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Life is simple. To run fast, you need to run fast. If your goal is to run a top end speed of 12 m/s, you won’t get it training at 10 m/s.
So why are there devices that appear to make you run faster? I am referring to overspeed training devices for “towing”, namely pulleys and rubber bands.
Why is this bad? It’s like adding an gymnastic board to reach unattainable heights to dunk a basketball or long jump 30 feet.
These devices should NOT make you run faster, rather they should help you run and reach your top end speed more efficiently. You should NEVER run a speed you haven’t attained naturally.
I’ve heard arguments that overspeed training or the term “towing” is bad because you are doing a movement that is not natural to you. You end up over extending the range of motion, which will cause injuries. As well, you are fighting to control the balance in your body and your running mechanics may degrade, such as over striding.
Another drawback to overspeed training is it increases ground contact time due to your foot strike to the ground occurring further in front of your center of mass. We’ve already discussed ground contact time at nausea from the USATF NPEP.
In my early days of training as an athlete, the most we ever did was use a strong tail wind to assist in overspeed training.
My coach at McGill, Dennis Barrett, was also a 400-800 meter athlete and represented Canada’s national Bobsled team in 1985-86. Hence we also had Bobsledders in our training group.
Shortly after his return from Europe, we did some slight (i.e. 2% grade) downhill sprinting. Of course, it was winter and we did downhill sprints on salted asphalt pavements. In the spring, we would use an old pair of spikes, add some 9mm javelin needles, and do downhill repeats on the grass surface. But never more than a 2% grade.
Today, we see devices that resembles a slingshot with a harness, ropes, and bungee cords.
Overspeed Training recommendations
If you are going to use an overspeed training device, my recommendations are:
1) What is the sole purpose of the workout? Each workout should have a specific goal.
My philosophy is it is okay to use a swiss ball, and it’s fine to do bench press, but please DON’T try to do two things at once. (Sorry, Mr. Chek)
2) Never do anything at the expense of losing technique. Bad form in training translates to bad form in competition.
3) Don’t do anything your body was not meant to do. And that includes being pulled at 12 m/s when you are a 11.0 100 meter freshman.
4) Do it with the purpose of improving your acceleration efficiency to reach your top end speed.
This brings me back 20 years when we used the tail wind in training. (NOTE: training into the headwind also has it’s advantages). Don’t try to reach a speed you haven’t attained.
>> Click Here for more information on the Single Man Overspeed Trainer