Chasing Greatness

The Complete Speed Training Newsletter # 69

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Due to the time contraints that come from coaching and working
on new projects, I’ll be scaling back the frequency in which
I publish the Complete Speed Training Newsletter. I haven’t
made an official decision, but I’m thinking that I will put
out a fresh newsletter probably once or twice per month.

It takes hours to go through the mountain of questions that
come in, answer them and create fresh content each and every

That being said, those of you who like to stay on the cutting
edge of speed training and athletic development will not be

Stay tuned to emails from Patrick and I in the coming weeks to
find out exactly what I mean!

NOTE: In order to continue receiving your Complete Speed
Training Newsletter, you MUST be registered at:

Athletes’ Acceleration

Even if you’ve been receiving the newsletter in the past, I
will only be sending it out to those of you confirmed at that website.

So don’t delay in submitting your request!

Next, if you are a Complete Speed Training customer, please use your
consult! With so many questions coming in each day, I can’t
differentiate a ‘customer’ question from the others so that is
the best way to get your specific questions answered in great

Finally, if you do send in questions, the best way to get
noticed is by putting the topic of your question in the subject
line. There is a much greater chance I will open an email with
a specific subject than one that does not.

You can also post your questions here on the blog. With less
competition here, it’s much easier to get noticed!!

One of our readers, Jesse, sent in the following

“‘m sure you’ve heard by now either through the media or maybe
during the many hours of pregame before the “Big Game” on
Sunday that the two teams that made it to the championship
game were the two lightest teams, on average, in the NFL.
In my local paper they went on to say that this year was the
first year since 1995, I read it over a week ago, that several
teams have actually gotten lighter. I think you get my point.
Its what you guys and many others have been saying for some
time now~Speed Kills and wins Championships.”

Great point. So many football players focus on the hypertrophe
work that adds mass and bulk, but makes them slower.

Barry Ross talks about why this strategy isn’t conducive to success
in his incredible book ‘Underground Secrets to Faster Running.’

If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly suggest you check it out.

First, here is a great article he wrote. It’s not specific to
this question, but his ideas later in the article relate to why
‘less is more’ when it comes to the relationship between speed,
strength and body weight.

Also, here is the direct link to check out his book:

OK, let’s get straight to the ‘Q & A!’

Even though the following two questions are about different
sports, I’m grouping them together because of the similarity
of the answers.

It’s a great example of the commonality between sports and
the movements required to be successful.

Q: …What I can do to help my kids with their 40 yards times for

Q: I coach a sprinter that comes up too quickly at the sound
of the gun…any suggestions?
-Andrew W.

A: Though the starting mechanics of the 40 and the sprint start
differ, the result is often the same. The event starts and athletes
pop right up.

Right off the bat, this is a strength issue. ‘Staying low’ at
the start of a race or 40 is all about creating ideal shin angles
with the ground. The ability to hold this position depends on
the strength of the athlete couple with aggressively driving the
foot down and back.

(As a side note, this is why I don’t teach starting blocks to
athletes before they are introduced to the weight room. So
my athletes usually don’t get to use blocks until maybe the end
of their Freshman year, possibly their sophomore year.)

From there, it is about developing a consistent drive phase. Now
some coaches argue there is no such thing as a ‘drive phase’ and
I can see that point. For young athletes we don’t really need to
get that technical.

The point is that athletes must learn to consistently accelerate
powerfully and efficiently as the accelerate to top speed. That
means learning how to run and improving the ability to run the
same way (the right way) every time. Once athletes develop
this consistency along with improving absolute strength, they
will run a faster 40, or naturally ‘stay low’ out of the blocks.

Whenever you see an elite football player run the 40 or great
sprinter out of the blocks, they look smooth. They run powerfully,
but pretty and the whole thing looks natural. It’s because they
have developed consistency in the patterning of their running.

Remember, telling athletes to ‘stay low’ is a horrible cue. I’m
sure you’ve seen the results: kids running completely vertical
5 steps from the start, but with their head down looking at the

‘Staying low’ happens naturally as a result of the aforementioned
ideas. The upper body should unfold naturally as athletes
become vertical, it shouldn’t be forced.

Here is an article on setting up the starting blocks that will
help your sprinters:

Q: Am an athelete coach in Uganda, Africa. my inquiry; Gym and
plyometric work stresses the nervous system. so does speed work.
My question though is that does harness running (elastic rubber
tube strapped around the waist with partner trying to hold the
athlete back as they try to sprint) which is resistance training
have the same effect as the above mentioned. or can it be done the
day after a speed work out.

A: When doing the resistance work, if an athlete is running at
full intensity, then this will tax the CNS. This is speed work
and the resistance runs are simply the same as a regular full
intensity sprint.

I can’t think of any reason an athlete would do harness work at
less than full speed, so this would be a substitute for or part of
a regular speed workout and should be treated the same because
it is the same. So don’t do it the day after a speed workout any
more than you would do 2 speed days in a row. (There are some
exceptions to this rule.)

Also, when possible, use a shoulder harness as opposed to
resistance only at the waist. This way athletes can run ‘hips
tall’ and won’t be bent at the waist which often happens
when not using the shoulder harness.

Q: I do have a question about lifting weights for youth [say
ages 11-13] is it safe ,is it beneficial , can lifting stunt
growth or do bone damage. I listen to quiet a lot of different
ideas on this can you enlighten some? Thanks
– Duane S.

A: In 99.9% of situations I don’t start athletes lifting weights
until they are 14. Until that time, they will benefit significantly
from body weight exercises and core training. You can
teach proper lifting technique of traditional lifts like the
squat, deadlift and clean (I just do the high pull with young
kids) by using a broom stick instead of weighted bar.

When the
y get older and are physically ready for weight, they
will be miles ahead of their untrained peers.

The problem with weight training is that for it to be effective
athletes must go heavy. But the loading that comes from heavy
weights can hurt athletes and potentially stunt growth. The bad
outweighs the good. Athletes shouldn’t be lifting to gain size
at this age, so ‘light weights’ is pointless. Use bodyweight
exercises and circuits until high school and you’ll see
plenty of positive results.

Q: How much of the Complete Speed training techniques might be
applicable to young children (8-10 yrs old)? What portions would
you consider implementing for soccer players of this age? Do you
have or can you recommend other techniques more age appropriate if
this program is not?
Thanks, Ed

A: Other than the strength training and advanced plyos, they can
do anything in the program. The difference in mindset comes from
you as the coach/parent, etc. Kids this age don’t really need
organized, detailed training. They need to just be kids.

What you should do if you want to give them the edge is teach them
the right ways to move and react, work on their coordination,
introduce the speed drills and running mechanics that facilitate
speed. Better to teach them good habits now than force them to
unlearn bad habits later. This will put them at an incredible
advantage over their peers who are just running around crazy
with no thought, ingraining bad form and technique into their
neuromuscular systems with every step.

The important thing is to keep the instruction simple, workouts/
practices short and keep things fun by making it a game. There
should be no winning or losing or competition, just positive

Q:. I am looking after a Women’s Basketball Team preparing
them for a Aust Basketball League which commences March 10.
So far they have been working on endurance with some explosive
work (hills., stairs) plus incorporated active recovery days
(pool sessions, light training). The girls are now involved
in 2 sessions a week of team training, a club game, fartlek
training and hills/stair training. I am looking for help to
develop the 5 week preparation prior to the commencement of
the League. Should I do some speed work on the track by way
of sprints e.g. 400, 300, 200, 100, 50 or should it be more
shorter explosive sprints. I look forward to hearing your
thoughts on all this and learning. Kind Regards, Raelene

A: I would start to phase out the hill and stair training and
focus more on acceleration and speed endurance. I don’t like
to go crazy with the stair work because I find tha the pounding
often results in shin and knee problems.

But in basketball athletes are engaging in constant short
bursts of speed, often in a state of fatigue. So they should
train under these conditions. Of course they need to learn how
to accelerate when they aren’t tired before doing the speed
end. work while they are. But with the practices, game and
fartlek runs, they’re getting endurance training.

I would alternate the fartlek runs with the interval work on
the track. Also, when you say ‘some speed work on the track by way
of sprints e.g. 400, 300, 200, 100, 50’, none of those distances
(except the 50) qualify as speed work. At the pace they would
run these distances, at best it would qualify as intensive
tempo and, for the sake of simplicity, these would be considered

But by looking at all their training so far, the specificity
is underdeveloped. They need speed endurance.

Q: I have heard that stretching before training or competition
weakens the muscle. Is this correct?? Should we only stretch after

A: Excessive static stretching before performing any explosive
movement can reduce power output by up to 20%, depending on the
study that you read. This is temporary, but long enough to ruin
your ability to accomplish the task/s at hand.

You can do some light stretching before your dynamic warm up,
but save the static stretching for after your warm down which
comes after your practice or competition. That’s where you’ll
improve your range of motion.

Q:I have one question: I have a 11 yr old girl, she is flexible,
can do splits all the way to the ground, touch her foot on her
head etc… but she can not run, its like she runs in slow
motion. Is there anything that can help?
Thanks, Kim

A: Yes. Stop doing so much flexibility work. There is such thing
as being too flexible. Ultimately, athletes only need to be flexible
enough to go through the range of motion required in sprinting.
The fastest sprinters, male and female, usually have good range of
motion, but are would a little bit tight.

Speed, in large part, comes from storing and releasing elastic
energy. When an athlete is excessively flexible, that ability is
diminished and so they run slow, spending a lot of time on the

Though it is an oversimplification of the process, if you keep
stretching a rubber band, eventually it becomes too loose to
be of any value. It will no longer recoil when stretched and
so you won’t be able to fling it very far. You can think of
your muscles in a similar way.

Q: I was planning on working out the boys on this type schedule
M-W-F speed training and plyometrics
T-T weight training and agility drills

After reading one of your news letters on strength training maybe
I should reverse the schedule? Since strength will increase speed.
– Thanks, Emmit

A: Weight training should be done on your speed days. Though
agility work is potentialy as taxing as speed work. Also, in
my experience, speed work M,W,F is going to be too much to
maintain over time. They’ll start to break down.

Also, 2 days per week should be plenty for plyos.

YOur set up could look more like this if agility is as important
as linear speed:

Week 1:

M,F: speed/plyos/weights
W: agility/weights
T,Th: recovery/tempo, technique

Q: Quick question– I remember reading that following a substantial
hamstring strain/tear, you recommend doing some light form runs to
help break down the scar tissue. My questions are how long should
the runs be, at what degree of intensity, and do you recomend a
dynamic warmup (if so, the standard warmup movements you guys
prescribe?) before starting? Any advice you can give would be greatly
appreciated. Thanks.
-Jim R.

A: I do. This is something I learned from Charlie Francis and
when I first read it I was a bit skeptical. I had chronic hamstring
problems as an athlete and I always babied it back from injury so
I thought that putting any stress on it before it was 100% was crazy.
However, I used it with athletes to great success.

I wouldn’t call them light form runs (I don’t believe in ‘form
running’ by the way) I call them regular accelerations over short
distances. Maybe I should call them ‘sprints’ so as not to
undervalue the intensity. I start out by doing 1 set of 10 x 10m

Go as fast as you can handle. Remember it’s only 10m so you won’t
be able to get going fast enought to put serious stress on your
leg. If everything goes OK, we’ll try to add another half or full
set. Once that becomes easy/pain free, we’ll do 1-3 sets of
10 x 15m. From there I think you see the progression. We’re still
getting our regular sprint volume
in, we’re just keeping the
distances short to avoid undue stress.

Of course I recommend doing a dynamic warmup, though I would stay
away from any hamstring dominant exercises, particularly early
in the warm up, until feeling loose, you have a light sweat
going, etc.


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