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Components of a Speed Program

Article By: George Payan

The following information was obtained in a clinic with permission of Kevin O'Donnell, Speed Dynamics:

Approach to Sprint Training

The importance of strength and power development should not be understated. Strength gains will not produce proportional improvements in speed. Doubling the weight will not cut the athlete's race time in half.

Practice Makes Permanent

In training, everything you do becomes permanently etched into the neuro-muscular system. The athlete in training in a workout must avoid doing lazy drills, lackluster exercise routines, or general training that strays too far from the movements specific to their event specialty.

Mission Each Day

Whatever distance you are in training, reduce the time you spend on the ground or in the air for each stride taken by just one/one hundredth (0.01) of a second. The improvement at the finish is a dramatic five-tenths (0.5) of a second. Such an improvement is the difference between gold and bronze.

The Whole/Part/Whole Teaching Method

During the race the athlete will experience many demands. For an athlete to excel, the race must be broken down into easily learnable parts. Over the course of the entire sprint race many components can be identified. After each component is mastered individually in training they can reassemble to produce a successful race.

The Components of the Sprint Race

The warm-up; the start; acceleration; transition; maximum velocity; speed maintenance; finishing form; coast & stop; restoration & recovery.

Testing and Evaluation:
Evaluating 30-meter fly test
Evaluating Acceleration
Evaluating Sprint Endurance
Evaluating Speed Endurance
Evaluating Special Endurance
Measuring Aerobic Capacity
Measuring Elastic Strength
Evaluating Elastic Power

Coaching the Mechanics of Sprinting:

Drills For Speed:
Ankling Drill
Butt-Kick Drill
"A" Drill
Fast Claw Drill
"B" Drills
Straight-Leg Shuffle

Coach the Maximum Velocity Phase:
Seek improvements in the maximum velocity of the athlete. It should be your first training focus with sprints. Gains in this performance phase are the foundation of success in sprinting. The duration of this segment of a sprint race is often only 2-4 seconds. Its impact on finishing results is profound.

The maximum speed capacity of the athlete relies less on strength and power than other racing phases do. It makes sense to begin this training early in the season when strength is lacking. In coaching maximum speed the most important drills the sprinter will ever perform are as follows:

Four-Step Fast-Leg Drill
Alternate Fast Leg Drill
Continuous Fast-Leg Drill
Command Fast-Leg Drill
Complex Fast-Leg Drills

Training At Speed:
Fly-In Sprints (No more than 2-4 seconds)
Breath Control

Sets, Reps & Recovery Notes for Maximum Speed Training:
Fly-in sprints should be introduced with a single set of three repetitions. As training continues, this can progress toward a total of three sets with three repetitions in each set. For elite athletes 800-900 meters per week is appropriate.

Full Recovery:
Speed development is the goal. Full recovery is required between bouts of running.

For elite athletes, as much as ten minutes between reps and twenty to thirty minutes between sets may be appropriate.

Speed development sessions can be utilized two to three times per week. Coach, allow 48-72 hours of recovery time between maximum speed training session, depending on the duration and the training conditioning of the athlete.

If sufficient recovery of the athlete(s) is in doubt prior to a speed training session, a stopwatch test can offer valuable feedback. If the performer shows a marked increase in the split times registered from previous trials, it may be wise to postpone the speed work session until the next day.

Pure Acceleration Phase and Transition Phase:
Once the development of the maximum velocity capacity has begun, the next sprint training focus should be improving acceleration. Pure acceleration begins after the first two steps out of the start and blends into the transition phase after the tenth or twelfth step. The duration of the transition phase is typically six to eight strides.

Training for General & Specific Strength:
Simple jogging in the dry sand is the place to begin. As a foundation of general conditioning is developed with running in the hills (running surface dirt), you can increase the demands on the athlete by running hill repeats.

Running up a hill or incline requires the athlete to lift the recovered leg through a greater range of motion than on a flat surface. The athlete must therefore exert a force against the ground sufficient to lift the center of mass somewhat higher than normal. The result is an increase in strength and power where the sprinter needs it most.

Choreographing the Movements of Acceleration:
As you work to improve the strength and power of your athletes, you must simultaneously develop the specific skills of the acceleration phase.


Acceleration March Drill:
To teach the desired body position and piston-like movement of the legs.

Wall Sprints:
To mimic the sprinting action found in acceleration without fighting the forces of gravity and to improve stride frequency and refine the direction of forces applied to the track.

Continuous Wall Sprints:
To promote pillar strength, stride rate, and energy system fitness while replicating the movements of acceleration.

Partner Drills:
To support the athlete so that desired body position and movements of acceleration can be rehearsed at sprint speeds.

To increase forces applied to the track and identify when desired body position is compromised.

Face and Chase:
To develop transition skills.

Face, Chase and Race:
To improve transition skills, pillar strength, and energy system fitness.

The Acceleration Ladder:
A collection of 10 rungs attached by cords identifying the approximate spacing of each foot placement throughout the acceleration phase. Sprinting with this training tool will allow for an exact programming of the neuromuscular system.

The Start:
Though the "start" begins a race, you should not begin your training focusing on this racing segment. Starting skills require a great amount of strength and power and neuro-muscular coordination.

The Finish:
Finish technique is a skill that should be taught, developed and practiced. Acquiring this skill can often make the difference between winning and losing a sprint race.

Best wishes,
George Payan

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