Last Updated on October 30, 2016 by Jimson Lee
If you are stuck indoors due to inclement weather, don’t despair.
Sure, nothing beats doing short 30m with spikes on a track on a warm day, or flying through a 2 x 300m on an outdoor track with nothing but shorts and spikes (and maybe athletic supporters for men!).
But for the unfortunate ones who can’t get to a track when it’s cold and snowy, here are some alternatives:
- weight room
- circuit training (there are several articles on the Blog, here is the main article on circuits training)
- intervals or Tabata training on a stationary bike, elliptical (yesterday’s article), or Concept II Rowing machine. 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds off for 8 reps totaling 4 minutes. Rest, then do 2 more sets, for a total time of 12 minutes.
- speedball or speedbag
The speedball became popular for women in some gyms after the Clint Eastwood movie “Million Dollar Baby”. (Great movie by the way, if you haven’t seen it)
Allan Wells, 1980 Olympic Gold medalist in the 100m, was famous for using the speedball. Then again, when you have Scotland’s winter weather, what can you do?
Here is the segment of Allan Wells being interviewed by Michael Johnson from the BBC Special, The World’s Fastest Men. For a guy in his late 50’s, Allan Wells is still pretty good with the speedbag! You will have to fast forward to the 2:30 mark on the YouTube Video.
The Faster your Arms Move, the Faster your Leg Moves
The theory goes like this: the faster your arms move, the faster your leg moves.
I have used the speedball in the past and I have to admit I loved it, only because it seemed macho and everyone in the weight room would oohh and ahhh on how fast the rhythmic sound of pounding the backboards produced..
One reason why the speedball is popular for sprinters is the “ball strike” cadence is similar to a sprinting. A typical male elite 100 meter sprinter runs about 4 to 5 strides per second. (raw average 45 steps in a 100m sprint = 4.5 strides/sec). With the speedball, Women elite speedball users now complete 5 strikes per second as compared to 2.5 in 1992 (based on speedball competitions). The Male speedball users have improved from 3.9 to 5.87 strikes per second or approximately 300 hits per minute!
(Remember, one strike also includes the 3 hits of the baseboard)
[Tweet “In Speedball competitions, Men can strike at 5.87 per second and Women at 5.0/sec”]
I know what you are thinking. You can’t compare speedbag hitters to elite 100 meter sprinters.
I’ve tried to find a few good books or DVDs on this, but the best book for Track fans is from the man who actually coached Allan Wells!
There’s a BBC documentary on the World Fastest Man (check YouTube link above) with Michael Johnson and Allan Wells that explain the success of the speedbag. In the video, you see Allan Wells today hitting the speedball with MJ looking on.
Jim Bradley’s book “Athletics – My Way” tells his life story from his early days in Scotland through to the present. He reveals the training methods behind his success as an athletics coach… the speedball.
He also advocates the speedbag for football, too.
NOTE: The book ships out of Australia.
How to use the Speedball: The Three-Rebound Method
Basically, you strike the ball and it hits 3 times before you strike it again. So, you hit the ball, it hits the backboard, it comes near your face and hits the front board, then backboard for the 3rd time, then you strike it again. It makes a nice 1-2-3 rhythm with a distinct audio pattern that is recognizable in any gym. You should hit the speed bag directly from the front.
Usually it takes one session for first timers to get this right. The number of ball strikes and the speed is another story.
Here are additional tips based on personal use:
- Buy the best ball money can buy and be sure to check the swivel for a true swing. Cheap leather balls are better than high quality vinyl any day.
- Wear gloves. If you use weightlifting gloves, they are also good. Or you can be a real Rocky and use tape.
- Address the ball with feet parallel, hip distance apart, eye level with widest part of ball. Stand at a distance so to touch the ball with clenched fist there is a slight bend in the elbow.
The ultimate goal for hard core speedball users is to emulate a 6 round boxing match of 3 minutes on, 1 minute off (a grueling 24 minute workout). If you plan on doing this type of circuit training with the Speedball, I highly recommend the GymBoss Timer. They are under 20 bucks and come in multiple colors.
Other than a good timer, and maybe Jim Bradley’s book for Sprint fanatics and coaches, I don’t think you need you need any extensive books or training DVDs, as the best way to learn is simply get off the couch and do it! But I listed 3 recommended resources for those who want to take the speedball more seriously.
- Everlast Leather Speed Bag (Medium)
- The Speed Bag Bible
- The Speed Bag Bible two hour training program DVD