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  • Josh Gray

Why aren't my athletes getting faster?

Josh Gray

The common goals of most offseason training programs are to improve the physical capabilities of the athletes by getting stronger, faster, and more explosive (and bigger in some sports). These are great goals as in increase in all of these physical abilities will result in better athletes and in turn, an increase in sport performance. The problems arise in the approaches to get to these goals and in turn, the disappointing test scores and future game performances.

What do you mean, you might ask?

Well at the end of every off season, most coaches will do some max lifting tests and some performance-based tests (40yd, I test, broad jump, etc.). The most common improvements are seen in lifting numbers and vertical or broad jump, and the least improvements are normally seen in the 40 yd dash or any other maximum velocity sprint test. This means that coaches are great at getting athletes stronger (and bigger), but do not know how to improve athletes' speed or reactive ability. The problem lies in the programming or the approach they use.

Most offseason programs consist of 4-5 days a week of lifting with 1-2 days a week of conditioning, often misnamed as "speed training". These conditioning sessions consist of a variety of change of direction (cone drills, ladder drills) and running drills all lasting anywhere from 10 - 30 seconds, and sometimes longer. The issue with this, is that there is no way the athlete can run full speed for that time duration. Couple this with incomplete rest periods, and create athletes who can endure sub maximum tempos, and aren't fast or explosive.

So, what is a solution?

I would say there is too much focus on the weight room, but that is a topic for another article. To start, I would prioritize speed 2-3 days a week, and it would be better if the speed sessions occurred before the lifting. The speed sessions would include sprints lasting from 3-5 seconds from a variety of different starting positions. Full recovery would be allowed between reps to ensure the highest possible speeds (quality over quantity). I will include a basic speed template below:

Day 1

3-4 x 40m sprints

Day 2

6-8 x 25 yards sprints

Day 3

3 x 20-yard sprints

3 x 30-yard sprints

I would recommend timing the sprints each week for a couple of reasons.

First, it will allow you to see whether or not the athletes are getting faster, and make the appropriate changes during the program, instead of finding out at the end.

Second, it is a way to tell your when/if your athletes are tired. If times drop too much during a workout, or if they are running slower than usual, you can make the assumptions that they are fatigued and cut their workout.

Lastly, you can post the scores for the athletes' bragging rights. Similar to how weight room numbers are posted, speed times can be posted, which can also help create a more competitive environment.

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