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Speed & Agility: Train fast to be fast!

Updated: May 1, 2023

Introduction Those who have attended youth sporting events will notice one quality that can make a drastic impact on a game… SPEED! In many matches, the game simply comes down to individual battles and races. If you can’t keep up with the opposition how can you be expected to defend them or get around them!? Unfortunately speed training is one of the most misunderstood topics in terms of training/athletic development.

Key factors impacting speed...

  1. Work to rest ratio's.

  2. Type 1 vs Type 2 muscle fiber complexion.

  3. Range of motion.

Fast twitch vs Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers Understanding the complexion of your muscle buildup and how to properly train the different types of muscle can be vital in becoming an elite level athlete. Each individual has a different percentage of fast twitch (type 2) to slow twitch (type 1) muscle fibers. Someone like, Usain Bolt (world record 100m dash holder) has a substantial percentage more type 2 muscle fiber than type 1. This allows him to be very fast within short distances!

Type 1 muscle fibers: Commonly called “slow twitch muscle fibers,” these fibers are very durable and tend to have a high resistance to fatigue. You will often see long distance athletes train to have a high percentage of type 1 muscle fibers compared to type 2.

Type 2 muscle fibers: These fibers are commonly called “fast twitch muscle fibers,” and can be broken down even more to type 2A and type 2B.

Type 2A muscle fibers: These muscle fibers tend to be activated during short, fast spurts of movement. Generally these movements are not overly demanding allowing the fibers to recover quickly. Developing Type 2A muscle fibers will help with reaction times and quick acceleration in small areas. One great way to train this muscle fiber is through different types of reaction drills.

Type 2B muscle fibers: These muscle fibers tend to be known for their explosive power and are activated during high intensity training environments. Think fast & powerful! One great way to train this type of muscle fiber is to do explosive style weight lifting, such as Olympic style lifting, box jumps, sled pushes, etc…

Work-to-Rest Ratio This may be the most misunderstood concept with respect to speed/agility training. If you do not allow an athlete complete time to recover and build up enough energy to put out another 100% short burst of energy, then are we training speed/agility or conditioning? The term "train fast to be fast" is actually meant very literally! Our bodies are mechanisms of habit. The best way to increase your overall speed is to work on pushing your body to exceed its normal "habitual" speed.

Increased Mobility Can Affect Your Speed It may seem simple, but improving your mobility particularly in your hips, groins, & lower back can have a huge impact on your speed production. When an athlete is running, you have to consider their stride length, stride frequency, and the power produced with each stride. Working to improve these areas will ultimately make you a faster runner! While our stride frequency and power are trained through speed and strength drills... stride length is increased through a better ROM.

Conclusion Speed/Agility training can be a tricky element to train with athletes. There are a lot of factors that can impact a players ability to sprint at their individual maximum potential... Addressing all of them takes a conscious effort. The athlete must work to improve their flexibility so their body can go through a full range of motion to produce optimal power. He/ she must focus on the type of muscle fibers they're training, type 1 vs 2, as well as which element of these muscle fibers you are training. Lastly, the athlete must be prepared to give their body the proper rest in between each repetition. In the end, our body is a mechanism of habit. If you are training your body at 80% of your maximum speed, that habitual 80% speed will become your standard!

In one sentence: Above all else, it is important to train smart as well as “train fast to be fast”, and remember SPEED KILLS!

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