Speed Training Is NOT Conditioning

All too often we encounter high school athletes who see “speed training” in our workout programs and start moaning and groaning.

Coaches have conditioned them to think this type of training involves running until they vomit or can no longer move.

If that were what we did, I would be complaining, too.

At our facility, athletes are excited for speed work.

Why is our speed training so different?

It’s NOT conditioning.

Conditioning, from an athletic perspective, is training the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems to withstand the rigors of the involved sport.

Many coaches still fail to execute a well-structured conditioning program, but that’s a topic for another day.

On my high school football team, we performed ladder drills, cone drills, gassers and suicides for speed training.

Speed Training

In case you haven’t heard of gassers or suicides, they’re not fun.

All of these drills have their place in a training program, but a lot of coaches implement them in an inefficient manner.

We use two types of speed training – linear and three-dimensional.

Here’s an example of a routine for linear speed:

  1. Form skipping and lunging during the warm up
  2. About one-third of our time devoted to technique
  3. About two-thirds of our time devoted to reaction drills
  4. Straight-line conditioning following our power and strength work for the day

While many our athletes dread speed training initially, they relax a bit once we educate them.

We make sure our athletes understand this phase of the workout involves training hard for a few seconds or less, pushing beyond their current limits and recovering long enough to be able to re-produce that same effort.

If they follow these guidelines, they’ll be tired. More importantly, they’ll get faster because they’ve been given adequate time to recover and actually improve their speed.

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Through time motion studies, we’ve learned the majority of sports require very short bursts of maximal effort, followed by ample time to recover.

That’s exactly what we re-produce during our speed sessions.

For this reason, our speed work last around only 10 to 12 minutes. The neurological system has a limited capacity to produce maximum effort, so we perform these drills early in the session before progressing to movements that are less taxing mentally.

A large portion of our speed work involves reaction drills.

Court and field sports involve multiple players with different objectives. Athletes must constantly react to the movements of their opponents.

Having the ability to make adjustments quickly separates elite athletes from others. Becoming proficient at this skill requires practice, just like everything else.

Performing reactive agility drills is one of the biggest reasons our athletes love speed training. They can attempt to set personal records in each of the exercises and compete against teammates or rivals from other schools.

While they’re resting, they’re thinking of ways to perform the drill even better.

Following just a few minutes of this type of training, athletes are fatigued mentally, but are still prepared physically to strength train.

Our athletes get faster because our speed training is NOT conditioning!


ADAPT & Conquer

Coach Jared M