When speed is key
As a team sport player – be it rugby, football, hockey – speed can be a huge advantage. That burst of speed could be the difference between making the tackle, reaching the pass, bursting into space or making that crucial interception. But when we talk about speed in invasion games, there are various things to consider.
Change of direction hinders change of pace
During a game such as football, rugby or hockey, most players change direction regularly, say at least every five seconds. You rarely get the chance to run for any distance in a straight line. As it usually takes approximately 50 meters for the average player to reach top speed. In a game, unless you see a player sprinting the distance of half the pitch in a straight line, they tend not to reach top speed. On a basketball or netball court, it will never happen.
Acceleration and agility
Therefore in this article, the elements of speed that we are concentrating upon are acceleration and agility. Speed is about how fast you can sprint at maximum velocity whereas acceleration is reaching top speed as quickly as possible. Acceleration is typically the first 10-20m, even five meters, which could be the difference between gaining possession or not.Speed is a very broad and complex topic, so we focus on a few basic concepts to improve acceleration over a short distance.There are three primary areas which can be trained to improve acceleration, some of which you can do in the gym environment, some of which will take place outside, preferably with a handy hill nearby.
1) Increase stride frequency
Stride frequency refers to the number of steps taken. One method of training for stride frequency might be to sprint downhill. This is known as over speed training.
2) Increase stride length
Stride length methods focus on exerting more force (strength) into the ground at foot strike to gain greater distance, although it is not just about the amount of force but also how quickly that force can be produced (power).
3) Increase stride power
That means that the a large part of acceleration comes from strength and power. A simple way of improving acceleration is by lifting a combination of heavy and light loads and doing basic plyometrics. Ask the trainers in the gym for advice on exercises that will develop your strength and power
Here are seven steps to greater speed:
1. Warm up
Before doing any form of speed based training you must take at least 10-15 minutes preparing your body and mind for what you are about to do.
2. Sprint at 100 per cent
In order to get faster you must sprint at 100 per cent, which means that getting enough rest between sprints becomes crucial. There is a difference between training for speed and training for endurance. As a rule, rest between each sprint until your heart rate has subsided to a resting heart rate.
3. Don't neglect flexibility and mobility
The hips in particular are extremely important when it comes to speed so make sure you do plenty of mobility exercises, stretching and foam rolling.
4. Develop a stable core
The core is essentially the muscles which link the upper body to the lower body. Having a stable core is key to being faster, maintaining control and staying balanced. Medicine balls and stability balls are great tools for this.
5. Do pre-conditioning
Sprint training places great demand on the body so pre-conditioning is essential to prepare the body to withstand these forces. Doing too much too soon could result in injury. Make sure you have a good strength base before undergoing sprint work. Remember the stronger you are, the more force you can apply to the ground. Speak to the trainers in the gym to devise a great pre-conditioning programme.
6. Short, sharp training
Sprint training shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes and you should always do sprint work first. Remember speed training is not about making you tired, it’s about making you faster and improving your technique.
7. Get the mechanics right
As you accelerate you should aim to lean your body at a 45 degree angle to the ground, driving the foot down into the ground to create maximal force. During acceleration the foot should strike directly below or slightly behind the hips.