The Need for Speed… What is it, why do we need it and how do we get it? – Part 1

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, CSCS, NASM, PES, FMS)

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Doesn’t matter the sport, everyone wants to be fast. Unfortunately, not everyone is, but everyone can surely get faster. This comes down to a few key principles, and it’s not just about running a faster 30, 40 or 60 yard dash.

In the upcoming months I’m going to release a series of blogs on speed. We’re going to talk about training sport-specific speed, position-specific speed and some of the techniques we use here at RPP to get our guys explosive.  But let me start by bringing up a few crucial points.

Getting fast is first and foremost about getting strong – The more horsepower an athlete has, the more force he is able to put into the ground to get his body moving quickly. We can teach running mechanics all we want but if there is limited power being put into the ground on each stride it’s pointless. That’s why here at RPP, only athletes that strength-train with us are eligible to enroll in our speed program. We want it to work and we believe this to be best way to get you fast.

Ladder and cone drills make you better at…ladder and cone drills – True they can give you quicker feet which is great if you’re auditioning for the River Dance.

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But don’t ask one of these guys to do this.

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Spend time on training movements that pertain to your sport – It’s a waste of time training “top-end speed” to athletes who never reach it. And, other than sprinters, no other sport reaches top-end speed. For ball players, time would be better spent on quickness in the first 10 yards, or change-of-direction speed.

Genetics give us a starting point, but they don’t tell us where we’ll end up – Many athletes simply accept their speed and write it off as “genetics”.  Although I do believe that much of what makes an athlete fast (Type 2 “fast twitch” fiber) is genetic, there are things that can be done regardless of genetic make-up to make someone faster. Thinking and believing anything less is a cop out.

With that being said, let’s get on with it by starting with the “nuts and bolts” of any speed program worth the paper it’s written on.

Sports are about moving linearly (front-to-back) and laterally (side-to-side), but in sports such as baseball, the ability to start and stop quickly is the deal breaker. Ever watch a rabbit run? It’s actually not only how fast they are, but how quickly they start and their ability to stop on a dime and change direction.

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The same goes for athletes. If athlete 1 runs a 4.3 sec 40-yard dash and athlete 2 runs a 4.5 sec dash but has better starting and stopping (acceleration/deceleration) mechanics, athlete 2 will be faster on the field every time. This is particularly important for middle infielders in baseball who don’t really have a lot of time to foot-plant and change direction to make a play.

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Thus, training first-step quickness and change-of-direction speed (we’ll talk more about these qualities in future blogs) as well as improving mobility, strength and deceleration mechanics are the focal points of any great speed development program.

In our next installment, we’ll discuss “The Warm Up” as well as some key components to the mechanics of running.

See ya’ in the gym…


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