Thursday, June 01, 2006

Summer Training for Speed

Summer training is a critical time for all athletes regardless of their sport. It is possibly the most important season with regards to training especially for high school athletes. Most high school athletes are 3 sport athletes so they go from soccer, to basketball, to baseball, football to track to lacrosse,field hockey to gymnastics to tennis, etc.

So coaches have a problem. Do they just try to get you ready as quickly as possible for your current sport? Do they try and work on the overall development of the athlete? Are they concerned about conditioning levels of the incoming athletes? Are they concerned about the condition of the athletes leaving after their sport season is over? Is there enough time in 3 months for a coach to put together a great periodized training program?

Now there are certain coaches that focus on different aspects of what they feel is important to work on during the season. And most state athletic rules are set up so the coach can not work with their athletes out side of that sports season. This is why summer training is so important. The athletes get to work on and focus on improving all biomotor abilities.

Some consider the summer GPP (general preparatory period) work of there training plan. I wrote a few months ago about periodation (Periodization - structure of a continuous training plan) and structure of a work out plan/program so I am not going to go into this too much. A great resource that discusses periodization and program design is Alwyn Cosgrove's Training Design Program:

I am going to break this Summer Training Plan Recommendations Article into sections so I can cover in detail each aspect of speed training. To start off, let's hit the topic that everyone is mostly concerned about: Training Speed over the summer.

Speed WorkI hear that speed training should not be worked on in the offseason. I still have not heard a good reason for this. Why would you stop speed training when this is the skill that you are trying to improve?

I have seen athlete's work on their 'conditioning' in the off season and not perform any speed work. Then when they show up to camp for pre-season they are expected to sprint and time and time again, injuries occur. Sprinting is high intensity work that involves recruiting specific groups of muscle fibers, improving the efficiency of neuromuscularfiring patterns and is extremely taxing to the central nervous system. To not have your athletes train for this complicated process then all of a sudden you want them to perform at full speed at practice or a game is crazy.

Now, volume, intensity and density of your speed work will change throughout your training program. You should not drop speed training from your program at any part of the year.
Let's begin first, with saying what speed training is not. Speed training is not running at speeds/intensities less then 90-95%. So, running a 40 yard dash at 100% is speed work, while jogging a 100 meters at 65%. (65% is a tempo run and we will get more into tempo running during the Conditioning for Summer Training article in days to come).

Now, you maybe thinking, 'well, if I run a 400 meter (800 meter, 1 mile, etc.) at 100% intensity, then that must be speed training right?'

Wrong. This is where we need to drop a little science and physiology to clarify.

Athletes' Acceleration's own Speed Expert Latif Thomas wrote a great energy systems article last year and I will just para-phrase it for you.

'Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP, is the immediate usableform of chemical energy for muscular activity. Any forms of chemical energy that the body gets from food must be converted into ATP before being used by muscle cells. ATP stores in muscle is limited and will deplete in 1 to 2 seconds unless restored. Resynthesis of ATP must occur immediately for muscular activityto continue. There are three systems available within the body to replace concentrations of ATP.
Anaerobic Phosphagen (ATP - CP) Energy SystemCreatine Phosphate (CP) is an energy rich compound foundin muscle cells. After high intensity exercise, creatine phosphate immediately restores ATP in the muscle without forming waste products (lactic acid). The amount of ATP that can be resynthesized from CP can last for 4 to 5 seconds. So, add that to the 1 to 2 seconds of original ATP stores within the muscle and you have about 5 to 7 seconds of ATP production from the ATP-CP Energy System.

According to the USA Track and Field Level II Sport Science manual, to really challenge this system, you need workouts of 7 to 10 seconds of high intensity (sprint) work. This means running at full speed or near full speed, but with no fatigue present.'

So, basically as Latif stated in his energy systems article, your 'true' speed work cannot be longer then 10 seconds or 100 meters for those elite runners.

OK, so now that we know what true speed work is, what should we focus on during our summer training plan?

The focus of speed training during the summer is going to be primarily on acceleration development. Acceleration is the key to most sports and needs to be constantly worked on andimproved.

Acceleration work is considered from 0-30 meters in distance for each repetition. We start out with shorter distances at about 15-20 yards. The reason we start with such short intervals, is that we want to make sure that our athletes are accelerating correctly. Your drive phase, which is your first 6-8 strides, is primarily what we are working on here.

We are looking for during each repetition for acceleration work is:

* Your body is driving out at approximately a 45 degree angle
* Your legs are driving down and back, attaching the ground in a piston-like action
* If you are driving your legs down forcefully, your heel recovery will be kept low
* The foot should strike directly below or slightly behind the hips
* As we discussed in many newsletters before, you are stepping over the opposite knee and driving down (again in almost a piston-like action)
* Arm action is tight, not crossing the body, at a greater than 90 degree angle (your arm angle will open up a little more since your steps are greater and your ground contact time in longer then at top speed)

When you mastered intervals at 20 yards, we start to extend the distance looking for the same form perfection. If you are having form issues, we break down the training because we have found that many athletes are not strongenough to hold and maintain that ideal drive phase. What we do is trick the body to maintain the proper form by having our athletes start using different positions. For example, we will have then starting their interval on the ground seated, lying down in the push-up position, on one knee, etc. So we really bring them to the ground to make their bodies reach the proper position. Another great way to do this is through short hill training. So now you can bring the ground to them to put them at the correct angles and positioning.

Example of an Acceleration Workout:

* 3x 20 meters - push up (down position) start
* 3x 20 meters - push up (up position) start
* 3x 25 meters - seated facing 'forward' start
* 3x 25 meters - seated facing 'backwards' start

Rest interval in between each repetition is 2-2.5 minutes and 3-5 between each set.

Acceleration is the 'easiest' form of speed work because they are performed at such short intervals but don't underestimate it's importance. Acceleration work must be done before you can even look at starting maximum velocity (top speed running) work.

Maximum velocity work is when you are running at full speed,so your body will be completely upright (perpendicular to the ground), and you will no longer be leaning at an angle as you were during acceleration. You will want to relax or 'float' during maximum velocity. What this means is you want to ease back in the amount of effort you are expending while running but without slowing down and losing any speed.

This idea sounds contradictory, and like any new skill, it takes some practice to perfect. While running, you want to continue to step over the opposite knee, but you do not want to drive the ball of the foot down into the ground.This is tough to do but it is essential if you want to maximize your speed and reach your full speed potential. If you are not relaxing while you are running, your body is really fighting itself and causing you to slow down. Relaxation while at top speed must be practiced. A great work out for maximum velocity training is called 'Ins & Outs' or 'Sprint/Float/Sprint' or 'Fly Runs'.

Example of a Maximum Velocity Workout:

Flying 40's
Place a cone at the starting line, at 20yards, at 60 yards and at 80 yards. Accelerate hard to the first cone (20y). Maintain the speed you have generated by running relaxed and following the maximum velocity cues from 20-60 yards. Once you hit 60 yards, slowly decelerate for the next 20 yards, coming to a full stop at the last cone. This is a fly 40. Total volume for these workouts should be between 250 - 350 yards.

Workout 6-8 x Fly 40's
Rest interval is 5-6 minutes between each bout.

Start with 2 days a week of acceleration work. Once you feel comfortable and are performing each rep with proper form and you have reached running 30 meter intervals with no problem, add a day of maximum velocity work in. The summer is not that long and there is a lot of training to get done. The first 2 weeks of the summer will look like this:

(**Note the days that I left blank I will fill in as we discuss other aspects of summer training in future newsletters) Also, it is summer so we can give our athletes the weekend off to 'recover'.

Tuesday: Acceleration
Thursday - Acceleration

Next 2 weeks
Monday: Acceleration
Wednesday: Maximum Velocity
Friday: Acceleration

Depending on your improvements and progressions:
Next 2 weeks
Monday: Maximum Velocity
Wednesday: Acceleration
Friday: Maximum Velocity

I will discuss Speed Endurance when I cover Conditioning as they will be easier to explain both topics together, but thisis wha tyour speed training days will look like at the end of the summer:

Monday: Maximum Velocity (w/ Acceleration)
Wednesday: Speed Endurance
Friday: Maximum Velocity (w /Acceleration)

The sport requirements and goals of the athlete will influence the workouts but those are some general recommendations.

Other Summer Training Speed Guidelines:
*Intensity 95-100%
*Distance of run 20-60 meters
*Rest interval approximately 1 minute rest for every 10 meters (this is what Charlie Francis recommends and it has worked amazing for our athletes)
*Number of reps/set 2-4
*Number of sets 2-4
*Total distance in set 80-160 meters
*Total distance in session 300 - 500 meters
*Rest at least 36-48 in between each speed session

Be on the look out for next week's continuation of Summer Training for Speed where I will give you more training modalities, concepts, exercises, drills and workouts perfect for this coming summer.

If you want even greater detail then this with structured workouts done for you, sample programs, descriptions and reasons behind why you perform each speed training exercise, here are the 2 top resources:

1) Complete Speed Training
2) North/South Football Speed (


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