When it comes to training and competing in sport, are you a ‘plodder’? Do you find yourself running on the spot while others seem to be able to repeatedly fly past you? If this is the case, you need to read this post!
The vast majority of current literature in the Strength and Conditioning industry is pointing towards the major benefits that anaerobic (short and fast) training has on sporting performance. When you think about it, almost every team sport you can imagine requires the participants to conduct repeated high intensity efforts intertwined with low intensity jogging, walking or even sitting (if you are on the bench!). One of Australia’s current Strength and Conditioning icons, Darren Burgess et. al (2012) conducted a study on Under 18 Draft Camp participants in order to discover which physiological performance measures related to future success in the AFL. The results of this research suggested that the greatest indicator of AFL success was an individual’s ability to be able to repeatedly perform sprinting efforts! This literature defines a sprint as any effort that exceeds 20km/h for at least 2 seconds or more.
Based on this information, it is clear to see just how important speed is in today’s sporting environment. Gone are the days in which athletes are judged on how well they are able to run at a medium intensity over long distances.
So what is the best way for you to improve your speed???
Although there are a number of ways you can make yourself faster, SQUATS are going to be the most influential part of your training. When talking about squatting, the greater ‘relative squat strength’ (weight that you squat divided by your bodyweight) you can achieve with correct technique, the faster you are going to get.
There has been an abundance of studies looking into the link between squat strength and sprint performance in recent years and the vast majority seem to reach similar conclusions. The consensus is that the absolute amount of weight an individual can squat does not have links with speed, however, as mentioned before it is all about the percentage of your bodyweight that you are able to lift! For example if we have Person A who can squat 110kg and their bodyweight is 95kg, compared to Person B who can squat 100kg and their bodyweight is 75kg, based on research it is more than likely that Person B (relative squat strength= 100/75= 1.33) will have a faster sprint speed than Person A (relative squat strength= 110/95= 1.15). Some studies that produced these conclusions can be observed from Baker & Newton (2008) who investigated the links between physiological measures and playing rank in Rugby athletes, as well as Ingebrigtsen & Jeffreys (2012) who looked at strength vs. speed variables in relation to Handball athletes. A number of the studies that drew these conclusions also suggest that incorporating plyometric training into the training program will also aid in the quest for a greater speed. For those of you who are unaware, plyometric training is all about fast and explosive movements. Jumping, throwing and hopping are all movements classified as plyometric and aid in teaching your muscles to switch on as fast as possible.
Now you know that a both strength and plyometric training are beneficial to sprint speed, you will be wondering just how to combine the two in order to achieve the best results? Do you train for both strength and power at the same time? Do you split it up so that you complete strength and power programs separately? Loturco et. al (2014) conducted a study that looked at various training periodizations and their relation to sprint speed. The results showed that completing a block of strength training, immediately followed by a block of plyometric training proved to show the most significant increase in speed.
So get into a gym and get squatting! If you need some further advice or would like a specific program to improve your sprint speed, get in contact with the PEAQ team now!