Training for speed and strength does not have to be very fancy. It doesn’t need to be all that scientific either. Don’t get me wrong, there are proper ways of planning, set/rep schemes, volume, frequencies, duration, intensity, and a whole other load of variables that go into a great program…
But you shouldn’t have to analyze the program to death and try to make it perfect. Why? Because there is no perfect program in existence. In reality, every program/workout/routine (whatever you’d liked to call it) will work for some time; but eventually you’ll stall out and either hit a wall or regress. Not good!
There are many common mistakes that I see all too often and most of the time they just need a simple fix to help get results. Check ‘em out…
1.) Too Much Volume – Less is more, especially when you are looking for all-out, blazing speed. Speed is the critical “game-changer” and more often than not, the faster team or athlete will ALWAYS have the advantage. I usually almost always start my athletes out with low volume sprints 1-2 times per week, never exceeding 200-300 yards in total volume (the number of sprints you ran X the distance on each sprint). Think about it: do you think running endless repeat 100 yard sprints , as fast as possible,with 30 seconds rest will do anything for your speed? Sure, it might make you tired; it might make you sore; you may even throw up… Most sports require you accelerate anywhere from 5-30 yards. I usually recommend the “short-to-long” approach with most team sport athletes, where you begin sprinting at shorter distances for a couple weeks, then gradually extending the distance and volume out each week.
2.) Too Many Exercises – This one is extremely common. For example: you walk into a regular gym on a Monday (also known as universal bench press day) and everyone and their mother is performing every exercise known for the chest; bench press, incline press, decline press, chest flyes, machine flyes; and often times each one will be performed with ZERO warm up, too many sets, and way too little rest. This basically is doing absolutely nothing but getting you the “pump” which only lasts for a short while after you’re through exercising anyways. Instead of focusing on how many exercises you should be doing, I think the better choice would be to focus on the quality of movement and continually adding weight to the bar each week.
3.) Body Part Splits – This is another very common occurring trend that really is only effective if you’re very advanced and have built up a substantial base of strength and muscle. Body part split routines typically explore a bodybuilder’s routine, for example:
- Monday – Chest
- Tuesday – Back, Biceps
- Wednesday- Legs
- Thursday- Shoulders, etc..
You see that each workout works in isolating muscle groups; in reality, when does the human body EVER work in isolation? Not only is this routine very ineffective for most trainees in building muscle and strength, it’s really BORING. That type of routine would leave me bored to tears and who really wants to perform 5-6 different chest exercises in 1 day? Instead of a split routine, switch up to either 3-day per week “full body” workouts, or 4-day per week upper/lower split. By doing this you will eliminate boredom, your workouts will be much more effective, you’ll be in the gym much less, and you’ll get way better results. I prefer 3-day per week full body workouts for most people, but 4-days per week has also served me well too.
4.) Employing Fancy Gadgets and Gizmos – This is pretty funny, but sad also. Parachutes, ladders, ankle weights, hand weights, thigh weights, weights, tubes, cones, velcro/band strapped to every joint on your body, etc.. The list could go on. When it comes to speed training, the simplest methods and tools yield the greatest results. I have used nothing but a hill, sled/tire with a strap and belt for resisted sprints, set of cones to mark off distances, and a medicine ball to develop extremely fast and explosive athletes. In order to move fast… You need to practice moving fast. If you’re going to utilize resisted sprints that’s fine; sprint up a hill, or use a sled/tire with a 25-45 lb. plate in it and start sprinting. Keep the rest period longer if you’re after speed, keep them shorter if you want some extra conditioning and fat loss.
Remember, this stuff is simple. Yes there is a science to programming and planning (that’s why there are professionals out there that do this for a living), but you can still get results by doing the simple things, being consistent, and making sure you are making progress every time you train.
Have a purpose, a goal, and a plan, and you will not fail.
John Cortese, CSCS
CTS Strength & Conditioning