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This article is guest blogged by Eric Broadbent, a certified USA Track and Field Level 2 Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), holds USTFCCCA Track & Field Technical Certification, and a USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach.
To read all his guest articles on this Blog, click here for the full list.
Bridging the Gap Between Strength and Speed
It has become pretty widely accepted and known that incorporating strength training in to your program can enhance your athletes speed and overall performance, but I have seen several cases where coaches and athletes get frustrated because they have gotten stronger in the weight room but have either maintained or slowed down on the field, court, or track. They then automatically assume that the strength training actually slowed them down, which it may have, and that it was a waste of time. While there are many reasons as to why the athlete got slower, I will briefly attempt to address possible reasons why and mainly discuss bridging the gap between strength and speed work.
One reason why the strength training may have failed is because there may not have been enough time to see if it was actually working. When an athlete starts to incorporate new types of training in to their current program, it is going to be a shock to the system and will take time for the body to adapt to this new stimulus. With strength training it takes time for the newfound strength to actualize itself and work to enhance performance. The athlete and coach must stay patient before jumping to conclusions and determining whether what they are doing is working or not.
Another reason why things may not be working is because the athlete may not be doing the correct set of exercises or the volume is too high. On a related note, the athlete’s technique might be terrible and the coach may not know what to look for. This will put the athlete at a much higher risk of injury. Any of these above factors could easily lead to a decrease in performance. In most sports, the athlete should work to get stronger in the off-season and then try and maintain strength gains during the competition portion of the season. If the athlete is working to get stronger at the wrong times of the year then this too could lead to a decrease in performance. On a related note, if the coach doesn’t back off in the weight room during big competitions then it could lead to sub par performances.
While the above mentioned reasons may be the case for things not working for the athlete, some of it boils down to not bridging the gap between strength and speed work. If we take a look at the force-velocity curve we can see that strength and speed are on opposite ends of the spectrum. As I mentioned before, it is widely known that strength training can enhance speed and overall performance but it doesn’t just happen overnight.
The fastest guys in the world are the ones that can apply large amounts of force to the ground in short amount of times. Strength training involves high amounts of force but the velocity is much slower than that of ground contact times seen in sprinting. So on one side of the spectrum we have lots of force and low velocity but on the other side we have low force but high velocity(slightly misleading as sprinting is all about applying large amounts of force with high velocity). So how do we actualize this strength training and get it to work to our advantage? One way is to bridge the gap between these two training components by working on other training components that fall along the force velocity curve in between and including strength and speed. If we can employ these various components at the right times with the correct dosage, then we have a recipe for success. If you look at each training component on the curve and made improvements in that one specific area, then chances are it is going to enhance performances in other areas that are close to it on the curve. If you can then do this with all of the different training components on the curve you can see how they could work together and help to increase the athletes ability.
At this point you are probably asking yourself, well what should I do then? Here is a list of various exercises going from higher force/lower velocity work towards lower force/higher velocity work:
- Heavy Lifting (Squats, Deadlifts)
- Olympic Lifting (Clean and Jerk, Snatch)
- Weighted Jumps (Lunge Jumps, Squat Jumps)
- Med Ball Throws (Between the legs forward, Overhead back)
- Plyometrics Jumping (Hurdle Hops, Alternating Bounds)
- Resisted Sprinting (Sled Pushes, Hill Sprints)
- Sprinting (40 yard, 60 meter)
As you can see, there are a lot of different tools that can be implemented in to your program to bridge the gap between speed and strength. The key is to find the right recipe and keep in mind that it may be different for each athlete. If you have an athlete that is very strong but lacks speed, then you will probably want to spend more time on the right side of the curve. On the flip side, if you have an athlete that is incredibly weak, then you might want to slowly and progressively work them towards doing more strength work while concurrently developing some of those other areas. I personally like to touch base will all of the various training components on the curve in varying capacities, and have found this to be successful. Keep in mind also, that many great programs have done really well with different “recipes”. That is what makes coaching and training such a complicated and wonderful challenge. So if you find yourself scratching your head and wondering why your strength training isn’t working, keep these factors in mind.
Valle, Carl. A Review of Al Vermeil Techniques for a Faster 40 yard dash. 2012.
About the Author
Eric Broadbent is a certified USA Track and Field Level 2 Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), holds USTFCCCA Track & Field Technical Certification, and a USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach. He also has over 6 years of coaching experience including coaching at North Carolina State and West Chester University. As an athlete, he won the USATF 2012 Indoor Heptathlon and was an Olympic Trials Qualifier. That same year he represented the US in the Pan American Cup and took 2nd place. As a national level competitor he also had top 6 finishes at the 2009 and 2010 Indoor Combined Events Championship and finished 10th at the 2011 Outdoor National Championships.