Exactly How to be a FASTER Athlete!
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There is one skill, regardless of sport, that sets certain athletes above the rest.
That skill is SPEED!
Think of speed as how fast an athlete can get from point A to point B.
It determines how quickly a soccer or basketball player can get to the ball.
It determines whether or not a lacrosse or football player can accelerate past a defender.
It separates which hockey player will get to the puck first or if the baseball player will be safe at first on a close play.
Possessing great speed gives an athlete such an advantage on the field, court, or ice and coaches of all levels are in search of it.
Some athletes are naturally gifted in this area, where many need more work at it.
The good news is, speed can be DRASTICALLY improved with the right training.
You see, speed really comes down to a couple key components that we focus on at DSC.
Yes, to be fast what you really need is to be strong and explosive.
Speed is about how much force you can produce into the ground, in the shortest amount of time possible.
This is why our Athletic Development Training focuses on getting our athletes strong (strength exercises) and explosive (jumping and sprinting exercises).
It is NOT just about moving your feet quickly, you need to be STRONG to push into the ground, overcome inertia, and get yourself moving in the right direction.
And the research agrees.
The Journal of Applied Physiology found that “faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces, not more rapid leg movements.”
When it comes to sprinting, think Sir Isaac Newton and his Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
It is our push into the ground with our feet that determines how fast we are going to move. The stronger we are, the harder we can push.
The harder we push, and the faster we push, the faster we go!
World class sprinters and some of the fastest athletes in the world have incredibly strong lower-bodies.
This strength allows them to drive into the ground with extreme amounts of force to drive themselves forward when they sprint.
This is why most young athletes do not possess high-levels of speed. They just aren't quite mature or strong enough.
They also struggle to understand the concept of pushing themselves to where the want to go, not just moving fast.
This is why getting stronger pays huge dividends in improving their speed.
Today, we're taking you through exactly how to be a faster athlete, so you can dominate on the field court, or ice.
Let's get into it!
Step 1| Complete this warm-up
Did you know the key to improving your speed starts with a proper warm-up?
And the research agrees here too. The better your warm-up is and the more specific it is to sprinting, the better your body will be prepared to sprint.
Your body will be warmed up. Your sprint mechanics will be in tune. Your body will have the required mobility to get into the right positions to display your true speed (muscle and joint stiffness reduces ability to sprint). And your muscles will be more primed to aid in your sprinting efforts.
Before every game, practice, or training session, complete the 10 minute warm-up below.
Step 2| Dedicate time to training (strength and explosiveness)
The BIGGEST mistake we see youth athletes make is not dedicating time out of the year to work on their strength and conditioning.
This is a problem for a few reasons.
The first is the rise in athletic injuries due to overuse. In fact, youth injuries have increased 7x over the past 10 years. More alarming is the fact that over half of these injuries are due to overuse.
The good news is that overuse injuries, with the right awareness and action, are very avoidable.
Dedicating time to working on your performance in the gym is first going to give your shoulder time to heal if you're a baseball player, or your knee time to rest if you're a soccer player.
It will also give you time to focus on getting the right areas strong (like the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your joints) and getting the right areas more flexible.
When you're constantly competing with game after game you never give your body time to heal and work on the areas that need to be addressed. Chronic fatigue sets in and you actually become slower.
When it comes to improving your speed, getting yourself on a balanced strength and conditioning program is the most important thing you can do.
Without dedicating time to getting stronger, more explosive, and more flexible, you only rely on your athletic genes.
Spending time in the gym allows you to push your body to change to be a better athlete.
As you will see below, it allows you to cut faster, jump higher, sprint faster, hit or kick the ball further, fatigue less quickly, and drastically increase your defense against injury.
Step 3| Focus on these sprint drills
Being faster starts with improving your running mechanics.
We put a huge emphasis on the proper posture and mechanics of sprinting here at DSC and for good reason.
You can be a very naturally fast athlete but with the wrong running posture or mechanics you are leaving speed on the table.
These changes in mechanics can drastically improve your speed and first-step ability.
This is where our sprint mechanic drills come in.
Want to be slow?
Stay straight up as soon as you start sprinting or cave your chest forward as you run.
Both these scenarios cause you to lose the ability to drive into the ground, in the right direction to move you forward, fast!
We work on the same sprint drills that olympic sprinters use to improve their start and sprint times.
Step 4| Focus on these explosive exercises
One area of focus in our athlete's training is power.
As we talked about earlier, to be fast you need to be both strong and explosive.
You need to be able to push into the ground with your feet, with maximal amount of force, as quickly as possible.
Here we are talking about that quickness!
You need to be strong but if you aren't also quick, you're going to be slow.
This is where our explosive exercises come into play. These movements are also known as plyometrics.
They train your muscles to contract as fast as possible to get you from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
They also train your joints and ligaments to be more "springy" to improve the efficiency of your running and jumping during your sport.
Step 5| Focus on these strength exercises
What is the quickest way to improve your speed?
Only good things come from getting stronger.
Not only does it drastically improve your injury defense (ie - ACL tears) but it improve your ability to produce force in the ground.
The more force you can put into the ground, the faster you are!
This means you're able to stop quicker and change directions faster than your defender.
It means you can get your movement started faster with a quicker first step than your competition.
It means you can jump higher and skate or sprint faster.
It's going to transform your performance on the court, field, or ice.
We have a few fundamental strength exercises that are not only safe, but are specifically designed to improve your speed.
Check out the video below on our favorite strength exercises for athletes!