Speed and quickness are both incredibly important attributes when playing sport. There are no sports, or competitive activities where being quicker, moving faster, and having better reactions speeds and agility won’t improve your performance.
Even if you’re not an athlete though, and just train for the sake of enjoyment, or to generally improve your physique and health, speed training can still help build strength and make you move better.
The number one thing to remember when training for speed is this – To increase your speed on the sports field, you must train with speed in the gym.
This sounds pretty obvious, but it’s surprising the number of people who don’t take this into account when planning their workout routines. It’s vital, therefore, to structure your routine so that it is designed with your goals in mind. If you’re a football or basketball player looking to get quicker, it’s no good following a bodybuilding style routine, where the emphasis is on lifting weights slowly to break down muscle fibers – you need specific speed training.
The Basics of Speed Training
In order to move faster, you need to be able to generate more force.
Force = Mass x Acceleration
Going by this formula, force will increase when you increase mass (the weights you’re lifting) and/or acceleration (the speed at which you lift said weights).
We’ll take the power clean – (an exercise often used to build speed and power) – as an example here.
If you can currently power clean 135lbs for one repetition, and it takes you 0.50 seconds to get the bar from the floor to the rack position, then to increase force, you either need to build up to a 140lb power clean in the same time, or perform a 135lb clean quicker.
From this example, you can see that by simply getting stronger, provided speed stays the same, power can increase. Hence being stronger is extremely important for getting quicker.
Every single repetition you do, no matter what the exercise, should be quick and powerful. Form should also be perfect. Therefore, your sets will all be fairly short, so that you can maintain your speed and technique throughout the entire set.
In theory, you can use any exercises in your speed training. However, some exercises lend themselves to it better than others.
- Any jump variation – box jumps, vertical jumps, broad jumps, band resisted jumps.
- Any Olympic lift variation – full clean, power clean, snatch, hang snatch, hang clean.
- Jump lunges
- Jump Squats
- Speed deadlifts
- Dragging sled sprints
- Clap push-ups
- Clap chin-ups
- Medicine ball chest passes/overhead throws/slams/rotational throws
- High pulls
- Plyometric bench presses and inverted rows.
Sample Speed and Quickness Program
Here’s what a sample program designed to increase speed, quickness and power might look like on a four day training week.
- Box jumps – 6 sets of 3 reps
- Back squats – work up to a heavy 3 rep maximum, making sure that the reps stay fairly quick, then drop the weight by 20 percent, and do 3 sets of 5 reps with as much speed as possible.
- Glute Ham Raises – 4 sets of 10 reps. No particular emphasis on speed.
- Sled Sprints – put 10 percent of your bodyweight onto a dragging sled, and do ten 20 metre sprints, resting a minute between each.
- Clap Push-ups – 6 sets of 3 reps.
- Bench Presses – 5 sets of 5 reps.
- Barbell Rows – 5 sets of 5 reps.
- Medicine Ball Drills – 10 minutes of various throws. Stop the drills when your speed slows down.
- Rotator cuff/ upper back work for injury orevention.
- Broad jumps – 3 sets of 3 reps.
- Power cleans – 6 sets of 3 reps.
- Deadlifts – work up to a heavy 3 rep maximum, making sure that the reps stay fairly quick, then drop the weight by 20 percent, and do 3 sets of 5 reps with as much speed as possible.
- Jump lunges – 5 sets of 5 reps per leg.
- Core work.
- Plyometric inverted rows – 6 sets of 3 reps.
- Speed bench Presses – 6 sets of 3 reps.
- Dumbbell presses/ chin-ups – 4 sets of 8 reps on each.
- Same medicine ball drills as day 2, or arm work.