Whether the sport is field hockey, basketball, football, soccer, baseball, or any other sport that involves speed and agility the training modalities used have similar principles. There is no 100% correct way to train an athlete because every individual is different and requires different cues, drills, and has various strengths and weaknesses that need to be improved upon. Over the 15 years, I have been in the fitness industry there are countless myths floating around about strength training and speed training. I thought I would share some of the myths that I have heard over the years from coaches, parents, and athletes.
1. Flexibility won’t help you get faster. Most individuals want to focus on the various drills or strength training when it comes to athletes, however they neglect the importance of flexibility and active recovery methods. Before an athlete evens gets prepared for a game, practice, or training session, they should perform an active warm-up in which they go through a series of exercises to loosen up and activate the muscles that are going to be used in the next few hours. After practice or a game, the muscles are warm and loose. Now is the time to work on increasing flexibility. So many athletes suffer injuries or compete below their capacity because poor flexibility inhibits their range of motion and speed. We see this often in the hips and hip flexors where athletes’ stride length appears conspicuously short. Most often we see this in male athletes who will lift weights, train hard and then skip out on their cool down and flexibility work.
2. Interval training is the same as speed training. Running distances or repeat 100s, 200s, etc will not improve top speeds. Even running repeat 40s with short recovery will not improve acceleration and top speeds. Speed work is defined at 2-8 seconds of maximal intensity running with full recovery. That means at least 2 minutes of light dynamic movement between each effort. This goes against the experience of some coaches, but simply put, is the only way to improve speed. An athlete must be able to focus on proper form and maintain intensity in order to get faster. If they do not recover properly from each interval, they will not be able to replicate proper mechanics with consistency and they can not improve.
3. You can’t train speed. For some reason it is a popular belief that you are born with a certain amount of ‘speed’ and you can’t improve it. This is completely off base and has no merit to it whatsoever. Most young athletes are so physically weak and mechanically out of tune that significant improvements in speed can be made often just by working on technique and form. Athletes at any age and any level can improve speed when implementing a complete speed training program designed to improve and develop the entire athlete.
4. Training slow makes you fast. I do not believe coaches directly think this way, but their training implies otherwise. This is especially true in sports that involve a higher aerobic element such as soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, etc. I see kids out running mileage and doing long slow intervals of several minutes of continuous running. And this will get them in shape. But in games I see kids jogging, jogging and then sprinting at full speed for 20-30 yards, run, jog, sprint for 20-30 yards. If you want kids to improve their acceleration and top speed so they can get to the ball faster or get back on defense, then you have to train by running at full speed in practice.
5. You can train at maximal effort every day. The workout itself is only a piece of the training puzzle. It is the time between intense workouts, the recovery, where athletes make their improvements. And generally it takes 36-48 hours to recover from high intensity training. If athletes are doing too much, too often they become overtrained. Coaches can expect to see an increase in injuries, kids complaining that they are sore more often, decreased performance, higher levels of fatigue earlier in games. It’s always better to under train an athlete than over train. Err on the side of caution to get maximal results.
I am sure there are many more myths out there that individuals have come up with, but these are a few of my favorites. If you are an athlete and are partaking in any of these above myths, please seek a CERTIFIED TRAINED PROFESSIONAL who is known for getting REAL results. As with any industry there are Great and Not so Great trainers out there, make sure you get one of the GREAT ONES.