When we are taught how to enhance speed in an athlete we are told to look at two variables stride length and stride frequency. Now there are drills out there to enhance the skill of stride length and stride frequency, however I tend to not even look at those to variables when it comes to speed development.
I look at speed development in buckets of acceleration, transition, max velocity (top end speed), and finally multi-directional (change of direction). Now in each of these buckets an athlete’s stride length and frequency will be different depending on which bucket or phase they are in.
Rather than trying to teach an athlete a broad skill of stride length and frequency we need to look at what are the qualities that allows an athlete to excel at each of these different buckets/phases of speed. What we do at ProForce is break down those qualities and then structure our speed work around those qualities which gives us very specifically targeted drills that will enhance the skills of acceleration, transition, max velocity (top end speed), and finally multi-directional (change of direction).
The second reason I dislike looking at speed development through the lens of stride length and frequency is each athlete will have an optimal length and frequency. It comes down to helping the athlete with finding the correct angels and ground contact points under or around the hips. To help them excel at each phase of speed.
My biggest advice to young coaches or coaches looking to achieve a higher level perspective on speed development is to find who the great coaches are and learn from them. I made that a mission of mine early in my career and it was an amazing adventure. Not only can you learn from their view point of how they are seeing things unfold in real time but picking up on their verbal cues is of tremendous value. An when you are trying to get athletes into the correct angels and ground contact points in real time knowledge like this is invaluable.
With all that being said about the coaching eye and cues, I wanted to share with you a huge cheat for writing a speed development program. Once again I will state: If you do not possess the eye or the ability to demo what they athlete needs to do then a perfectly written program is only worth the paper it is written on. I can not tell you the number of times a day I have to break down and correct foot placement, joint angels, and stride cycles. So go out there and educate yourself under one of the greats to learn what you don't know.
Below is the cheat table I created that has helped myself and our staff better understand speed development and write some higher-level speed development programs.
When I was coaching at St. Vincent Sports Performance a few years ago I had an obsession with trying to prove what qualities correlated to each phase of speed. Many research articles later I came up with a diagram that looks something like this. As you can see with the diagram you can get pretty in-depth with speed development as it will allow you to break down the qualities your athletes need to posses to achieve high levels of performance a particular speed phase.
While this isn't the end all be all for speed development I have found that it helps our interns, staff members, and myself write better speed development programs. I have also seen much better results in athletes since I have started creating speed programs that are centered around this approach.
I would love to hear feedback!!
1). Baker, Daniel, and Steven Nance. "The Relation Between Running Speed and Measures of Strength and Power in Professional Rugby League Players." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 13.3 (1999): 230-235. Print.
2). Barr, Matt, and Volker Nolte. "Which Measure of Drop Jump Performance Best Predicts Sprinting Speed?." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25.7 (2011): 1976-1982. Print.
3). Cronin, John , and Keir Hansen. "Strength and Power Predictors of Sports Speed." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19.2 (2005): 349-357. Print.
4). Fairchild, B.P., W.E. Amonette, and B.A. Spiering. "Prediction Models of Speed and Agility in NFL Combine Attendees." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25.1 (2011): S96. Print.
5). Green, B., Blake, C., & Caulfield, B. (2011). A Valid Field Test Protocol of Linear Speed and Agility in Rugby Union. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(5), 1256-1262
6). Holm, David, Markus Stalbom, Justin Keogh, and John Cronin. "Relationship Between the Kinetics and Kinematics of a Unilateral Horizontal Drop Jump to Sprint Performance." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22.5 (2008): 1589-1596. Print.
7). Kale, Mehmet, Alper Asci, Coskun Bayrak, and Caner Acikada. "Relationship Among Jumping Performances and Sprint Parameters During Maximum Speed Phase in Sprinters." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23.8 (2009): 2272-2279. Print.
8). Little, Thomas, and Alun Williams. "Specificity of Acceleration, Maximum Speed, and Agility in Professional Soccer Players." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19.1 (2005): 76-78. Print.
9). McCurdy, Kevin, John Walker, George Langford, Matt Kutz, James Guerrero, and Jermey McMillan. "The Relationship Between Kinematic Determinants of Jump and Sprint performance in Division I Women's Soccer Players." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24.12 (2010): 3200-3208. Print.
10). McGuigan, Michael, Timothy Doyle, Michael Newton, Dylan Edwards, Sophia Nimphius, and Robert Newton. "Eccentric Utilization Ratio: Effect of Sport and Phase of Training." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20.4 (2006): 992-995. Print.
11). Nimphius, Sophia, Michael Mcguigan, and Robert Newton. "Relationship Between Strength, Power, Speed, and Change of Direction Performance of Female Softball Players." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24.4 (2010): 885-895. Print.
12). Serpell, B., Ford, M., & Young, W. (2010). The Development of A New Test of Agility For Rugby League. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(12), 3270-3277.
13). Shalfawi, Shaher , Ammar Sabbah, Ghazi Kailani, Espen Tonnessen, and Eystein Enoksen. "The Relationship Between Running Speed And Measures of Vertical Jump In Professional Basketball Players: A Field-Test Approach." The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25.11 (2011): 3088-3092. Print.
14). Sheppard, J.M., W.B. Young, T.L.A. Doyle, T.A. Sheppard, and R.U. Newton. "An Evaluation of a New Test of Reactive Agility and its Relationship to Sprint Speed and Change of Direction Speed." Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 9 (2006): 342-349. Print.
15). Young, W., Cormack, S., & Crichton, M. (2011). Which Jump Variables Should Be Used to Assess Explosive Leg Muscle Function?. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 6, 51-57.