting on your clavicle and shoulders).
- Slightly bend your knees, then explode by extending your leg straight and pressing the barbell completely overhead like a military shoulder press.
- Lower weight back down to starting position.
- Repeat for 6 to 8 reps.
- Get into the regular push-up position.
- Lower yourself down to the ground in a controlled manner by bending your elbows.
- When your chest touches the ground, drive your hands into the ground and explode up as fast as possible, so your arms fully extend and your hands lose contact with the ground.
- When your hands touch the ground again, immediately lower back down and repeat the motion as fast as possible. For a more advanced moved, click the link.
- Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
4. TRAIN YOUR CALVES
- The calf muscles are often forgotten in functional training for sports. However, your calves are crucial for being able to apply force into the ground for acceleration and changes in direction. Doing exercises like seated calf raises will help to strengthen the calf muscles, so they can better assist with force production. If you want to maximize your speed, make sure to include some calf training to eliminate any weak links you may have!
5. CUT THE STEADY STATE CARDIO
Low-intensity, steady state cardio training utilizes the body’s cardiovascular energy system along with slow-twitch muscle fibers. If your goal is to move as fast as possible for a shorter amount of distance, like running a ball in for a touchdown or stealing second base, you shouldn’t be spending too much time doing low-intensity cardio. Instead, you should prioritize high-intensity conditioning work in order to maximize the efficiency of your anaerobic energy system and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Utilize exercises like hill or sled sprints and prowler pushes for conditioning work if you want to maximize your speed!
6. STAY LEAN
Simply put, the less fat you have on your body, the less weight you have holding you back! If you want to be as fast as possible, you will need to maintain a low body fat percentage. If you see any Olympic sprinters, you will notice they are always very lean. Make sure to fuel your body with clean, healthy foods in order to maintain a lean, mean physique to optimize your speed!
While speed and overall athleticism have a lot to do with an individual’s genetics, it is very possible to improve your speed with the right training. Make sure to incorporate all of the above principles in your training to help build blinding speed for total athletic domination!