Most sports skills demand speed of execution. In order to rapidly accelerate, change direction, or decelerate — to say nothing of achieving high velocities — you must develop explosive strength. Speed training programs specifically address those motor skills by progressively incorporating reactive and explosive types of movements into your workout regiments. "Training for Speed, Agility and Quickness," by Lee Brown, Vance Ferrigno, and Juan Carlos Santana, suggests a variety of ways to help you develop a competitive edge.
The purpose of this drill is to increase foot speed. Starting from a jog, pull the heel of your lower leg up to, and bounce it off of, your gluteus. As your leg bends, your knee should come forward and up.
This exercise will help increase your hip strength and power, as well as ankle muscle stiffness. To skip, push off the ground with the ball of one foot, keeping that leg straight so you spring upwards. Simultaneously, raise your other leg high, with your knee fully flexed and your ankle close to your gluteus. As your jumping foot descends to again come into contact with the ground, lower your flexed leg to the ground slightly in front of you until the ball of your foot makes contact. Push off the ground and into the air in order to repeat the cycle on the other leg. Alternate this skipping movement between legs. Try to minimize contact time with the ground. Your foot strike should be quiet but explosive, and emphasizing muscle stiffness at your ankle. Be careful that you do not slam your foot onto the ground. Your upper body should be held upright and steady at all times.
Uphill Speed Runs
Running hills can help you enhance your running strength and power, and improve your stride length. However, if your goal is to develop maximum running speed, do not exceed a three-degree incline. Steeper inclines are more appropriate for acceleration mechanics. Choose a hill that meets your requirements, and that rises approximately 10 to 20 yards. Sprint upward using good running mechanics. Allow yourself to recover completely before beginning the next sprint. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
This drill is useful for enhancing quick leg turnover and teaching proper acceleration positioning. Stand with your feet together and lean forward until you lose your balance. Accelerate at full speed in order to catch yourself. Continue sprinting all-out for 20 to 30 yards.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association advises that you prepare for high-intensity activity with an appropriate warmup session before every workout. Your warmup routine should consist of a general, whole-body activity such as cycling, walking, or jogging at a low intensity for at least five to 10 minutes. If you are a novice athlete, limit yourself to two speed-training exercise sessions per week, separated by two or three days. Following a concurrent strength-training program that emphasizes knee, hip, back, and ankle strength will also reduce the possibility of injury when you first begin speed training.
- "Training for Speed, Agility, and Quickness"; Brown, Ferrigno, & Santana; 2000.
- "Essentials of Strength and Conditioning"; Baechle & Earle; 000