Last weekend I attended a course with Academy of Sport Speed Australia in an endeavour to learn ‘ everything you need to build explosive speed.’ I must admit the title got me in straight away because as a sprinter I am always looking at ways to run faster, win more races and have less injuries! I was also interested to find out new ways to help my sporting clients improve their speed, whether it be for track running, football, netball or soccer.
So why is speed important? According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, ‘Regardless of the sport, the ability to rapidly and efficiently accelerate, decelerate, change direction and move a body segment or the entire body rapidly is a universal element of success.’ So that kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Speed is essential to success in a wide range of sports. However, it is often neglected or trained poorly!
There are multiple factors that can be addressed to help athletes maximise their speed, including:
1. Freedom of movement
If you can’t move freely, you have to use more effort to complete the movement. This means that you will waste valuable energy just trying to move instead of translating that energy into efficient and effective movement that propels you forward. Why is efficiency so important? If you have too many ‘holes in your bucket’ you will leak water (energy) and will be more susceptible to injury and early fatigue.
2. ‘Good’ posture
If your body is not in a good position, this again means that you will require more effort to move and will waste energy by being in inefficient positions. For example, if you are running with hunched shoulders, you will not be able to use your diaphragm effectively for breathing and you will not get enough oxygen into your bloodstream to sustain you during strenuous activity. Another example is arm crossover. If your arms cross over your body, they are not propelling you forward but are slowing you down!
Force causes motion and speed is a measurement of motion – how fast can you move from A to B? For force production, you need strength! Keep in mind the bigger the athlete, the stronger you need to be to propel yourself forward.
4. Change of Direction
This is especially important in team sports. Athletes must have the physical capacity to decelerate, brake (stop), change direction and accelerate again. This can be trained using a variety of change of direction (COD) drills.
5. Body composition
If you are carrying too much extra weight, you are literally carrying around ‘dead weight’ which will slow you down. Power to weight ratio is an important factor in developing speed – the heavier you are, the more inertia you need to overcome to get moving, and the more impact on your joints and tendons.
So how can I improve my running technique and my speed?
A helpful way to do this is through running technique and COD drills. Although they are not a replacement for actual sprinting, they can be very helpful in developing the pathways in the nervous system required for efficient and effective (fast) movement. Strength is also an important component in developing speed (see above), so undertaking an appropriate strengthening program can also provide the specific strength required to improve your speed.
Contact me at the clinic if you would like to learn more about how to improve your running technique and speed and reduce injuries. I would love to talk to both individual athletes and teams about ways to improve speed and ultimately sport performance!
Click here to book an appointment with Catherine or call the clinic on 5255 5040 (OG) or 4202 0446 (L) to discuss how Catherine can help you achieve your health goals.