A Simple First Blog…
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I’d like to have a discussion about something simple but effective for a speed session. I’ve had the opportunity in my relatively short coaching career to be exposed to many great coaches like Roger Fabri, Joseph Coyne and Clint Hill, many athletes of different sports such as Athletics, Basketball, Rugby League, Soccer and AFL and exposed to many levels of athletes, from junior athletes up to Elite stars like Josh Addo-Carr, Jarryd Hayne and Sonny Bill Williams in all trying to improve their speed.
There are three key things I’ve seen the speed coaches I’ve worked with make their athletes do and those key things I implement in my speed coaching sessions which are non-negotiables in my eyes for most athletes who want to have the most effective sprint session and find their speed potential.
With one caveat, these drills have to be done properly with intent! Now, Drills don’t directly make you faster, but they give you the tools to help you get faster. Performing a specific and correct Drill will work on key movements of the running stride pattern and reinforce good technique, correct posture, rhythm and positions. Some Drills also have the added effect of improving power and elasticity such as a Straight Leg Bound.
There are Four main Drills that I believe should be used in every session to improve and reinforce sprint technique :
i) A Skip
You’ve probably seen or heard of an A Skip before. When performed properly with a ‘Switch’ in the air, a strong double bounce and with a powerful elbow drive this drill reinforces the frontside mechanics of sprinting and helps to develop rhythm.
ii) Straight Leg Bound (Scissor)
This Drill is also coined as a ‘Goose Step March’ (youtube it if haven’t seen it before). A Drill the reinforces Triple Extension of the Hip, Knee and Ankle upon striking the ground and depending on how it’s applied can improve power or speed. It also encourages an athlete to strike the ground with their forefoot.
iii) Cycling Butt Kick
The Cycling Butt Kick teaches an athlete ‘Heel Recovery’. Heel Recovery is the time in which after the ground leg leaves the ground from behind the body and toes off to begin making its way to a high knee in front of the body. The Butt Kick forces the athlete to become more efficient in this action.
iv) High Knee (Piston)
A High Knee with a ‘Pistoning’ Action similar to the A Skip reinforces the frontside mechanics of sprinting, helps to develop rhythm and encourages the athlete to create a large displacement between the foot and the ground promoting a high knee action and striking the ground with more force.
2. ACTUALLY SPRINTING FAST WITH OPTIMAL REST
This might seem like a simple one, yet do you know how often I hear from the uninitiated ‘S&C coach’ or Team sport athlete that the last ‘sprint’ session they did was 10x100m on 2mins break or something like 20sec sprint with 90sec recovery. Now there’s a hell of a lot I’d like to delve into there and will do in future blogs however I’m going to keep it short and simple.
To improve an athlete’s top speed they need to run fast for repeated efforts with optimal recovery. Why do you need optimal recovery ? Because short speed efforts utilises the ATP and Anaerobic energy system which after a burst of effort usually requires at least two minutes to replenish and increase after each high speed/strength effort. The ATP energy system is the most powerful energy system and is required for an athlete to run at speeds of AT LEAST 85% and up to 100% of their top end speed, and finally for an athlete to improve their top end speed they need to sprint at above 90% of their top end speed to get an effective improvement from session to session.
Which brings me back to those so called “sprint sessions” I described earlier. 10x100m on 2mins would not be enough rest to maintain your sprints above 90% of your top speed for every rep, 2mins by the later reps would not be enough time to replenish the ATP system and for basically any athlete that isn’t a track and field athlete 1000m of sprint volume in a single session who is looking to improve their top speed and acceleration is way above the minimum effective dose.
So let me give you some guidelines for designing an effective and efficient sprint session that performed well among other training will help to improve your top speed and acceleration.
Volume: Aim to achieve a total sprint volume of 300-500m in a session. Beginners can even start as low as 200m.
Rest : A great general rule of thumb for High Speed Training rest periods is taking 30secs rest for everyone 10m run. E.g. 100m = 10 x 10m sections. 10 x 30 = 300secs which = Take 5mins rest for a Full Speed 100m Sprint.
Speed: Once you know your top speed (get someone to time you or time yourself with a stopwatch). In a sprint session for those quality high speed efforts time yourself to ensure you are running faster than 90% of your top speed.
So instead of 10x100 on 2mins break or 20sec sprints with 90secs rest.
A much more effective sprint session would be 5 x 60m on 3mins rest.
3. JUMPING AND PLYOMETRICS
This is an interesting one but Jumping and Plyometrics are a cornerstone and essential in my sprint sessions that I take my athletes through and what I do in my own sprint sessions.
There are so many ways to utilise and apply jumps and plyometrics for a desired effect to an athlete to improve their sprinting ability. For example, they can be used as alternatives for injured athletes who can’t perform specific actions, they can be used to potentiate the nervous system for a temporary increase in performance before a sprint (why do we always see 100m sprinters do a couple jumps before they get into the blocks before a race) and they can be used to overload specific joints if an athlete needs to strengthen or work the hip,knee or ankle.
Now you might be saying aren’t Jumping and Plyometrics the same ? Well there’s a slight difference in their meaning but often they are used interchangeably. The difference is Plyometrics are quick rapid actions of movements that require fast shortening and lengthening of the muscles to contact the ground quickly. (think a repeated Pogo Jump or Speed bounding), whereas a Jump is a slower contraction and isn’t as strict on the speed of shortening and lengthening of a muscle while performing the action and allows an athlete more time to learn to express power and force. (think box jumps, depth landings, squat jumps and long bounding).
Lastly, Jumping and Plyometrics aren’t as neurologically demanding on the body so if an athlete is starting to tire with decreasing sprint times in the session or not feel “as sharp” jumping and plyo’s can be implemented to still improve similar qualities that a sprint can do while still in the session. Using a good mix of jumps and plyometrics will go a long way to improve the efficacy of a sprint session and can be a great tool alongside Sprint Drills to target weaknesses in an athlete’s gross motor pattern.
In Summary, 3 Things that I believe you should be doing in Every Sprint Session are:
1. Performing correct and effective sprint drills.
2. Actually sprinting fast (above 90%) with optimal recovery between efforts.
3. Utilising Jumps and Plyometrics in a sprint session.
So if you aren’t covering these three areas in most of your sprint sessions I don’t believe you could be getting the best results you could be and it might help to implement them into your sessions if you are an otherwise healthy athlete looking to improve your speed! The first thing I would take a look at is reflecting on the drills you perform to prepare for a session and review them critically, review your previous sprint sessions to see if they compare with the guidelines and then if you don’t already, start incorporating Jumps and Plyometrics into your sessions!
RUN FAST LIFT HEAVY,