I am a firm believer that speed can be improved. Anyone looking to improve speed, if you can get them stronger I feel you got a great shot to getting them faster.
Yes, it is a little more complex than just getting them stronger. There certainly are some strategies involved with that. But, typically if your athlete gets stronger than speed can come.
And I’m going to provide actual data to illustrate my point.
As many of you know, my daughter Anna is a competitive sprinter at the high school level. I’ve had the pleasure of using her as a guinea pig for my theories. Sometimes she is an unwilling participant, but more often than naught the results have been pretty encouraging.
I for one don’t think that track runners (sprinters especially) should just assume they are going to get faster naturally as they get older. Take control of your own destiny and do what you can to get yourself faster which means look at getting stronger. That way you are putting yourself in the best position possible to improve your speed.
The hex bar deadlift is one exercise I have used with Anna and my athletes to get them faster. Anna has qualified for the indoor state meet the last two years in the 60M dash. You have to get up to speed quickly. Thus, you need to exert a lot of force fast.
Here are the weights Anna has done the last three years and her corresponding PR for the 60M for that year. These deadlift weights are the max weight she has done for 2-3 reps:
- Freshman Year – 150 lbs., 8.34 for the 60M
- Sophomore Year – 190 lbs., 8.03 for the 60M
- Junior Year – 220 lbs., 7.87 for the 60M
The faster you become, the improvement gets smaller, but it is still an improvement nonetheless. Just .07 seconds faster and she would have made the finals of the 60M at the state meet this past March.
So if next year she improves by just .1 seconds then it could possibly put her in a good position to make finals.
The other component that needs to be discussed is health. You need to stay healthy and even the smallest thing could throw your development off.
Anna popped off a 7.91 in the 60M January 11. She didn’t beat that until the state meet on March 7 with the 7.87.
Two reasons for that:
- She had a muscle strain that caused us to back off a bit from the heavier weights during the indoor season. This happened end of December. Typically, we continue the strength development all through indoor season. Because we didn’t want to flare the injury up, we switched it to explosive lifting only (lighter weight and faster speed).
- She got a touch of the flu which caused her to miss a meet one week. It also zapped her of some strength and conditioning taking a few weeks to get back up to speed.
Both of those could have caused a slight stall in the progression plan for her sprinting that season. Maybe if the strength had continued during the season and the flu had been avoided there would have been even more improvement on that 60M time.
I wrote a post on deadlifts a few years ago and how it improves speed. The bottom line is that it is not just about improving your strength on the deadlift, but it is improving your strength to bodyweight ratio.
The higher that ratio is then the better chance your athlete will get some real speed.
Both of these components should seem like no-brainers, but wanted to put a little data in context with it. Maybe it becomes more attainable now for you. With everything going on right now, staying healthy is that much more important. Plan accordingly so that you can have a great season regardless of what the conditions might be.