Training Methods to Develop Speed In Sport

1. REPETITION is the basic method used in speed training. It refers to repeating a set distance several times at a given speed. Although the sought result is the improvement of speed, this method may also lead to the improvement of a skill or technical element, since only through repetition can a movement become a dynamic stereotype. The repetition method was born to compensate for the fact that maximum speed cannot be maintained for a long period of time. Since a single performance of the competitive distance does not result in performance improvements, the repetition method serves a paramount role. In order to achieve speed improvements, consistency of speed over a given distance, and superior training effects, several repetitions are necessary.
During repetition training the athlete’s psyche, will, and conscience are of paramount importance. What should dominate the athlete is a will to surpass his/her maximum speed by overcoming the limiting factor(s). The need of being relaxed is of secondary importance, since relaxation is a normal training outcome. Ozolin (1971) claims that the athlete’s thoughts, will, and concentration should be directed towards performing a repetition at maximum speed, since such psychological and mental preoccupation assists the athlete to reach superior speed and neuro-muscular co-ordination. Also, the athlete’s main concentration ought to be directed at rapidly performing a dominant movement, which as a result will accelerate the performance of associated movements. For instance, while sprinting an athlete should concentrate on accelerating the arm movement which, based on a co-ordination between them and the legs, will result in a faster leg movement. And finally, an athlete’s concentration also has to be directed toward accomplishing a specific task, like covering a given distance in a given time. This method is applicable not only for speed but also for power training (i.e., reach with legs, or arms an object placed at a optimal height).

Repetition training with maximum speed under standard conditions (i.e., flat ground) could be performed in two ways:
a. the progressive method, where the speed is increased progressively until reaching one’s maximum. This is advisable for beginning athletes or for sports where speed is developed through technical and tactical stalls.
b. repetitions are performed with maximum speed throughout the training lesson. This method is usually restricted to advanced athletes and those whose techniques are very good.

Two variants of repetition training exist:

a. repetitions with maximum speed under relieved conditions. This method is applicable to various sports, and is performed by reducing the external resistance by: using lighter, implements in athletics, shortening the oar’s leverage in rowing, reducing the surface of the blade in rowing and the paddle in canoeing, etc Similarly, external forces are used to achieve a superior speed: run, cycle, row, or paddle with the wind blowing from behind, or cycle behind a motorcycle.
b. repetitions with maximum speed under conditions of added resistance. By employing this method, speed development is achieved indirectly. Thus, the speed of performing an exercise is superior if poor to it, for a short period of time, the athlete does weight training (Florescu et al, 1969), or performs against a resistance (i.e., swim, skate, or run being held back by an anchored rubber cord; row or swim with a collar around the boat or swimming providing extra resistance; ski or skate wearing a heavy vest).

2. THE ALTERNATIVE method refers to a relatively rhythmical alternation of movements (repetitions) with high and low intensities. The addition and reduction of speed is performed progressively, while the phase of maximum speed is maintained steady. Such a method leads not only to increasing the speed but also to perform with ease and relaxation.

3. THE HANDICAP method allows athletes with different abilities to work together, provided that all have equal motivation. When a repetition is performed, each individual is placed in such a way (ahead or back depending on his/her speed potential) that all should reach the finish line, or the end of the acceleration phase, at the same lime.
4. RELAYS AND GAMES. Considering their emotional feature both relays and games may be extensively used to improve speed, especially for beginners, or top athletes during the preparatory phase. One advantage is that .this method will likely eliminate excessive strain, and provide enjoyment and fun.

The speed barrier

Following the application of standard methods, speed development reaches a certain ceiling, which Ozolin (1971) calls the “speed barrier”. By employing the same training methods with a few variations and little excitement, the athlete reaches a level when everything is monotonous, and as a consequence, speed is no longer improved.

In order to break the speed barrier new stimuli are required, new excitement has to break the monotony of training, and the employment of standard methods. Novelty in training represents stronger and more exciting stimuli which will result in corresponding physical and psychological alterations.

Among the most efficient methods to surpass the speed barrier are those performed tinder decreased conditions, where the external resistance is reduced. Thus, inclined running, or with the wind blown from behind gives the athlete a new sense of speed which will lead to further improvements. Under these new conditions the CNS, the neuromuscular co-ordination, will readapt to the new requirements of performing an exercise. The multiple repetitions of new stimuli will create new and more rapid adaptations resulting in an elevation of the speed ceiling. Decreased load methods have been quite extensively used by Soviet sprinters. The inclined truck (2-3°) seems to increase the athlete’s speed by 17% over the descending portion and by 13% when the athlete entered the horizontal section (Obbarius, 1971).

However, the employment of decreased load methods should facilitate accelerations which could be reproduced under normal competitive conditions. Further, these methods must be restricted to advanced athletes whose skills are firmly automized, and who as a consequence can handle skill wise supra-rapid accelerations.

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