Jan 29, 2015
Speed Training Specifics

By Vern Gambetta

Preparing for competition means understanding sport demands and learning to train in ways that mimic game conditions. Develop your speed training philosophy based on those specific needs.

It is easy to get strong if that is your goal. By strong, I mean measurably strong in the traditional sense of weight room strong.

A dedicated block of eight to twelve weeks can result in appreciable measurable strength gains in any of the traditional lifts. I am not denigrating this in any way. The key here, and an element that I think is often overlooked, is how do you then transfer and apply this strength to your event or sport?

That is the conundrum. That is what is difficult. Based on what I have seen in 47 years of lifting weights and 41 years of coaching athletes, it is easy to get caught in the trap of believing more strength equals better performance. I reconciled this, both as an athlete and a coach, by systematically changing the emphasis from general to special to specific strength depending on the training and competition objectives.

In all of this it is essential to never stray very far from your event or sport. That is the ultimate measure of performance, not numbers in the weight room.

As far as getting slow, that is very easy to do. Getting faster requires a high degree of coordination. Getting faster requires ballistic dynamic work in a very narrow range. Using heavy sleds, weight vests, and running in sand make you good at running with those impediments, but the transfer to speed development is minimal.

Look closely at the dynamics of sprinting and what is required. Elite sprinters are already at 7.8 meters per second in two steps from the blocks. Training with heavy resistance increases ground contact time. That is not what you want. Instead, you want to put as much force into the ground in the least amount of time.

Once again it comes down to understanding what you are training for, what are the demands of your event or sport. Harder is not better. Be smart in your training. If this does not look like what you are trying to do in competition then take another look.

Remember you are what you train to be. Train fast to be fast!

Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog.

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