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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
With over speed training why not just get a machine that moves your legs, in the same pattern as when you sprint, at 100mph and then go out and sprint?
Why is it that doing no work makes you better?
If these devices work then why not use them for people with disabilities to help them walk or run better?
The other issue is common thinking of applying more force to run faster. How does being towed help you learn to apply more force?
How could it help? It could help you learn how to handle the forces produce by your feet moving at that speed which would make you stronger, so if you ever learned how to make your feet move that fast without being towed then and only then would you benefit from the training.
The folks at U of Oregon track started using overspeed way back in the Pre Fontaine days. Seems to be a pretty competitive program. It has something to do with muscle memory. If I remember right, they used golf carts to tow the runners beyond their normal speeds so their body would experience the faster speed. I think that would be considered Overspeed.
Jimson Lee says
@adarian – devices like this should be used as “cues”. If you think Track is bad, take a look a Golf – how many devices out there are aimed to help your swing?
I believe if overspeed training is used properly, that is by not using a cord with too much pull, it can actually help you develop better sprinting mechanics and fire your motor neurons faster. I did plyometrics, olympics lifts, pulled sleds, hill sprints, and my 40yd time didn’t improve until I started doing overspeed training. There are several professional athletes and SC coaches who incorporate overspeed training in their regimens. I’ve seen Issac Bruce use overspeed training and he swears by it. I actually made a device myself for around $30. Just used 2 nylon belts, 25′ of exercise tubing and 2 nylon handles. If you want to train alone than you can use one of those corkscrew handles that attach to a dog chain. Just be sure to use light to medium tubing.
Jimson Lee says
@Ken – yes, a little bit of something different is always a good thing. I just find people get carried away a bit and if 10 reps is good, then 20 reps must be better and 30 is best.
Overspeed training is scientifically proven to increase top speed and significantly drop sprint times.