Training for Speed & Agility

December 8, 2017

Potential for and limits of speed development

Although speed can be improved, it is inaccurate to suggest that everyone has the capacity to become a sprint champion. A genetic ceiling exists for the top speed an athlete can reach, therefore limiting the ability of the vast majority of people to become an Olympic 100-meter champion. However, while this ceiling exists, it is likely that few people actually reach their ceiling. This is clearly demonstrated by the improvements that elite sprinters make throughout their careers. If top sprinters, with their training aimed specifically at speed development, do not always reach their full genetic potential, then clearly, the likelihood of athletes involved in other sports reaching their speed ceiling is much lower. Therefore, a majority of athletes have a great potential for improving speed, and speed development programs are fundamental to any total performance enhancement program. It is hoped that as speed training methods improve and are used by more and more athletes, more people will approach their ceiling and reach their full speed potential.

Read more in this excerpt from Developing Speed by National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Ian Jeffreys, Editor.

Optimum speed gives athletes an advantage

Athletes who can move faster than their opponents have an advantage. For example, a faster athlete may be able to get to a ball more quickly than a competitor or may even outrun a pursuer. For this reason, athletes in most sports value speed highly. Speed is often measured by using linear (straight-line) sprinting over a distance between 40 and 100 yards (37–91 m). However, it is important to remember that in most sports, athletes rarely sprint more than 30 yards (27 m) in a straight line before they must make some type of directional change. Unless an athlete is a 100-meter sprinter, focusing a great deal of time and attention on straight-ahead speed may not result in optimum performance. On the other hand, since most sports require acceleration from a static state or when transitioning between movements, straight-line speed is still a valuable asset that athletes should focus on when testing and training for sports.

Linear sprinting is a physical skill that most people have performed since their second year of life with some level of proficiency. For decades, many coaches believed that linear speed was mostly related to genetics and could not be significantly improved by training. However, appropriate training does improve running speed, even at the elite level. The combination of stride rate (the number of strides per unit of time) and stride length (the distance covered in a single stride) primarily determines linear speed. So, athletes can improve linear speed by increasing stride rate while maintaining stride length, increasing stride length while maintaining stride rate, or doing a combination of both.

Read more in this excerpt from Developing Agility and Quickness by NSCA, Jay Dawes, Mark Roozen.

Year-Round Nutrition Program

By implementing a year-round nutrition program in conjunction with their training program, endurance athletes can reap the benefits of enhanced health, improved performance, and better control of weight and body composition. Remember that the eating program should ebb and flow just as the training does; the athlete’s physical performance will be much more supported when nutrition matches the needs of physical training. The most important nutrients to consume during training are carbohydrate, fluid, and electrolytes.

Some athletes make losing weight and reducing body composition a primary goal during the preparatory training cycle. If an athlete falls into this category, the recommended daily intake of carbohydrate should be reduced to 3 or 4 grams per kilogram of body weight. A higher amount of protein—from 1.8 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day—should be included; this intake of protein should have a special emphasis on branched-chain amino acids because they have a higher satiety factor (they keep a person fuller), which will help stabilize blood sugar. A person with a stable blood sugar level will eat less throughout the day, so including a good source of lean protein at each meal and snack is important. Continue to keep fat intake around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Read more in this excerpt from Developing Endurance by NSCA, Ben Reuter.

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