Figure 2: A summary of factors which should be targeted to improve repeated sprint ability (From Bishop et al, 2011)
The above diagram clearly highlights the interaction of physical and technical characteristics that can be trained to improve running speed, with attention also paid to recovery between sprints in order to deliver repeat performance. Based on the requirements of speed listed above, it should come as no surprise that speed training requires physical and technical development. A greater understanding of the determinants of speed have led to a consistent progression in speed, as highlighted by this analysis of the men’s 100m at the Olympic games.
Unless flexibility is significantly restricted, meaningful changes in speed will primarily come from increases in power due to strength and elastic strength adaptation that contribute to increased stride length. Such training should be specific and include both gym and track based exercises.
As previously mentioned, training at the right end of the force-velocity curve (Figure 1) is crucial to speed development. Force must be produced quickly to encourage a short contact time when running for example. Emphasis should be placed on the speed rather than slow and more forceful movements. In the gym, exercises such as heavy sled pulls, box jumps and front squads can all develop force production during acceleration. Neural coordination can be developed through technical drills such as downhill running and overspeed work as part of a well-structured training programme.
In conclusion, it must be stated that it’s not as easy just to say that speed is the distance travelled per unit of time. Whilst generally considered in terms of running, this definition can also be applied to the movement of limbs as part of a sporting movement or action. Speed involves an acceleration phase which is crucial, as the quicker a limb can reach maximal speed the more time it can spend there. Training to improve acceleration and subsequent speed should reflect the action required by targeting the ‘speed-end’ of the force-velocity continuum.
Using Ludum to improve speed in sport
As we have discussed, improving speed is fundamental to most types of performance in sport. Whether your goals are maximal speed or average speed over an extended distance or time, Ludum can help you to record and monitor your progress. Also, the platform can track the training load that is required to make adaptations in the range of disciplines that contribute to speed such as strength training and repeated sprint efforts. Check out the free trial to find out more details and how Ludum can help you.