The Myth of Speed Training – Part 2

Tony Reynolds
Tony Reynolds says…

 

 

 

Treadmill – The belt pulls your leg through resulting in relatively passive extension of the hip. Passive extension would then minimize the contribution of the primary hip extensors.

 

This can be offset a bit by inclining the treadmill, but still does not match the recruitment patterning of running on the ground.

 

Ground – YOU pull your leg through. Therefore land running involves active hip extension.

 

You are never going to improve speed of extension or the force generation capacity of that extension when you utilize an activity that minimizes the contributions of the primary hip extensors.

 

I am quite certain treadmill running involves a significant increase in hip flexor activation as well. Decreased hip extensor activation, increased hip flexor activation…

 

… Ultimately you are nowhere near the neurological programming of ground based linear top end speed (which is what is actually trying to be addressed).

 

Those who claim HSTM running will make you faster also ignore the whole accelerate with backside mechanics (push the COM) and maintain speed with front side mechanics (pull the COM) principle.

 

Once you are reaching and pulling rather than leaning and pushing your will do very little accelerating. You may over stress the hip extensors and create a strain…but not much in the line of improving performance.

 

As for the validity of developing linear top end speed (once again…what they are really trying to address with HSTM)…

 

… I am not that big of an advocate for most sports and most positions in sports.

 

From a linear speed perspective, first step quickness, improving acceleration (not velocity maintenance), improving deceleration so we can actually encounter optimal acceleration, improving decision making skills, and improving reaction time! These are more important than skills that are rarely used (or used in the way we are trying to develop them).

 

This is one of the most debatable and confusing topics in our industry.

 

You need definitive answers…

 

You need a specific plan and program for Speed & Agility Training

 

You need credentials that will set you apart from the rest…

 

You need the new ‘Youth Speed & Agility Specialist’ Certification

 

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33 Responses

  1. dheard says:

    Do you have any research to back your claim about Treadmill Speed Training?

  2. Matt says:

    Forget research! What Tony states if COMMON SENSE. It’s well known by anyone that has any background in anatomy and Human Performance there is higher incidence of hamstring pulls by athletes who transition from the treadmill to groundbased running programs.

  3. Dave Schmitz says:

    Tony,

    Outstanding post. It is a “real world” fact about treadmill training regardless if there is research or not. All you need to do is look at why high speed treadmill training has gone by the wayside and facilities that in the past promoted that are no longer in business.

    That is a real world fact.

    Bottomline is results do not lie.

    Dave

  4. Alan Dalton says:

    There is some good information (research): pro’s and con’s, regarding various forms of speed training, including high speed treadmill training…see the link below:

    http://www.athleticscoaching.ca/UserFiles/File/Sport%20Science/Theory%20&%20Methodology/Speed/Sprints/Faccioni%20Assisted%20and%20Resisted%20Methods%20for%20Speed%20Development.pdf

    Much of the expected gains truly have to do with how we coach the athlete to use the modality properly.

  5. Paul says:

    Actually, Tony’s opinion is interesting, but not entirely supported by scientific evidence.

    From Wank, Frick, and Schmidtbleicher (Int J Sports Med 1998; 19:455-461):

    “The m. biceps femoris showed greater magnitiude and longer duration activity during ground contact and the first part of swing phase in treadmill running” when compared to overground running at the same speeds.

    Biceps femoris is a hip extensor.

    The authors go on to state that there were only small (not significant) differences in activity at the soleus, gluteus maximus, and gastrocnemius between treadmill and overground modes.

    In other words, hip extension on the treadmill is active, not passive.

    The purpose of hip extension and plantar flexion, during the running gait cycle, is to produce a ground reaction force vector which displaces the center of gravity up and forward. The vertical component of the GRFV has been measured, on average, at 2.5 times body weight. That is the force that is necessary to create the vertical component. If there were any reduction in force from either the hip extensors or the plantar flexors, then the GRFV would be significantly reduced, and the vertical component would be, likewise, limited. This, however, is not the case. Treadmills with embedded forceplates reveal that the GRFV is the same as overground running. That combined with the EMG evidence from studies like the one cited above indicates that treadmill running is not a passive event, it is equally active as overground running.

    The issue at hand is whether overspeed training on treadmills, or overground for that matter, has an effect. On that issue, the evidence is very unclear as to the effects of overspeed training, so it remains a questionable practice.

    We continue to operate on the basis of “I believe something to be true, therefore it must be true.” Belief is useful in religion, but not in science. So let’s stick to scientific evidence.
    If there is conflicting evidence, then please introduce it. It would make for a very interesting debate. Right now, however, we are arguing over opinions, which gets us nowhere.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly.

    I recently became certified through the IYCA’s Speed & Agility training with Lee Taft and was blown away by some of the “basic” mistakes being made by coaches and trainers who try to over analyze training processes and come up with “cool” programs instead of using common sense movement patterns to improve speed and agility.

    After taking the course I realized that I wasted LOTS of time training the wrong way when I was an athlete simply because “that’s what I learned from my coaches”.

    The more REAL information that gets into the hands of those who spend the most time with athletes today (youth coaches and trainers) the better it is for the athletes.

    I usually don’t sales pitch, but the IYCA Speed & Agility truly does deliver the goods.

    Darrin Nicoli
    The Next Level Sports Training

  7. Dwayne G says:

    Tony: What is your view of the woodway speedboard for interval training?

  8. Larry Wood says:

    I find the comments about treadmill training and over the ground training to be an interesting read. As an exercise research scientist I also know that many times what we test in the lab does not always pan out on the field of play. I know from the many athletes that I have dealt with always tell me how different it is training on the treadmill and training on ground. All of our athletes are playing their sport on ground so specificity plays a role here. However, don’t throw away the treadmill because progress can be made with this tool and then the athlete must simply be transiitioned to their respective playing surfaces. IYCA rules.

  9. DHeard says:

    Research shows that incline running recruits the muscles responsible for forward acceleration at a level two to three time higher than level running at the same stride frequency; you produce more power during each stride, during both push-off and recovery. These muscles are recruited at levels 200-300% greater during incline running at 10 mph and 30% grade when compared to the running at the same stride frequency on the level. (Swanson and Caldwell An intergrated biomechanical analysis of high speed inlcine and level treadmill runnin. Med Sci. Sport Exerc. Vol 32 No. 6 pp 1146-1155

    Recent research by Determan and Hamill (2004) as well as Kram (1998) clearly indicate that the ground reaction force patterns are nearly indentical in level running when speed is controlled properly. The ground reaction force patterns are representative of the acceleration profile of the COM during locomotion. If they are not different, it is unlikely that there are any meaningful differences in coordination between the overground running and treamdill running.

    First off treadmill training is just a tool that you use to improve sports performance. It provides an optimal learning enviroment for the refinement of sprinting. A coach is able to stand right next to the athlete in order to better “coach” them up. Place a mirror in front and utilize dartfish and the level of coaching has gone up.

    Again this is one tool that I use for athletic improvement. All my athletes have improved their speed by using the treadmill.

    “higher incidence of hamstring pulls”. No one at my facility has pulled a hamstring.

    “why high speed treadmill training has gone by the wayside and facilities that in the past promoted that are no longer in business.” As far as facilities closing down because they use utilize treadmill in there training, how do you explain the growth and expansion of Athletic Republic.

  10. Brian Grasso says:

    Chest tumping, opinion and beliefs notwithstanding, I suggest we take a long look and read at what Paul is saying — debate is healthy, provided the debated points have substance.

  11. david says:

    After purchasing the speed and agility certification package, is there a test that has to be taken?

  12. King Hoover says:

    Brian-

    Thank you for starting the conversation on this topic. You have attracted some clearly great minds, experienced and educated opinions and I know that I am not the only one to have benefitted from the dialogue. Although the Results versus Outcomes contention may continue for a while longer, what is clear now is why the need for the founding of the IYCA was so dire and precisely why you and your collegues were the ones to do it.

    Your longer-term, physical/biomotor education approach offers consideration for holistic performance improvements, athletic development and time for the expression of outcomes to training modalities that will not be immediately observed, but must be planned for if they are ever to be realized.

    Thank you again for helping those interested to discover the fine line between a Phenomenon of Reaction to training in contrast to the Creation of Response to conditioning.

  13. Kate says:

    Tony has raised an interesting point and one that is most often supported anecdotally by most athletes as well as echoed in many comments posted here on the subject. However, I must agree with Paul’s post from Feb. 4 and caution everyone from relying on anecdotes and opinion over science (when applicable).
    Although there is not a lot of research that has been conducted in the area, two well conducted studies:
    A kinematics and kinetic comparison of overground and treadmill running.
    Riley PO, Dicharry J, Franz J, Della Croce U, Wilder RP, Kerrigan DC. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jun; 40(6): 1093-100
    A comparison of overground and treadmill running for measuring the three-dimensional kinematics of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. Schache AG, Blanch PD, Rath DA, Wrigley TV, Starr R, Bennell KL. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2001 Oct;16(8): 667-80

    discussed the specifics that make the overal movement from a purely biomechanical perspective similar. However… they also allude to the parameters that must be in place in order to obtain these results or for further replication to occur. They also do not make any claims with respect to the metabolic and or physiologic demands required by either surface which is another arena altogether.

    Now, having said all that, the best among any group know that there is always room for discussion. We must remember to give credence to “real world experience” and the individual work being done “in the trenches”, in addition to what is produced in a University or controlled lab environment. I feel it is important to remain both open minded as well as critical of the vast information we now have access to. Clarity of the topic under debate is of the utmost importance, without it we will never be able to move forward in any discussion.
    This organization has done an unbelievable job of brining together people who are passionate, informed and engaged. Forums like this are evidence of how as a group united, we can change the world.

  14. Paul says:

    I appreciate Kate’s contribution to this discussion. There are many perspectives to consider when addressing any issue. The more open we are to seeing new perspectives, the better we’ll understand those issues.

    That said, now I’ll reiterate Kate’s and my point regarding opinions. They’re useful if they can be supported scientifically, in which case they’re no longer opinions, but instead, a source of evidence. That’s the real base from which we can debate the issues and advance our knowledge of these subjects.

    In the realm of evidence, I discovered the following article:

    Bassett, DR., Giese, MD., Nagle, FJ., Ward, A., Raab, DM., and Balke, B. (1985). Aerobic requirements of overground versus treadmill running. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 17(4): 477-81.

    The authors stated that “ANOVA revealed that the differences between mean values for VO2 for level TM running vs level overground running and grade TM running vs grade overground running were not statistically significant (0.10 less than P less than 0.25).”

    In other words, the metabolic requirements for treadmill v overground running are the same when normalized for running speed and percent grade.

    I think it’s safe to say that treadmill running may be equally effective as overground running, depending upon the specific goals of the training and the intended use of the device. I’m still interested, however, in seeing evidence on the relative efficacy of overspeed applications, from performance, kinematic, biomechanical, and neuromotor perspectives.

  15. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:

    A few things:

    Anecdotal evidence is not without value, it just needs corroboration. That is actually the original reason for laboratory research, especially in this field, is to further study and elucidate mechanisms behind field observations. There is a growing arm of this research that is looking at very small factors and parts of processes. Just as it is important to remember not to oversimplify and quote anecdotal evidence as a complete truth, it is also important to recognize the lack of context for some of these more controlled experiments.

    Here are some examples of holes in the treadmill research and applying this to kids: A) Most of the subjects in these studies are trained adult athletes. B) I haven’t seen any studies on kids. Kid’s bodies and brains are different. That MUST be respected in this discussion. C) WE haven’t even discussed, during this thread, the implications for the larger context: What are the overall needs for the young athlete? Why would an incredibly expensive treadmill, force production be damned, be necessary, when from what I have seen (anecdotally), it appears as if the more important skills are readiness to run and change of direction.

    Someone earlier in the thread said “forget research, this is about common sense” and then proceeded to use as the basis for his conclusion information he had received during his formal education he had received that was the result of research.

    C’mon son!

    WE have got to look at it all! Anecdotal observation, laboratory research, context / need, resources, culture, age, experience. All of it is part of the cake we’re helping the kids bake.

  16. Paul says:

    Dr. Brown,

    Very well stated. We must certainly look at it all. But, we can’t look at all of it at the same time.

    I’m also willing to accept anecdotal observation, so long as it is reasonable, and has some basis in scientific accuracy. One comment, from the accompanying string, for example, said that treadmill running creates a “passive neural feedback loop.” Huh? I wonder if the author of that post could possibly explain that. What part of the sensory-motor structure, during treadmill running, is passive?

    Another post claimed that it is a commonly accpeted fact that hip extension during treadmill running was passive. Impossible. That’s not a fact, it’s an unsubstantiated opinion, and is utter nonsense.

    So let’s do examine all of the factors and variables that should be considered when using any modality – one at a time please – and leave the fantasy to a blog for contemporary fiction.

  17. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    Agreed, Paul. Especially with regard to running on an incline on a treadmill, the hip extension is definitely NOT passive. No controlled research needed, just run on one!

    I also, to be honest, have a pet peeve when people throw around neuroscience terms that are completely meaningless in the context in which they are being used. “passive neural feedback loop”: Has this been measured? Let’s do this exercise (it may be useful for people):

    Design an experiment to ask whether there is a “passive neural feedback loop” involved in treadmill running. Good luck!

    Now, we can continue to discuss the science (and should). My overall point is the same as Brian’s. Treadmill running has never been proven to be necessary nor sufficient to produce positive changes in speed production. They are hella expensive. They take up lots of space, and require upkeep. The time spent to really get something out of the treadmill training, in a very real way, directly interferes with other skills that we could be building in young athletes. By the way, I have a good amount of experience doing treadmill training with kids, and testing afterward. These results weren’t published, because they were done at a private facility in a training environment. The results did not impress me. I included this, lest someone reading this stuff thinks I haven’t experience the training. I have trained on them, trained professional athletes on them (about 10), and trained kids (about 20 kids, different levels and ages) on them. This is why I have pretty sure they aren’t necessary and a waste of time.

    The practitioner MUST factor all of these things in when making decisions. We can (and should) dissect in discussions like this, but I just want to keep our eyes on the big picture (a role I fulfilled often as a young scientist).

    The real bottom line here: With the exception of adult sprint athletes, where this kind of training IMO can be quite useful, this type of training is not very useful for overall athletic development when considering all of what we need to do. It is especially, given our points about context and contact hours, useless for kids in the practical sense.

    But, I will reiterate Paul’s points – PLEASE back up your claims with real evidence. When we don’t back up claims with empirical observation, it muddles the points we try to make (even when we’re correct!) As you can see above, I can back up my claims at least with experience and observation, which have nothing to do with the detail of mechanics, but an overarching sense of the time spent on training tasks and results.

  18. Paul says:

    I think that making a gross generalization of treadmills being useless is a bit short-sighted.

    Treadmills are tremendously useful for conducting kinematic analyses, identifying gait variations at specifically defined running speeds, performing sprint intervals, graded exercise tests, and even, with the power off, doing retrowalking, an excellent exercise for knee rehab.

    But for anyone who thinks that one can’t develop athletic skill on a treadmill, I encourage you to look up FreFloDo on Youtube.

    I don’t think the problem is that treadmills are useless, I think some people have simply not found uses for them.

  19. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:

    Again, my perspective on this is coming from developing overall athletic skill in developing children. Truly none of the reasons you describe above are reasons for using them on an everyday athletic kid.

    I already conceded uses in certain populations, such as sprint athletes. None of the groups I or you have mentioned, Paul, have included everyday youth athletes.

    I agree that impressive things can be done with treadmills, but again, not my point. The overarching point here, once again, is that in an overall context of your everyday youth athlete, this will likely not prove to be an efficient purchase or use of valuable contact time.

    My question is why would I as a practitioner buy something that expensive that takes up that much space, that performs training functions that are largely redundant, and then make the attempt to find uses for it?

    My purpose here has not been to condemn the manufacture of treadmills, but to discuss their overall usefulness in the context of working with everyday youth athletes. I cannot stress that point enough for our readers here. My concern personally is not for those 2% of “elite” athletes looking for that 4%, just statistically significant edge, but the everyday kid training to understand sport and play in their own bodies, with limited time and with limited energy to commit.

    There is debate and logic in the pure sense, and then there is debate and logic with context and an eye on the big picture. With the second type of debate, it is my opinion that these treadmills have little to no use in an overall training paradigm for youth sports and youth play.

    However, as always, and as we have discussed, Paul, I hope that people draw their own conclusions. But for my part, I think that your statement saying that people haven’t found use for them being the problem is off base when one steps back and considers what we’re doing with these kids every day. Again, just the opinion of one person, experienced and learned in this field, against the opinion of another person, experienced and learned in this field.

  20. Paul says:

    Dr. Brown,

    I see these devices as tools, to be used for various purposes, towards various goals. A treadmill is simply a tool, like a squat rack, or a bench press, or a medicine ball. None of these tools is absolutely necessary for anything. They are all redundant in some way shape or form. But each has value, when used for the right reasons and under the right circumstances.

    If I’m working with a youth athlete – an everyday, after school, youngster, and that child has obvious gait issues, then why wouldn’t I put that child on a treadmill, and work with him in a defined space, with concentration, at regulated speeds, helping him to understand stride and running motion, rather than trying to do the same thing by chasing him around a field? Wouldn’t that help his overall athleticism?

    What if i want to have one youngster in a group work on base conditioning, because he, for whatever reason, is not able to participate in the activities assigned to a larger group? I could place that child on a treadmill and know that he’s in a safe and controlled space while I work with the larger group.

    What if one of my everyday youth athletes has patellofemoral pain syndrome? I’d place him on a treadmill and have him push the unpowered belt backwards as a well-established and effective rehab exercise.

    Hill running is a very effective way of improving athletic capability, even in everyday youth athletes. What if one doesn’t have access to a hill? That redundant treadmill may be a perfectly suitable option.

    Incidentally, what costs more and takes up more space, a treadmill or a turf field? What if I’m a sports coach working in a small urban studio, and I don’t have access to fields and parks? What if there’s a blizzard outside, and I can’t have my client run outdoors.

    The point is, there are infinite “what ifs,” and having the right tools in one’s toolbox gives one the options and versatility to handle all conditions and all circumstances.

    As I’ve said before, no one exercise or training application can solve all problems. Why take the position that since a device can’t do everything, then it can’t do anything? If we adhere strictly to the context that you’re espousing, then our training environments will consist of nothing more than an empty field and a ball, and maybe that’s fine too, because everything else will be redundant.

  21. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:

    Your last sentence, Paul: YES! I would love to see that. Play spaces, not training facilities. Keep the training facilities and specialized equipment for the individuals that they were designed for in the first place:

    Elite, fully developed athletes.

    Kids should be playing.

    I would maybe extend your argument for exceptional kids above the age of 14 or so. Below that, play…experience life…learn a sport.

  22. Paul says:

    Well Dr. Brown, that’s fine too. Kids should just play. They should join their local rec leagues, play stickball with their friends, run around, and be happy. I’m 100% for that. And in that case, those kids don’t need you, they don’t need me, or anyone else who fancies oneself as a youth sports conditioning coach.

    But that’s not who we’re talking about here, is it? We’re discussing kids with serious aspirations, whether their own, or their parents who live vicariously through them. We’re identifying kids that are trying to become better athletes, and whose parents are willing to shell out thousands of dollars to see that they become better athletes.

    When presented with a youngster, in that context, my responsibility is not to my personal training philosophy, or making sure that I manage my contact hours appropriately, or adhering to the principles of my organization, or in deciding whether a device is worth the cost. This is not about validating my self-worth. In fact, it’s not about me at all.

    It’s about the child who stands before me, and being abosultely resolute in my commitment that I will do everything and anything to ensure that my client gets better. It doesn’t matter what I have to do, or what tool I have to use, so long as my client improves.

    I’m no fan of Bosu’s. In fact I think they’re downright inhibitive. But if there were one thing that I could do on a bosu to make a young athlete better at something, then you can bet your house that I’ll use it. In fact, if, for whatever reason, I deem it necessary for the child to stand on his head in a corner and spin like a top, then that’s what he’s going to do.

    The same goes for treadmills. They’re excellent tools, and if I can use one to a client’s advantage, then I will, without hesitation. Because at the end of the day, I owe it to that child and his parents to say that I did everything I could to ensure their progress, regardless of the level at which they’re playing.

  23. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:

    Again, I am differentiating this discussion for younger kids, vs. older adolescents who are pursuing athletic optimization of their own volition. For the second group: go for it! But my recommendations do include the question of expense. If its their, for the second group, have at it. For the first group, why?

    I think you make an assumption above that if someone espouses certain ideals that they are making it about their own egos. There is a such thing as being aware of an issue and making every effort to make other people aware of it. I work with and have worked with scores of youth athletes. I still do it every day. It is part of my job to not only educate children / teens but the parents as well.

    I haven’t seen any evidence making expensive treadmills superior in their effect to effective coaching on the ground. Show me that controlled, peer reviewed research, and I will certainly acknowledge it.

    Again, it is my job to advise young professionals just starting out in this field, just beginning facilities. It is also my job to ensure and protect play opportunities for kids of all ages. That is not a perceived job based on some self importance. It is literally what I get paid to do every day.

    Furthermore, you say “If I deem it necessary”. how are you making those decisions? Evidence that one thing is better than another, or your opinion? Or is it your view that everything is all good. I would not share that view but you and others are certainly welcome to it.

    In the larger view, every time I feed into the view of parents that there kids need every gadget to succeed (Michael Jordan didn’t as a young kid, by the way), then I am becoming part of the problem. If my decisions continue to treat every 10 year old kid that shows ability like a professional athlete that is in “serious training” (a crock), then I too am part of the problem. Again, you are welcome to your views and decisions, but I am a big picture guy always, considering the social issues as well as the physical ones when training. I have refused every time to deal with kids as if they are aspiring professionals, and have very rarely been met with resistance from parents.

    Kids leave their sessions with me feeling centered and happy. They improve skill steadily. And I can’t tell you what a single one of them runs in the 40. It is my personal hunch based on experience and an overall sense that I have gotten from readings in child development, athletic training, and neural development / control that people are fast and jump high mostly because of genetics, secondarily because they want to and believe they can (high drive), and thirdly because of training.

    What our most important mission is with kids is the following: 1) To let them be kids (even if talented), not high-jacking their development for adult type goals, and 2) To foster their development in a way that goes along with Mother Nature’s plan.

    You seem to be a by the numbers guy, and that may be the source of our conflict. I could care less about optimal speed, and kids left to their own devices could care less as well, unless it’s fun. They would just as soon get faster from races. I believe that athletics in a child’s life is a conduit for physical-mental-emotional exploration. While I am interested in their effort and enjoyment, I am not interested in optimal speed gains. That is a concern of the elite (2% or so), I am concerned with the other 98%, and my recommendations are in accordance with that.

  24. Paul says:

    I don’t disagree with your premise. Those kids who you are describing simply need to go out and play. They should get involved in little league, after school recreational leagues, basketball programs, etc. I’m all for it, and think that those programs are absolutely necessary.

    But those programs don’t need youth conditioning coaches. Those kids don’t need speed coaches, in fact, the only coaching they need is in the individual activities in which they are engaging. So why have a youth conditioning association? Why have a certification program that teaches people how to make kids faster? Why not just prepare coaches for different sports and activities? That’s it, we can all go home.

    About those kids who are seeking a more robust, physical, mental, and spiritual experience, you are suggesting that because one opts to use a machine, those goals cannot be attained. Ok, you challenge me to find empirical scientific literature that demonstrates gains using devices, and I’ll challenge you to produce evidence that such devices induce developmental encumberances.

    I asked in an earlier post, what happens if I am working in a small studio, with no access to fields or courts? Would you then say that I can’t work with kids because I can’t do things your way? Or should I use whatever is at my disposal so that I can help kids achieve some goals?

    Regardless of whom I’m working with, I will always have to make decisions on what we do and why, and those decisions are based on their needs, not my philosophy. Hence, I do what I deem to be necessary, based on what I know, what information is at my disposal, and what tools I have available. There’s the common sense part of it.

    I think the only eliteist concept here is that there is only one perspective from which to view things. I’m certainly more all-inclusive, and very happy to be so.

  25. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    “About those kids who are seeking a more robust, physical, mental, and spiritual experience, you are suggesting that because one opts to use a machine, those goals cannot be attained.”

    That’s not what I’m saying at all, Paul. I think this is becoming “conceptually adversarial” (not personally) for no reason. My whole question is the same as yours, just on the other side. What I am railing against, really, is the myopy on the other side of the equation. A lot of young fitness professionals get the impression that these treadmills are the gold standard for producing positive changes in speed,

    People market the “fact” that these treadmills are so super effective at building athletic ability, when in reality, the effect sizes are small and variable as compared to traditional training. The fact is, they are not the superior method that they are being purported to be. And, again, they are expensive.

    One point: Did you ever consider that maybe if you work in a small studio, maybe you concentrate on other aspects of athletic development, instead of top end speed? Why do you (the trainer in that scenario) HAVE to be the one to work on speed development? Can you let the kid explore that in other ways, other environments? Maybe you can play another role?

    Your point about doing things “my way” is “missing the point”. Again, my point is not to be exclusive to my own view (certainly people have free will, right?), but to make overall RECOMMENDATIONS. My word is not law. Again, Paul, I mentioned that I have used treadmills, all I said was that ATBE, I don’t think they are the best use of time given limited contact hours. If that’s all you got, and it’s grandfathered in, treadmills certainly aren’t inherently evil. I’m sorry if that’s what you read into what I said.

    My only point is, a more robust training paradigm involving play and exploration from different angles, on different surfaces, and in different situations, is BEST. Not that it’s the only thing that exists, or that there aren’t contraints.

    To address your other point – why am i in this game? Because many more kids each year DO need coaches to learn how to move their bodies, and even to engage in physical play. I am not really about the business of training, except where it’s necessary, in the case of injury rehab, and in cases where kids have been sedentary. In other words, as a release from a particular limitation or confine.

    With children that have moved all their lives, and have been healthy, the role of adult is still present, but more as a play guide to submit ideas for kids to play with. there is the value of building on learning from generation to generation. We add what we have explored to what they explore.

    So, yes, we are quite necessary, just not in the way some think, and not in the same way with each population.

    Good points, Paul, I look forward to seeing what people decide for themselves from reading our discussion. But please don’t assume that you’re the only one that’s “all-inclusive”. That’s just not true. I use a variety of paradigms depending on the kid or group in front of me. The statement that my view is myopic and yours is all encompassing does this conversation a disservice.

  26. Paul says:

    Dr. Brown,

    What has troubled me over the course of all of these posts, is that the topic had seemingly, in my view at any rate, changed from one of whether overspeed training was effective, to whether treadmills in general were effective. I was continually seeing arguments against the use of treadmills, that, in my mind, did not make inherent sense. Especially those which cited biomechanical and neuromotor factors which were blatantly untrue.

    And then there were your consistent references to top end speed. I kept wondering, why are treamills limited to the application of top end speed? I can use treadmills for a whole variety of issues and goals. And then I realized that your reference was still in the context of overspeed training. So, while everyone else seemed to have digressed from the main topic, you stayed with it. Hence, our debate over apples and oranges….I think.

    At any rate, I am not an advocate of overspeed training of any kind, including downhill running, or assisted running (being pulled along), until I see consistent credible evidence that they are effective. But I will remain true to an overall philosophy of never saying never, because one doesn’t know when something may come in handy.

  27. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    GREAT points, Dr. Juris. I am going to send a message to everyone to reread this thread.

    The way everything has been elucidated will be useful.

    Those coming back to this can get a lot of information with respect to the following 1) what treadmills can be used for, 2) in what situations they can be useful, 3) expense and overall resources vs. functionality.

    I think it was unclear to some that the use of treadmills specifically to produce changes in top end speed (which is what most facilities who use these treadmills use them for) was the reason for the original post. But that is precisely what we were speaking out against. And the evidence is pretty clear that the particular use for top end speed and overspeed training is not very effective.

    As to Dr. Juris’s points about rehab applications, and the usefulness when there is no space to be had (the better than nothing philosophy), these are questions to be considered and weighed. I still would say that the treadmill likely does very little for the ability to accelerate or for the ability to change direction (most important to most athletes and most kids).

    But in cases where you want to do a little light work on form and economy of movement in running, there MAY be some use. I still contend that in the majority of cases spending a ton of money on a high speed treadmill for working with all but older adolescent / adult athletes with high end goals would be a waste of time and resource.

    We obviously don’t want to be so dogmatic, but always remember the risk (or resource) vs. benefit consideration when planning a facility or the use of your time.

  28. Paul says:

    A very fair way to conclude this discussion!!

  29. Mike says:

    Sorry for this late response! Truly enjoyed the posts by everyone, especially between Dr. Brown and Paul! I just found a small packet of notes from our seminar with Charlie Francis and this is what he specifically said about overspeed training on high speed treadmills:

    “An endless array of devices have been sold to the public purporting to increase speed ever since it was claimed that Valery Borsov was towed behind a car. All of these devices operate under the mistaken impression that stride length and frequency have to be developed simultaneously. In reality, both qualities can be developed separately with less risk. Stride frequency can be developed by performing drills with shortened steps and stride length can be developed through additional power training and/or bounding.

    Since everyone can move their legs fast enough in the air, the key to faster frequency is shortened ground contact time. All devices that claiim to assist speed in fact lengthen ground contact time.

    High Speed Treadmill – Key Issues:
    – An athlete does not maintain a constant speed in reality, as he/she is either accelerating or decelerating, however slightly.

    – An athlete accelerates by sweeping his foot down and back at a rate faster than the ground is moving backwards under him or her

    – By definition, acceleration cannot occur in this environment unless the athlete actually runs off the front of the treadmill.”

    Let the opinions fly! Haha!

  30. Paul says:

    Mike, thanks for the post. I’m not sure where Mr. Francis got his data, but you might want to look at Swanson, S.C. and Caldwell, G.E. (2000). An integrated biomechanical analysis of high speed incline and level treadmill running. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise. 32(6): 1146 – 1155.

    In this paper, the authors compare level treadmill running at 10 mph with level treadmill running at 17 mph. Stride length was significantly longer at the higher speed (2.12 v 1.61 meters). Stride frequency was significantly higher at the faster speed (1.80 v 1.39 hz). And stance duration was significantly shorter at the higher speed, both as a percentage of stride (25.6% v 28.8%) and actual time (.142 v .207 s).

    The high speed condition did not lengthen ground contact time. It, in fact, reduced ground contact time. In addition, all three of these variables changed simultaneously. These data don’t imply that one MUST vary these simultaneously, but they simply do occur concurrently.

    By the way, Graham Caldwell is a renowned biomechanist at The University of Massachusetts with an impressive list of scientific publications.

    Regarding acceleration, let’s review Newton’s second law of motion, the law of acceleration (a=f/m), which states that acceleration is directly proportional to force, and inversely proportional to mass. In other words, acceleration during gait is not the product of how fast the foot moves through stance, but of how much force is applied by the leg during stance.

    None of these are opinions, just facts.

  31. Blooming Runner says:

    How about this in regards to treadmill training ???….. IT QUITE LIKELY ALL DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL.

  32. Blooming Runner says:

    No one indivdual has the same gait, foot strike, cadence, leverages, muscle length, tendon length…. on and on and on….

    Personally for me, I can vouch that treadmill training for me does work the flexors more as I am more actively reaching. I know this because I am in tune with my body from running 50+ miles per week. I also know this because when I go a period of time away from a treadmill and get back on it… my hip flexors are at least tight, if not sore. That’s common sense for you.

    To further prove my point. Last year when I was deploying overseas I went weeks without ground running and was forced to use a treadmill. Inherently for me, I could feel that my easy/recovery day pace which usually is 8 min/mi pace was not the 7.5 mph equivalent that simple math would dictate it would be. The effort was always harder and I typically backed it down to about 6.5-6.7 at 1.0 incline. When I got back to land running…I went right back to 8 min/mi easy running without a hitch. The same thing applied for the Interval/LT/faster work too.

    In fact today I was experimenting more and for that same 8min/mi pace effort I was trying to replicate, 6.7 mph at 2.0 incline felt just right in terms of stride length, cadence, foot plant, etc.

    It is an experiment of one.

  33. john says:

    as a parent, i enrolled my 10 yr old child at AR for one year where he ran on the treadmill 2-3 times per week; he also did plyo there 1-2 times per week. my personal experience, he got no faster. in fact his 100m and 200m times are slightly slower. i got the sense that he was “riding” the treadmill and not building the strength necessary to generate force production into the ground as i’ve been learning lately while researching how to get him faster. after the year was up i decided not to renew having not seen any significant gains besides his running form was improved having watched himself in the mirror and the dartfish.

    i brought him there as an average speed athlete hoping that he would become a fast athlete, thereby improving his sports performance. i left disappointed questioning the attributes of the hi-speed treadmill. i did see a lot of top-performing high school athletes working out there; but of course they came there as high-performing athletes, not the other way around.

    he’s 11 now and i’m training him myself and focusing much more on his core and lower body strength using body-weight movements in hopes that that will make him faster.

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