Why Speed Has Become the Biggest Performance Enhancer for Athletes


Whilst a large number of sportsmen and women will fail to reach

their maximum speed when competing, due to fatigue and the opportunity for uninterrupted

sprinting, this does not mean that velocity training should be overlooked, with

many still viewing this attribute as the most important for enhancing






However, the majority of coaches will look at improving both the

fatigue of players, as well as throwing in some short springs during training

sessions for good measure. It is clear to see that sports such as football and

rugby union are dominated by those with great pace, meaning that athletes

should have a greater exposure to maximum velocity training. Those at the top of

their sport are likely to have the ability to avoid fatigue whilst competing, meaning

that speed could ultimately be the key to outlasting opponents.




It is believed by many that over-conditioning can actually have

a negative factor on athletes, including making players slower. As a result, those

looking to improve speed should time every sprint completed, with competition

increasing when figures are involved. Many exercises are completed at between 60-80%

velocity, meaning that the body adapts to such demands. As well as this, many coaches

fear that their players will not have the conditioning required to get the

better of their rivals, overvaluing endurance training in the process.




It is important for coaches and players to understand that improving

your maximum speed is a sure-fire way of enhancing endurance, especially for

those involved in team sports. Research has found that when top speed is increased,

so does speed reserve. As a result, the demands required in order to both

achieve and maintain this pace are reduced. Maximum speed training improves conditioning,

along with acceleration, two traits which are important for any athlete.




Acceleration over short distances is fairly simple to improve

with little impact upon maximum speed, however the same cannot be said of the

reverse. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded earlier

this year that maximum velocity is crucial to short-distance sprinting. In

fact, even the smallest of improvements when it comes to top speed can effect

the entire acceleration profile, with a half-metre-per-second improvement in

speed leading to a 10th of a second improvement over 20 yards.




Developing speed certainly requires a significant amount of time

and patience, with aerobic performance having to be improved. So, just how can coaches

work with athletes when it comes to improving maximum speed?




The majority of athletes reach somewhere between 93-96% of their

maximum speed over the first 20 yards of a sprint, with less mindless conditioning

drills being required, along with a greater emphasis upon velocity work. Whilst

players will not often get the chance to hit top speed in regular competition, those

who work hard to improve this area of their game will often be the ones who

come out on top over an opponent.