The Need for Speed

By Alex Hoffmann on July, 22 2020

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

Everyone, especially athletes, yearn for speed, o help improve their odds against their competition.  Speed offers a lot of perks, regardless of your training objective.  It will help you burn more energy and lose weight faster, as well as improve your odds of remaining healthy by improving dexterity and coordination. It also helps athletes set themselves apart from their competitors.  But the decades long question still remains, how in the world do I improve my speed?  

The best way to illustrate how speed works is to view the skill as an end result of the collection of a number of skills or abilities.  If you acknowledge this fact and then devise or follow a specific roadmap designed for speed development, than you will make your life a thousand times easier in both the short-term and long-term and remove an abundance of frustration and setbacks in the process.  So, the next question becomes, what are these unique capabilities that need to mastered in order to run faster?  Here is a breakdown of all the elements which help build speed:

  1. Power
  2. Strength
  3. Speed
  4. Coordination-Balance
  5. Muscle Size-Cross sectional area
  6. Conditioning levels
  7. Programming
  8. Recovery
  9. Nutrition
  10. Agility
  11. Flexibility/Mobility
  12. Injury History-Health
  13. Motivational Levels
  14. Coaching
  15. External factors (schedule, school, stress, etc.)
  16. Technique
  17. Genetics

So, there you have your big puzzle of speed and all the pieces you need to fit together simultaneously in order to maximize your speed to the absolute highest degree possible.  The word simultaneously is huge and is a word that depicts the current state of the industry.  The common pattern in the arena of speed development is to gear laser focus and hype towards one piece of this large puzzle and neglect all the others. 

Ultimately, this leaves the athlete at a severe disadvantage and they will never realize their true physical potential with this mindset.  Instead the focus should be on adopting a simultaneous model of speed development, also known as “Concurrent Periodization” and find an approach that can satisfy all of these elements, yet still apply more focus on one area in individuals that require that type of customization after an evaluation process is performed.  In the end you get all the desired benefits without all of the adverse effects that come with a cookie cutter or simplistic approach to speed training that has shown to fail in some shape or form time and time again and always will.

I don’t want to cover everything in this blog and we will be sure to comprehensively address each element over the course of subsequent blog posts, but we will touch on a few of the most pressing speed topics to position you for success right away in this article.  These are also the ones that still for whatever reason are under the radar, more than likely because they are still misunderstood or still carry with them a negative background limiting their acceptance on a larger scale.  However, over time and with enough results and buy-in the paradigm will shift in the right direction and position everyone in the best position possible for success and level the playing field.

 

Power

Power is the product of speed x strength of our muscular contractions.  In other words, it is how much force we can generate and how fast we can generate that force that will dictate how fast we can run.  Power is really that simple.  Studies on the top 3 sprinters in the world at the time, which includes: Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, and Asafa Powell, clearly indicated that these 3 sat at the highest point on the power curve with Bolt of course being the clear run-away winner back in Berlin when he set the world record! 

It’s simple physics that we are neglecting and power is a skill you or anyone can improve on a routine basis regardless of your experience or genetics if you training the right way at the right times according to science.  And I’m going to show you how to do just that.  Moreover, you will learn exactly what methods and techniques are the best according to consistent real-world evidence for improving power which is the primary skill for improving your running speed and influencing most other elements.  Honestly, if you were to just maximize your power and remove all other elements you could still considerably reduce your running speed!  That’s how much of an effect power can have for you, and there is still a culture of people who are unaware of this information, let along know how to develop it quickly and safely. 

 

Technique

If you were to go up and ask a random parent, athlete, or coach what they thought the most important attribute for sprinting was they would 9 times out of 10 tell you that technique without question was the basis for faster running speed in humans.  And guess what?  They would be dead wrong!  Why?  Well because I just informed you that power was the lead-runner in performance and will without a doubt give you the biggest return on investment. 

Moreover, you will often see individuals with absolutely despicable acceleration and speed mechanics flaunt incredible times because power gives them the ability to not only overcome technical deficiencies but they are putting more energy into the ground which allows them to propel their body forward with each and ever step.  It’s really that simple folks.  Of course, there is more to the puzzle that will influence your total speed, but I want to really hammer home the message that technique takes a far backseat to power. 

Lastly, you wont even be able to perform the mere dozen sprint techniques more effectively unless you possess high levels of power.  So what this means is that as you develop more power you will see your body become much more efficient in using energy and any technical issue that you were demonstrating will start to rapidly clear up!

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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