2 Must Do’s for Speed Development

The most highly sought after physical quality of most athletes we train is speed. Everyone wants to be faster and more explosive! It used to be that all of our athletes’ number 1 priority was getting bigger or stronger, but nowadays, everyone wants speed above all. With that said, speed training is an often misunderstood component of performance development. Below I will outline 2 must do’s for training speed. 

  1. Work fresh – Do not turn a speed workout into a conditioning workout

I remember working with an organization early in my career that did an ‘SAQ’ (speed, agility, quickness) day weekly during their off-season training block. This session was developed and administered by the sport coaches. During said SAQ day the athletes did a collection of agility patterns, ladder drills and sprints. The athletes got a lot of reps in, worked on a low work-to-rest ratio, and sweated A LOT! They also moved pretty slowly relative to their top speed. This, readers, is a conditioning day, not an SAQ day. There is nothing wrong with the outline of the aforementioned training day, but it won’t help fix a speed and/or agility issue. 

The most common mistake athletes and coaches make while running ‘speed training’ days is they do not allow the athletes to work in a recovered state during the sessions. Commonly, as outlined in the scenario above, athletes run through SAQ drills with very little time between reps for recovery. When we stack reps too close together, athletes end up working in a fatigued state and moving at slower than optimal speeds. One of the keys to developing speed is training at a high speed which requires recovery between reps. While short rest periods may exhaust the athlete, and is potentially beneficial for developing repeat sprint ability, it is not the optimal way to develop speed or agility. 

2. Skip the weight vest

Sometime in the past 18 months it became very trendy to add weight to agility, jumping and speed training drills. Not that there is not a purpose to adding load to these types of movements from time to time, but if your goal is minimizing contact time on the ground and moving as fast as possible, throwing a weight vest on is going to slow you down. Remember to keep the goal of the training in mind and look for ways to optimize your training with that goal in mind, not simply make everything harder or more intense. 

With the speed of play becoming faster at seemingly every age and every sport, speed development is an area of sport performance training that is gaining more and more popularity. When engaging in speed training, be sure to keep the goal in mind by focussing on moving fast and being agile, rather than turning your workout into a moderate-speed, high-intensity conditioning session.