A few strength training tips that will improve your speed and explosiveness.
From my last two articles, it should be obvious that there is a great deal of technical work that must be addressed in order to become a faster athlete. However if you really want to get faster and improve your power you’ll have to train hard, train smart, and use the right techniques inside the weight room and on the field. What does it take? Well here’s a glimpse at what we do with the football team at The University of Akron.
Simply put if you’re looking to improve your speed you’ll need to incorporate some combination of sleds, harnesses, and bands into your speed training routine. In this case, like many others in speed training, it’s important to note that harder isn’t necessarily better. Being able to run faster doesn’t mean pulling sleds that are loaded up with weight or using heavy tension bands hooked to a wall. Why? Because the first rule of training for speed is that if you want to get fast, you have to train fast. That’s why we go lighter on the sleds, use partner resistance acceleration training, and incorporate a lot of Olympic lifts on top of our strength training in the weight room.
Initially we use both partner and harness drills with our athletes, as they allow you to feel the 45 degree acceleration angle and the ideal power line position without the support of a wall. When you’re in the proper position you should have the proper shin angle and your legs should drive back behind your center of mass. That may sound confusing but check out the angles in the videos below as they should help to clear up any questions you may have. Bands can also be used to maintain the proper acceleration position using a partner. We usually run 10-20 yards when using harnesses and bands for acceleration. 4-6 sets will be used depending on the time of the year, trying to get as many reps as the athlete can in the 10-20 yard distance.
In addition to partner and harness work, sled training is a big favorite of ours for both strength and speed development. For our big guys, we like to do forward and backward pulls with the sleds to build strength, but when it comes to speed work, we load the sleds with just enough weight to allow our athletes to get into and hold a nice 45 degree acceleration angle. This is more difficult than the partner drills and harness drills, especially when it comes to core control, but it will pay serious dividends in the speed department. By progressing from partner drills into sled drills you’ll be able to effectively build extra horse power on the field. Similar to the harnesses use anywhere from 10-20 yards, 2-6 sets. Turn is the key here don’t fall into the temptation to dig in and move slow. Allow the sled to hold you in a good power line and cut it loose. As many reps as you can produce in the 10 yard span with as much force as you can produce driving back into the ground.
The last piece of the speed puzzle can be found in the weight room. The use of squat variations along with single-leg work (forward, backward, lateral, and crossover lunges, split squats, and Bulgarian squats) are all important in developing athletic strength, but for raw speed and power output, the key is Olympic lifts like the clean, snatch, and jerk.
It’s important to understand that we are trying to increase power output and not strength with the Olympic lifts so the goal should be to move the weight as fast as possible. That means using 70-85% of your one rep max so you can move the bar explosively. If you go too heavy the bar slows down and you’ll begin to work more on strength than power (as is the case when you go too heavy on the sled). With the Olympic lifts because they are so technical it is important to work with a 1-5 max rep scheme. Anything more than 5 reps, things tend to start breaking down and you set your athlete up to get injured. On top of this remember we are focused on bar speed and power output so keep the reps low. We spend the majority of our time training in the 1-3 range here at Akron.
All of that said, when it comes to speed, nothing may be more important than posterior chain work. Proper running requires a large contribution from the glutes and hamstrings, which we work these muscle groups anywhere from 2-4 days a week. Exercises such as double-leg hip extensions, RDL’s, good mornings, stiff-legged deadlifts, glute-ham raises, along with single-leg and stability ball variations of these exercises are our go-to’s in addition to hitting the big boys like squats and deadlifts. These lifts will not only increase your speed and power, but they’ll also help prevent hamstring injuries. Not a bad side effect!
As you can see, it’s crucial to use a combination of technical work and progressions with sleds, harnesses, partners, and bands to improve running mechanics, body control, and speed. By layering these on top of strength exercises and posterior chain work you’ll be well on your way to dropping tenths of a second off of your dash time. Now that you have the information, go get after it, because sitting in front of this computer probably won’t do much for improving your speed and power.
To maximize your speed and strength gains when using the tips above, 1R would recommend the following supplements: