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3 Components to Speed Development

Will YOU Run Faster This Spring?

Every year our Director of Training, Russell Taveras DPT, CSCS, performs dozens of musculoskeletal evaluations on athletes eager to take their performance potential to the next level. At the end of each evaluation our new athletes are asked to prioritize what specific components of athleticism they wish to improve. The most common goal, by far, is the increase of running speed. With the exception of a few sports, it is no secret that faster moving athletes have a distinct advantage over their competition. Getting from one end of the field or court faster than your opponent awards you more opportunities to score and offer your team a greater chance of success. The challenge in speed development, however, lies in the understanding of what actually makes an athlete run faster.

At a most basic level, there are three components that must be incorporated into a speed training regimen:

(1) stride length: how much distance an athlete’s center of mass travels between “steps” or strides

(2) stride frequency: how many “steps” or strides occur within a specified time frame (typically one minute)

(3) speed-specific strength and power: the proper acquisition of force production during the specific movements involved in speed

Optimal stride length is typically between 2.3-2.5 times the athlete’s leg length. Having these two different ways of increasing speed begs the question, which component is more important? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. There are elite sprinters and distance runners that rely on either stride length or stride frequency. There are also elite runners that rely on a combination of the two. What is important to understand is the fact that both of these components can be enhanced for every athlete we encounter.

When improving the speed of our athlete’s we address each of these components both directly and indirectly. Directly, we educate our athletes on the proper technique to effectively increase their stride length. We also educate them on the role of their upper body to provide proper balance in their technique; upper body technique can account for nearly 20% of running speed! Indirectly, we utilize various equipment such as sleds, prowlers, kettlebells, and resistance bands to improve the force production of our athletes. By addressing force production, their bodies are capable of moving at greater stride lengths and frequencies. Additionally, we utilize various drills that challenge our athletes to move their legs at higher rates to indirectly create higher stride frequencies. Lastly, when working in a one-on-one or small group setting we address individual movement limitations with our athletes. For example, some of our athletes already have a great amount of strength but may only move in a very small range of motion. By teaching them proper range of motion and guiding them through exercises that specifically address this concern we can take their hard-earned strength and put it to use!

Our Speed Academy is a powerful combination of these two approaches. Every fall and spring we teach dozens of athletes not only the proper running technique, but also effective drills and exercises that will increase their speed in just eight sessions. If your son or daughter does not improve their running speed after these eight sessions your money is refunded, plain and simple!

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