Throughout my athletic career, from youth to collegiate, I always strived to be the fast individual. You could say I had the need for speed. I always wanted to be the one who could lead the pack, which drove me to the field I am in– with multiple injuries along the way. Looking back, I realize that my teams did a lot of great training, but there were a couple key components that were missing with our speed training.
Back in the day, only elite athletes were using overspeed training, bungees, and parachutes. Now, it seems like every youth kid 10-18 is hooked up to a bungee or speed cord. I wonder, are they ready for that kind of training, or is it the right time for that intervention? Like anything else in life, training has to happen at the right time and when we are ready. If you are thinking, “How do I know when I’m ready?” then I will give you three simple things to test and correct to ensure you are ready to perform at the highest level.
First, make sure you have adequate mobility. Why do is mobility important for speed? Well, mobility is your input system. If you don’t have a working input system, then it is like pressing a keyboard that does not connect to the processor, so you can’t create the word output. To demonstrate your speed, you need acceptable levels of mobility in the ankle, hip, upper back, and shoulders. A couple tasks to test if you have adequate mobility are a standing toe touch and a squat with your feet flat on the ground and hips below your knees. To be effective in your speed training, having adequate mobility in your ankles and hips is essential.
The second key component for effective speed training is stability. Just as mobility was the input system, think of stability as your processing system. While it is often confused for strength, stability is not the same as being strong; it is your ability to handle change and withstand forces.
Single Leg Stance Stability
If you want to check if you have adequate stability, try standing on one foot and bring the opposite leg up to 90° hip height, then close your eyes. Without moving side to side, try to hold that position for 10 seconds. If you are having a challenge with either or both legs, then consider correcting your single leg stance stability. While this is a simple concept, it will go a long way in demonstrating your speed and improving your endurance.
The next thing to look at is trunk stability. With every step you take, are you able to get force out of the ground, or do you lose energy and have to work harder in your sprinting, jogging, or walking? To test your trunk stability, lie face down on the ground. For males, put your thumbs at chin height, and for females, at shoulder height. Starting from the ground, try to press straight up, staying rigid as a board without bending or breaking. Then, come back down in that same motion. If you have a little break and don’t feel stable, consider improving your trunk stability by doing plank holds and farmers carries. It will also improve your single leg stance.
The last thing in making sure you have adequate stability, or processing, is rotary stability. Can you connect right and left sides of the body? Can you connect and hold them without breaking down? Rotary stability can be tested with crawling. Get down on your hands and knees and keep your back as flat as possible. Place a water bottle half full in the middle of your back, and see if you can crawl 10 yards forward and 10 yards backward. You would be surprised how many adults struggle with this movement that babies can master! It is evidence of a loss of movement patterns.
As you are going through your checklist, the last thing to get in check to effectively demonstrate speed is your motor control, or output system. Can you put all your systems together? Do your keys compute to create the right word? One simple way to improve your motor control is a broad jump. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, swing them down as hard as you can, jump out as far as possible, then stick your landing. If you have adequate motor control, you should broad jump your height. Five year olds are prime examples of having great motor control, because research has shown that they can jump their height.
The next thing is seeing if you can bound. Bounding is jumping up on one foot in a forward motion and landing on the opposite foot. To try bounding, see if you can adequately jump off of one foot and onto the other, getting as high and far as possible. Does it feel the same on both legs? Bounding is a great way to test if you can create sequencing, rhythm, and power on both legs.
The last motor control exercise is very simple, yet the best athletes in the world practice it at the highest level. Ladies and gentlemen, it is skipping. Skipping is bouncing up and down on the same foot one time and then repeating on the other foot. This rudimental exercise tests if you can create rhythm, create energy store in single-leg stability, then switch to the next leg. Like crawling, skipping is a fundamental skill that we have lost over the years.
Getting Up to Speed with Your Speed Training
To recap, what do we need to maximize our speed training? First, achieve adequate standards of mobility, or your input system. Next, get your stability system, or processing system, to acceptable levels. Then, demonstrate your motor control, or output system. If you do these three things, I guarantee great success and a high level of resiliency for years to come.
If you are curious about enhancing your speed training and expressing your performance with adequate mobility, stability, and motor control, schedule a Performance Session in our studio to go through your movement screen and fundamental capacity screen. Win the day!