We all have heard the old saying "speed kills" being applied to almost every sport. With that, everybody and their brother are offering speed training these days. Although there is a long list of red flags, I will list our top 3 red flags to avoid when investing in your training.
1. Lack of Strength Training
This is by far the biggest red flag of them all. If you are in a speed program and it isn't coupled with some facet of strength training, get out of there. Almost all sports consist of rapid accelerations. Rarely, if ever, is an athlete ever at full tilt speed while playing a team sport - think about it, on a basketball court, football field, hockey rink, baseball diamond are all a series of explosive accelerations. A great example I heard recently backing up my stance on this was that Usain Bolt didn't reach top speed until 80 meters during his record setting hundred-meter performance at the last Olympics. If the fastest man in the world doesn't reach max velocity until 80 meters running in a straight line then neither do you while cutting and dodging guys on the football field. You need to think about these accelerations like the transmission on your car. Everything you see from athletes during game time is 1st and 2nd gear. So next time you are out drag racing for pink slips, try starting with the car in 3rd gear and let me know how you do. In this acceleration phase in which 99% of all sports are played, an athletes force production has to be enormous to produce a high level of acceleration. Newton’s 3rd law states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you are applying a low level of force into the ground, you will get a low level of acceleration in the opposite direction. This is where strength training comes in. You must continue to get stronger to increase the amount of force you can apply into the ground (there is a point where strong is strong enough and other factors come into play but I’ll leave that for another day). Not a coincidence that all the competitors in the 100 meter dash in the Olympics look like they could run right through the finish line and onto a stage at a bodybuilding competition. I’m sure they didn’t get those glutes and quads or that violent explosiveness from hours of cone drills and speed ladder work.
2. A large portion of the time training session applied to starting technique.
If you are spending half of your training session working on your 40-yard dash stance, the spidey sense should be going off. Of course if you are training for the NFL combine, a decent amount of time should be devoted to perfecting your start specifically to a 40-yard dash. For the other 99.99% of us not getting ready to play on Sundays, if I drop your 40 time two tenths by making your start more efficient, I have done nothing for your on the field performance. There is a time and a place to "cheat the test" as they say, and I’ve never seen a linebacker with his hand in the dirt in a sprinter stance running the first 10 steps after the snap with his head down in a straight line.
3. Speed Ladder
We have a speed ladder in Pulse only to work on coordination, rhythm, and timing with our youth athletes. When is the last time you saw someone win a race with short little choppy steps? Stride length is a much better indicator of speed. If your coach has you hitting the “speed” ladder every day, it is probably time to start looking elsewhere.