5 Reasons You Need a Speed Coach

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5 Reasons You Need a Speed Coach

For many sports, speed is a crucial aspect of performance. Training for speed is unlike training for anything else. You'll need someone to show you the way!

These days, it's widely accepted that if you want to get better at your sport, you need to do training beyond the playing field. For most, this means getting into the weight room and maybe hitting the field for some agility and conditioning work. But what about when it comes to training speed? Doesn't that just improve by getting stronger in the gym, doing some A skips every now and again and throwing in some wind sprints at the field once a week? Turns out training for speed is a lot more involved than most people think and is completely different than training for anything else. If you're an athlete looking to get faster this off season, then I encourage you to read on to find out the 5 reasons why you should work with a specialized speed coach.

1. To get faster, your sprint mechanics need to get better.

In sprinting, posture is paramount. If you have poor posture, you will also have poor mechanics. Poor mechanics mean that you will not be applying force EFFICIENTLY and EFFECTIVELY into the ground on each stride. Applying force into the ground is the only way you can move your body from point A to point B. Sprinting is no different. If most of the force you are applying is being wasted on inefficient movements, or not timed appropriately, then it doesn't matter how much you squat or lunge in the weight room. You WILL NOT run fast. Period!

This is where the guidance of a specialized speed coach comes into play. A good coach will be able to determine the weak links in your technical execution and then put you through appropriate drills and exercises to correct these deficiencies. Frequent, HIGH QUALITY execution of these drills combined with regular sprinting will lead to faster sprint times. Proper guidance is also needed to ensure that the quality of drills and sprints stays high throughout each session. Remember, "PERFECT practice makes perfect."

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Technique is crucial for successful speed development

2. You're not as fast as you think you are...and even if you are, you can always be faster.

I've seen this time and time again. The young athlete who just happens to be physically maturing at a faster rate than everyone else, leaving everyone in the dust in training and on the field. Their parents say they don't need speed work. Their form is awful but they're still faster than everyone else...for now. Will they still be the fastest in a year when others catch up physically? If they have poor form and aren't making steady improvement, likely not. Let's also consider the fact that being the fastest kid on your rep soccer team doesn't mean much when you consider that your team is just one of thousands of teams like it across the country. There are likely many kids out there who are faster than you already.

Even with natural talent and ability, there is always room to improve. Take some of the athletes that participate in the NFL Combine. Every year you'll see at least one guy stumble on his first step, pop up and still run a blazing fast 40 yard dash time. Some of these guys are athletic freaks! But imagine how fast they COULD run with better training and technical execution.

3. Sprinting isn't the same as lifting weights.

You set up to lift a heavy weight off the ground. You brace your core, take a big breath and pull as hard as you can. The more you tighten your body, the more you psych yourself up and the harder you pull, the more weight you lift. Unfortunately, this doesn't work when it comes to sprinting fast.

Typically, the more you 'force it' while sprinting, the slower you run. While lifting weights is about creating large amounts of tension and holding it throughout the movement, fast sprinting requires primary muscles to produce large amounts of force and then relax all in a very short amount of time. Failing to do so results in very stiff and inefficient running. You'll hear athletes who run like this from a mile away because their ground contacts will be loud and "stompy;" a sign of inefficient force transfer into the ground. They'll also be more likely to suffer acute and chronic injuries from sprinting (either in training or sport) since they fatigue faster and put excessive stress on muscles and connective tissue.

One of the jobs of a speed coach is to help athletes understand the role of rhythm and relaxation in sprinting. Think of how the best athletes in the world make the incredible things they do look easy on TV. Their movements are strong and explosive, yet they're also fluid, coordinated and elastic. In the minds of many athletes, the intention of "trying harder" is equated to improved performance. It works for some things, but for speed it very often doesn't. I've received many expressions of surprise and confusion from athletes after they a achieve better sprint time by "trying less." Many of them say, "I thought I ran slower on that one." It's in these moments when athletes begin to realize just how much energy they're wasting "trying" to be fast rather than "allowing" themselves to be fast. This fast and relaxed state is attainable but for many it doesn't come naturally. Expert guidance is often needed to achieve it.

4. Speed training sessions need to have a theme and structure.

What many people consider to be speed training is often far from it. Sometimes it's a hodge-podge of different "sprint drills" thrown into a warm-up with no design, relevance or context given to them. Sometimes it's wind sprints and suicides at the field, where the only thing that's getting faster is your heart rate!

First and foremost, in order to get fast you must train FAST. That means longer breaks between repetitions and more focus on the quality of repetitions so you can reach higher speeds in training. When it comes to sprint drills, you must understand that drills done in isolation won't make you faster. Drills combined with sprints in-session and even within a repetition, however, can be very powerful and accelerate progress. When drills are combined with sprints they can help to bridge the gap and transfer learned movement patterns into actual sprinting (e.g. skipping or bounding directly into a full sprint).

The question is, how do you structure a training session that manages intensity, volume and fatigue while also ordering and combining drills and sprints in a way that flows and makes sense? This is yet again where a speed coach's expertise will save you a lot of time and prevent wasted energy in your pursuit of speed.

Drills can help to bridge learned concepts into sprint technique.

5. You need a road map

"Failing to plan is planning to fail." Just like any other form of training, there must be a path set out to take you where you want to go. There are many things to consider: What do I focus on? Do I need more acceleration work? Top speed work? For how long? How does this plan fit in with other training I'm doing? These are just a few questions that must be answered in order for a sprint program to be effective over the long term.

A sprint coach will be able to see the big picture. They will be able to create phases of training that will consider and complement what you're doing in the weight room and on the field, while maximizing speed development year round.

If you're going to do it, do it right.

Hopefully at this point you've seen that speed training should not be taken lightly. As in any aspect of your life you wish to improve, it'll take time, dedication and effort to see substantial improvements. But also, like many things, if you wish to maximize your development and avoid wasting time and energy along the way it will also take GUIDANCE from a professional. In this case, the guidance of a coach who is well-versed in the scientific and practical applications of speed training.

So don't put it off! If you're someone who wants to start getting serious about their speed training, get out there and find a specialized speed coach today. You only have so much time to develop yourself as an athlete and you don't want to look back thinking "what could have been?"

Please share this article with any athletes who are looking to incorporate speed work into their training. Hopefully it will encourage them to reach out and get the guidance they need to become faster athletes.

Also, check out Accel Performance Training's specialized speed program - Accel Speed Academy. For more information, email: jnemet@acceltraining.com and visit www.acceltraining.com for details on upcoming speed workshops and camps.

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Find out more about our High Performance Speed Programs!