Speed and Strength Training
The speed and strength with which skill is delivered is what determines the level of play. There is a major connection between speed and the weight room, and strength training should not be neglected.
Aside from the injury management element by developing the skeletal muscle to reinforce the joints and endure the stresses of physical competition, resistance training is essential to improving an athlete’s speed.
If speed is stride length times stride frequency, and stride length depends greatly on leg length, then stride frequency development becomes a major focus. Turnover and rapid, controlled acceleration and deceleration require muscular strength.
Muscles like the iliopsoas, the most powerful hip flexor in the body, need attention. The quad itself is comprised of four muscles and the hamstring is comprised of three muscles. All of the quad, hamstring and hip flexor muscles are responsible for getting things up, down and around. A lack of strength in these muscles directly translates to a lack of speed.
Strength programs should be designed to create a strength balance throughout the entire body. Dexterity is crucial for athletes, as the non-dominant side must be as thoroughly developed as the dominant side, especially for rotational athletes like volleyball, golf, baseball and softball players. Oftentimes the anterior side gets too much focus, so in general the posterior is left needing to be addressed.
Pay particularly close attention to strengthening the muscles involved in two critical athletic movements:
- Deceleration – specifically the braking mechanics of the athlete
- Landing – as from a jump
The quads and hamstrings need to be able to withstand a high volume of eccentric load. They must be strong enough to absorb the impact and keep the joints from being over extended.
There is no such thing as injury prevention, there is only injury reduction. We may not be able to address certain factors such as Q angle, hormonal influences, field or court conditions or opponent behavior, however proper strength training can help mitigate injuries and better prepare athletes for competition. If we address these issues in the weight room or on the practice field/court then our athletes will be safer and will perform better. Two things we all want!
Understanding the importance of strength training for the benefit of speed is a step toward comprehensive athletic development.