We have all heard the adage “speed kills.” This has been thrown around from coaches at all levels for as long as I have been alive. Not that I totally disagree with this statement, but I feel it needs some fine tuning.
Instead of speed kills, it should be stated as acceleration kills.
Acceleration by definition means the rate of change of velocity.
In other words it is our ability to increase speed. Having top end speed is great, but if it takes an athlete too much time to reach top speed then it is a weapon that will rarely be utilized.
Most sports are played within a 30 yard box.
The athlete that can reach the highest speed within this window will be the one coming out on top the majority of the time.
Nick Winkleman of EXOS is breaks down acceleration as follows:
- 1. 0m-10m correlates with starting strength
- 2. 10m-30m correlates to explosive strength
- 3. 30m and above correlates to elastic reactive strength (elite sprinters accelerate upwards of 60m-70m).
As a strength coach it is important to test all of these attributes in your athletes.
This can help us identify our athletes’ weaknesses during the acceleration phase. With that info we can make a program that can best help to maximize his or her results.
To test starting strength we can measure a non countermovement vertical jump, a countermovement vertical jump for explosive strength, and a depth jump for elastic reactive strength.
Most athletes with poor starting strength will stand straight up before they begin to run.
The following are 3 of my favorite exercises to help improve upon starting strength.
1. Non-Countermovement Jumps (NCM)
A NCM jump is when we start down with the hips hinged and the posterior chain loaded. I like my clients and athletes to hold this position for roughly 3 seconds before jumping. Holding this position removes the elastic capabilities of the muscle. This mimics the initiation of a sprint in sport from a dead stop. Picture a wide receiver in football before the ball is snapped. He is holding the ready position until the ball is snapped. Once the ball is snapped he needs to drive through the ground as hard as he can. The non-countermovement jump teaches us how to get this initial push through the ground without utilizing the elastic properties of our muscles. I like to use unilateral and bilateral variations with both linear and lateral progressions. Start with NCM box jumps for the bilateral variation and unilateral NCM jumps over speed hurdles facing forwards and sideways.
2. Pause Squats
Pause squats have been a staple in power lifting for a long time. They are utilized by power lifters to build strength out of the bottom position of the squat. This movement is underutilized in the training of athletes. This movement is basically the same as the non-countermovement jump except now we are adding load to it. In the pause squat the athlete holds the bottom position for 3-5 seconds and then rises out of the bottom position by driving the floor away from him as fast as possible. It is important to make sure that the athlete settles and is still in the bottom position. Those athletes that rely on elastic strength will attempt to bounce before initiating the ascent.
I know many coaches out there are shying away from squats and deadlifts in their programming. I firmly believe this is a huge mistake. There is arguably not a better exercise out there to improve starting strength then the deadlift because of how much weight you can actually lift. Unlike the squat the deadlift starts from the floor. This means that there is no loaded eccentric movement for the deadlift. This takes the elastic component out of the exercise. If we are utilizing the deadlift for starting strength we must settle the bar to a complete stop in between repetitions. What I tell my clients and athletes is if we are doing a set of 3; take it as if it were 3 sets of 1. If we were working on more explosive strength then we may “touch and go” with the weight.
A simple way to program for starting strength with speed drills would be as follows:
A1) Linear NCM Single Leg Jumps 4x
A2) Lean-Fall-Run 6x
B1) Paused Squats 5×5
A1) Lateral NCM Single Leg Jumps 4x
A2) Shuffle-Shuffle Sprint 4-6x (Place 2 cones 5 yards apart. Shuffle up to the second cone, back to the first and take off and sprint 10 yards).
B1) OHP or Bench Press 5×5
B2) Weighted Chins Press reps plus 2
A1) NCM Box Jumps 4×6
A2) Standing start (2 point start- feet hip width and back toe even with front heel. Hips and knees slightly bent with the majority of the weight loaded on the front leg) 10m runs 6x
B1) Deadlifts 5×5 (remember to settle the bar and reset every rep)
These exercises listed above are just a few pieces to the speed puzzle. There are other drills that can help us maximize our acceleration into game changing speed. It never hurts to work with an experienced coach.
For more information, or to set up a coaching session contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by: Kevin Cann