by Wil Fleming, CSCS, YFS
For most coaches, if you give them a goal—whether as different as fat loss, strength, hypertrophy, or vertical jump improvement—that individual can quickly come up with a program that will lead a client to that particular result.
We know the sets and reps. We know the rest times. We know the movements that can get an athlete or client to those goals. It is part of our profession and likely something we learned fairly early on in our college or post-collegiate education.
Say that goal is not fat loss or hypertrophy, but improved speed. Then what?
Yeah, we all know that the quickest way to improved speed is through better strength and power. But after that part, then what?
From my own experiences as an athlete and a coach and in my observations of other professionals, speed is a goal that leads many to forget about programming. Instead of programs, we get workouts with the drill du jour or something cool we saw on the internet.
We need programs not workouts
Developing speed is no different than developing any other quality or skill. Certainly there is a technical aspect that must be coached, but in general, the route to get the desired result is the same. It comes by way of a program, not one workout.
Not any of us would say that any of our athletes are markedly better after one single workout. They are not markedly stronger. They are not leaner. And they are certainly not faster due to the results of one workout. It is only after a series of planned training sessions and the rest periods between the training sessions that we find improvement in our athletes.
Training for speed is no different. We must prepare a long-term plan to help our athletes improve speed.
How to plan for Speed and Agility
Planning your speed training comes down to breaking it into the characteristics associated with improved speed. For me, the easiest breakdown is to create programs based upon three areas in which the greatest improvement can be made:
- Technique (both linear and lateral)
This includes all aspects of speed technique (starting mechanics, arm swing, knee drive, and foot strike) as well as lateral techniques such as change of direction mechanics and re-direction mechanics.
A technique focus should occur at the start of any speed training session. Doing so at the beginning of a session will set the anchor points for the entire session and allow athletes to crisply focus on technique while fresh.
The quickest way to see improvement in timed sprints (combine drills) is to help the athlete improve the first 10 yards of any sprint. We focus on using resisted acceleration in our training. We use resisted starts (with weight vests, bands, or sleds) extensively in both our strength training and speed training programs.
Power focus should occur after the technique portion of training and should emphasize the technique that we taught at the beginning of a session. Following up the resisted portion of training we will move on to pure acceleration work, without the use of resisted techniques.
Any good speed training session will have a portion of the training devoted to developing strength. This does not necessarily mean a weight room session (although that is necessary). In the purely speed development realm, we use simple strength exercises like lunging (lateral and forward/back) and squatting to help the athletes develop the ability to both accelerate and decelerate.
If you are struggling on how to put together a comprehensive plan for speed and agility at any age (6-18) then be sure to check out the IYCA’s new Certified Speed and Agility Specialist (CSAS) course that will be out this January. This is one of the most comprehensive resources available to coaches today.