Published on June 1st, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Physical Fitness Types: Speed
Speed is one of those obviously important components of most sports. Some sports would not even exist without the speed component, like track and field sprints, swimming sprints and cycling sprints. Speed is a component of power, together with strength, making it quite important in less obvious sports, like weight lifting and football. But what is speed really? How do you improve it and what does it do for you? Let’s answer these reasonable questions with facts.
What is speed?
Speed in fitness terms is not just the amount of distance you cross during a certain time. It is also your ability to accelerate, reach a maximum speed and maintain that speed during workouts. To become faster you need to achieve certain muscle strength, which is needed to contract muscles in the shortest amount of time possible. This type of strength uses the fast twitching muscle fibers, which are the ones you need to train most when aiming to increase your speed.
Those who need speed the most are athletes that compete in sports who are all about being quick. Such sports are:
- Track and field sprinting
- Speed skating
- Sprint swimming
- Ice and field Hockey
- Middle distance track and field
- Cycling sprints
- Alpine skiing
- Soccer and many more
In these sports your speed determines most of your overall achievements and athletic level.
How to train your speed?
Like most things in fitness you train speed by using speed in exercises. Strength training with speed components is also widely used, since strength is part of the power equation, which also contains speed. It is important to remember that highly dynamic training, like speed training, needs a very thorough warm-up beforehand. If you don’t warm-up it is near impossible to reach your top speed during training. You also are in greater danger of getting a sprain or a serious injury. Speed training is quality training. You wish to reach your maximum speed and perform at 90-100% of your ability all the time. Quality over quantity is the motto here. Endurance workouts have little to do with speed at all.
- Basic Sprints. This exercise comes as no surprise. There is no exercise more basic when it comes to speed training, than the humble sprint. Remember to keep the correct form while sprinting and give your muscles adequate time to rest in between the runs. Running as fast as you do during sprinting is the perfect way to get used to speed as well. Your body needs the experience of working in top speed for a while if you wish to increase your performance.
- Uphill sprints. Sprinting uphill ads that resistance components to the basic sprint. This exercise will increase your leg strength, while also forcing your speed to improve in harder conditions than the simple flat track. This is also an excellent cardio exercise. A strong cardiovascular system is extremely important when it comes to speed training and sports. You need a high amount of oxygen to reach your muscles when you sprint, so a strong heart means a stronger run.
- Leaps. During leaps you jump as high as you can over an obstacle. You can leap forward, backward or from side to side. Leaps increase your leg power, while also improving your balance and coordination.
- Side-ways one legged jumps. This is a challenging plyometrics exercise, during which you jump from side to side on one leg only, while also trying to raise your knee high during jumps. Plyometrics are widely used in speed training, because they add that extra edge of balance and good coordination to your sprint. Balance and coordination help you run faster since you waste less energy to keep your poise.
- Squats are the most basic way to improve leg power with as little impact as possible. Squats make your legs stronger without impacting the bones, which makes them ideal for your high impact speed training. Your joint health is important when you wish to become a faster athlete, so low impact exercises should always be implemented in your training.
Speed training is important for all athletes, even though some sports need it more than others. To improve your speed you have to increase your leg strength and gain experience in keeping your body balanced and coordinated while moving at your top speed. Remember to warm-up properly beforehand and to give it your all during training. Speed training is quality training, which can improve the quality of your life in all aspects of it.