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Fill The Buckets - January 17th 2024

Improving speed is as simple as filling two buckets. Unfortunately those two buckets can hold a gallon of water each and the only thing you have to fill the buckets with is a small measuring cup. It isn’t difficult to figure out how to do it but you will need patience to see it all the way through. Grab your cup!

The first bucket we need to fill is strength. Athlete A can sprint 5 yards in 2 strides, athlete B needs 4 strides to sprint 5 yards. What is the difference between athlete A and athlete B? Strength. A stronger athlete can push harder off the ground than a weaker athlete.

Lets get a little bit sciency here. From the moment your foot strikes the ground during a sprint to the moment it leaves the ground you are only capable of applying a percentage of your bodies total available strength. Lets say its only 20%. If athlete A is capable of applying 1,000 pounds of pressure and athlete B is capable of only applying 500 pounds of pressure, athlete A will apply more total pressure when her/his foot pushes off the ground than athlete B, regardless of the fact that both athletes are only capable of applying 20%. Athlete A will hit the ground with 200 pounds of pressure while athlete B will hit the ground with 100 pounds of pressure. The more pressure you can apply, the more yards you cover per stride. And yes, it will take athlete A less time to sprint 5 yards than athlete B.

If you want visual proof look no further than competitive sprinters. Male, female, high school, college, Olympic, they are all strong and ripped.

The second bucket to fill is real speed training. I saw a Facebook thread where a parent was looking for information regarding speed training for her teenager. There were a bunch of responses from well-intentioned folks offering up running, agility ladders and sprints as solutions. These aren’t necessarily wrong but they aren’t clear and specific enough to really help improve speed.  Here is a simple, clear guide.

1) Perform a total of 4-8 sprints, between 10-40 yards, 2-3 x per week.
2) Rest 6 seconds for every yard covered. 60 seconds for a 10-yard sprint, 120 seconds for a 20-yard sprint etc.
3) Speed training is not cardio. The goal is to literally train your body to move faster, and that is physically impossible if you are fatigued. If you aren’t following the guidelines for rest listed above you might as well go play video games.
4) Each sprint needs to be performed with maximum effort.
5) Have a day of rest in between each sprint workout.
6) Gradually increase distance. Start with 10-yard sprints for 2-3 weeks, and add 5-10 yards every 2-3 weeks after.
7) Gradually decrease the total number of sprints as the distance increases. Start with 8 x 10-yard sprints, drop the total number of sprints to 5-6 when you increase to 20-yard sprints, drop the total number of sprints to 3-4 when you move up to 30-40 yard sprints.
8) Perform 3-4 warm up sprints as part of the warm-up. You need to be warmed up to build speed/prevent injury.
9) Try to find a way to put a timer on your sprints. Gather data.
10) Be patient. You cannot rush this process. It takes time.


Below is a sample speed/strength training session I have my athletes performing this week. The group I am working with has started training during the last 2-4 weeks.

Pre-Sprint Warm-up:

Ankle Jumps- 2 x 15. 3-step sprint to deceleration- 2x 20 yards.

Speed:

Sled sprints- 5 x 10 yards x varying resistance. (90lbs plus for high school athletes, 45 lbs. middle school athletes.) Rest 2:00 between sprints.

15-yard sprints- 2-4 reps. 1:30 seconds rest in between sprints.

Strength:

A1) Trap Bar Deadlifts- 5 sets x 3-5 reps x high school athletes, 5-8 reps x middle school athletes. (High school athletes looking to improve maximal strength, Middle School athletes looking to improve technique and movement ability, they don’t need maximal weight to get stronger.)  A2) Drop Box Jumps- 5 x 3. A3) DB Bench Press 5 x 5-8 (high school) 6-10 (middle school).

B1) Lunges- 3 sets x 6-8 reps. B2) Inverted Rows- 3 sets x 5-8 reps.

C1) Core Band Rotation- 2 x 8 per side. C2) Hamstring Curl- 2 x 8-12.

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