Training for speed and power in sport and fitness
Training for speed and power in sport and fitness

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Training for speed and power in sport and fitness

2.4 Speed training in action

In Activity 3 you will watch a short video of speed training in action which will help you consider how a strength and conditioning coach could use different methods with athletes.

Activity 3 Speed training in action

Timing: Allow 30 minutes for this activity

Watch Video 3, in which strength and conditioning coach Fiona Scott at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, leads a speed training session for some university athletes and students.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 3 Fiona Scott: speed training
Skip transcript: Video 3 Fiona Scott: speed training

Transcript: Video 3 Fiona Scott: speed training


FIONA SCOTT: I'm Fiona Scott. I work at the University of Hertfordshire in a S&C department within that called Performance Herts. We deliver to university athletes, as well as external clubs such as Saracens Mavericks, Arsenal Ladies, Women's FC. And then on top of that, we've done workshops in S&C areas and fields, and also lecture. Today we're in the cricket hall, and we are going to be running an acceleration, speed, agility, and plyometric sessions. We often shorten that to an ASAP session.

JACK TYLER: We're going to do a few sets of these. Just take your time to find your co-ordination.

FIONA SCOTT: Coaches Jack and Louis are going to be taking through a mixture of students from the performance sports at the university, from American football, women's football, netball. And then on top of that, we've also got some sport and exercise science students, and they're working towards their S&C module.

JACK TYLER: So with this one, we're just looking to float a bit more in the air.

FIONA SCOTT: Information I gather before planning my speed sessions-- it would very much be who the athletes are, who I'm going to be training. If I don't know too much about the sport, I would always do a needs analysis of it to see what the sport entails. The needs analysis generally encompasses a biomechanical, a physiological, and an injury analysis.

JACK TYLER: Push away, push, push.

FIONA SCOTT: And that gives us a very good understanding of the sporting elements that they require.

JACK TYLER: Tap the ground. Slow it down.

FIONA SCOTT: From just watching the sport, you can get an idea of what movements they need, whether they need to move more horizontally or propel themselves more vertically in say, basketball and netball. And again, that will help give you a priority in the session.

JACK TYLER: We're going to progress on our plyometrics. So we've got two hurdle heights. You can pick which one.

FIONA SCOTT: You'd ask the athletes. You try and get a bit of an understanding of their training age, so not just their training age within their sport, but also their training age within strength and conditioning, which can often be quite low.

Nice, keep that nice.

Injury history, and when we're doing a session where we need people to be fully fit, plyometrics, for example, you need to be injury-free, and you definitely need a very good underlying strength history and remit. With all strength and conditioning training, but especially speed, we see a lot of athletes. And some of the drills are very basic. But you do need to regress and progress drills based on the athletes in front of you, and what they can cope with and what they can manage.

JACK TYLER: Keeping your spacing and imagining you're in a tunnel, you're just going to push and hold.

FIONA SCOTT: There's a multitude of ways to progress drills. One would be by increasing volume, so the demand that the athlete's putting on their body. Another way is by loading, so not necessarily with external weight or anything, but you might resist movement, which takes us into secondary speed drills. Or you might just-- if you're doing plyometrics-- go from a higher height, or increase the forces the athlete's exposed to with each drill.

And I guess the final way would be also frequency as well. Most athletes, when they're starting, once a week would probably be enough to get an improvement. But as athletes get more advanced, they'll have to train more frequently. So it'd be sort of more like two, maybe three times a week. But realistically, with their sporting demands, and trying to fit in everything into a week, probably two.

Make sure you're strong, push into the wall.

One of the hardest things for us as their S&C coaching team is to actually try and periodise their week, and work out when best to fit in their training.

JACK TYLER: We're going to combine our acceleration and change of direction work. Tom can weave to get away from Louis.


FIONA SCOTT: Sessions-wise, they're quite short. They don't need to be long. And that's because you really want to prioritise quality over quantity. And it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. If you then add in the other aspects like the plyometric training, like the agility and change directional training, the maximum a session would be is probably an hour. Everything you train wants to be maximum intensity and with good form. So that's what sort of help dictates your rest periods. And you let them rest plenty so that they're ready to go again. And if form dissipates, then that might be the end of a session, or you might just give them longer.

STUDENT: Today, we were just going through some speed and acceleration stuff. It's beneficial to netball, as that is majority of what we do throughout the game.

STUDENT: We've just come to the end of our season now, so this is like prep, really, for next season already.


FIONA SCOTT: A good outcome we're looking for is that a coach could see the transference to their sport. Nothing would be better to us than hearing a coach come over to us and saying, all that work you're doing in your speed drills is really starting to transfer over and make an improvement to their sporting performance. We only objectively know that by doing fitness tests. But it is always nice to hear the subjective reports.

End transcript: Video 3 Fiona Scott: speed training
Video 3 Fiona Scott: speed training
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Now answer the following questions:

  1. What information does the strength and conditioning coach gather to plan speed training sessions?
  2. What speed training activities are being performed by the athletes and to what extent are they specific to the demands of the sport?
  3. How does the strength and conditioning coach progress speed training exercises?
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  1. Before planning speed sessions, Fiona the strength and conditioning coach will talk to the athlete to confirm their training age and injury history. Then Fiona will perform a needs analysis of both the athlete and their sport to determine the biomechanical, physiological and injury prevention needs.
  2. In Video 3 you see the coach deliver speed drills (primary method), resistance-band acceleration (secondary method), and plyometric training. Speed resistance and assistance training methods could be useful to any individual who needed to develop speed and therefore could be utilised by individuals from a range of sports. As always, the training principle of specificity should be considered when identifying appropriate speed training exercises. The examples in Video 3 are all running-based and would therefore be appropriate for individuals who wish to develop their running speed (such as sprinters, footballer players, rugby players). Alternative exercises would be more appropriate for those who needed to develop speed in other movements (such as throwers, bowlers, swimmers). For example, L’ubos et al. (2018) found that swimming training with a parachute (speed resistance) improved swimming speed.
  3. Speed training can be progressed by increasing the volume (the demand that the athlete places on their body), load (resist movement or increase height in plyometrics) or frequency (number of sessions per week) of training.

Speed resistance training, as with the resistance-band sprinting you saw in Video 3, is hypothesised to have various benefits (for example, improving acceleration), but if the loads are not appropriate for the individual that may overly affect the mechanics of running (DeWeese and Nimphuis, 2016). Considerable research has been done on speed resistance training. For example, in a review of the literature Alcaraz et al. (2018) concluded that resisted sled training is an effective method of improving sprint performance. However, there is limited research evidence to support the use of speed assistance and it can lead to negative effects such as an increase in braking forces (DeWeese and Nimphuis, 2016). The strength and conditioning coach should consider the robustness of research evidence supporting whatever methods they use with their athletes.

Having looked at speed training, you will now consider power.


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