Athletes are constantly seeking to gain an advantage over their opponents, and speed often marks the line between success and failure. As athletes, most of you are well aware of the importance of speed in your sport.
You are probably familiar with workouts to get faster that involve sprints and change-of-direction drills. These are extremely effective ways for athletes to get faster. But athletes sometimes miss out on other areas of their speed training. They might be amazing in a specific drill, but when it comes to performance on the field, they fall behind.
Here are two things I commonly see missing from workouts to get faster.
1. Central Nervous System Training
Sports are rarely played in straight line sprints. Athletic competition is a series of stop-wait-assess-and-explode situations. Major aspects of speed and quickness in athletics are the ability to read & react to a situation and the foresight to think a step ahead.
Proprioception is knowing where all parts of your body are in space without having to look. Examples include scratching your head without looking in the mirror and walking up a flight of stairs without looking down at each stair.
Taken as a whole, proprioception includes balance, coordination and agility. The body's proprioceptors control those factors. Proprioceptors consist of both sensory and motor nerves, which send and receive impulses to and from the central nervous system. These impulses transmit vital information, such as the amount of tension in a given muscle and the relative position of a body part during a given movement.
Awaken your proprioceptors before training and after your dynamic warm-up by incorporating balance training into your program. Wobble board, balance pads and exercises like Single-Leg Squats with your eyes closed can improve your proprioceptors.
Because you will know instinctively where your body parts are, you will become a more efficient mover and will waste less energy on movements that aren't productive for speed. Plus, better proprioception will help you fend off injuries.
2. Unilateral Weight Training
Most sports are played on one leg regardless of the surface, and most require constant change of direction. Because so much time is spent transferring weight from one foot to the other, creating muscular balance in each leg requires training the legs individually. Although single-leg training doesn't use the heavy weights of double-leg training, it can still help you get extremely strong.
Single-leg exercises create balanced strength on both sides of your body. This ensures that you are equally fast and powerful off each leg, so you can expect to move your fastest in any direction. Also, creating balanced strength minimizes injury.
Although single-leg training is generally not considered part of traditional speed workouts, it's an incredibly important area and should not be ignored.
Here are some single-leg exercises I use with my athletes.
- Multi-Directional Lunges (forward, back, lateral, crossover) - 3x15 each leg
- Box Step-Ups - 3x20 each leg
- Single-Leg Squat Variations - 3x15 each leg
- Single-Leg Hip Thrusts - 2x25 each leg
These two changes in your approach to speed training can help you get better on-field results, developing speed that will transfer from the gym to the playing surface.
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