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The Most Important Word in Speed Training

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The Most Important Word in Speed Training

We have heard Dan Pfaff talk about acceleration being a complicated neuromuscular equation.

We have heard Boo Schexnayder say acceleration is about finding the ‘resonant frequency of oscillary patterns’ in terms of developing and improving the efficiency of locomotive mechanics.

We heave heard Gary Winckler say, “90% of speed development is technique.”

We once heard Will Smith talk about understanding how the universe works by ‘studying the patterns.’

Well, I’ve been studying the patterns, and, in doing so, one fact has become overwhelmingly clear:

Our athletes will be faster when they develop this quality.

Our athletes will be more explosive and powerful when they develop this quality.

Our athletes will be on the board (instead of over and behind) and won’t trip over hurdles (or themselves) when they develop this quality.

Our athletes will consistently hit their times during tempo runs and race modeling sessions once they develop more of this quality.

So, if all I’ve said here is true, then what is the most important word in all of speed training?

Coordination.

Everything we do in practice is designed to improve the ability to express technique in order to positively influence performance. An athlete’s inability to express said technique simply boils down to lack of specific coordination.

Of course, we didn’t invent this concept. We heard Gary Winckler talk about it. Then thought about it. Then stole it. Now here we are.

Here’s an example. We ran the exact same workout with two different athletes.

One was a 16 year old high schooler with a 200m PR of 26.1. The other was a 22 year old post collegiate with a 200m PR of 24.7.

The high schooler has been doing consistent technical work all summer and fall, going back and forth between me and another great sprints coach, Marc Mangiacotti. 

In our last session, she looked incredible. Her bad runs are now vastly superior to what good runs looked like in June. She can break down her own technique before I say anything which, to me, is a sign of wildly improved kinesthetic awareness and skill acquisition. Her confidence is light years ahead of where it was 6 months ago. I’m very proud of her and can’t wait to see her reap the rewards of her hard work.

The post collegiate, on the other hand, comes from a (Division I) college program that did absolutely no technical work, no speed work and sent 200m specialists out for 30 minute runs on a routine basis even in the middle of the competitive phase. She came from a good high school program (cough, cough), so that’s roughly the last time this athlete had good technical instruction (a 25.02 HS PR vs 24.71 collegiate PR is not a comforting improvement over the course of 4 years at the D-1 level).

Needless to say, this athlete was some sort of Hot Mess. She could feel it wasn’t right.

It wasn’t lack of effort or focus. And it sure wasn’t lack of ability. It was pure lack of coordination.

She lacked ('lost' might be a better word) the strength (coordination training under resistance), endurance (coordination training under event specific time constraints), speed (coordination training to express highest force in the least amount of time and resulting in optimal displacement) and mobility (coordination training to dynamically express forces through desired/required ranges of motion) to accelerate to top speed and maintain that velocity with any semblance of efficiency or consistency of execution.

Once she acquires the coordination that the high schooler currently possesses, we know one thing for sure, she won't be grinding to dip under the times she ran when she was 16.

Our point is pretty simple. If you want to run a 21st Century program, it’s not enough to just run fast in practice. As coaches we have to have our own process for solving the acceleration equation. And, just as importantly, we have to be able to help our athletes solve it themselves. Because we can’t cue them or engage in technical feedback once the gun goes off. Their success fundamentally depends on the ability to feel what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ and make corrections in real time, under the stress of competition and with 6-7 other athletes trying to beat them. Or with a crowd of people staring at them while they barrell down the runway.

It’s not enough to send kids into the weight room if you don’t have the same technical standards for a squat or clean as you do for coming out of blocks or doing phase work in the triple jump.

But if you reframe your training perspective with coordination being the ultimate goal and strength, speed, endurance and mobility being interdependent qualities, it will be easier to connect the dots between movements, event groups and specific skill development.

At your next practice, watch your athletes perform all the drills and exercises that make up their practice with this concept of ‘coordination as the ultimate goal’ in mind. It will be both liberating and overwhelming at the same time.

 


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27 Comments

  • Nick says:

    Good words. Where r u n Milwaukee?

  • David Oliverio says:

    Wow! This is pure genius! My whole concept of speed has changed!

  • Chuck B. says:

    When are you coming to the Washington, DC area?

  • godwin says:

    nice stuff. thank you

  • Anthony Wallace says:

    The Truth! D1 Coaches are not always good. I coached an high school athlete to 24.85…It took her to get a new coach and put those same concepts back into place for her to surpass that. O yeah GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY SPRINT COACH IS THE TRUTH. WATCHOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Greg Allan says:

    I am simply trying to find out information about the training camp that you have made mention of this summer in New England. (Marc Mangiaeotti &??)

    Greg

  • Steven Beary says:

    Dear Latif –

    My father was both a medical doctor and a mechanical engineer. Needless to say, he understodd quite a bit about biomechanics, well before it became popular.

    Back in the 70’s, when I ran high school track, he told me that the key to success in ANY athletic endeavor was coordination, and he had me doing all kinds of things that everyone else thought was “crazy”. While I was a reasonably talented overall athlete, the results I achieved couldn’t be explained by my level of talent alone (9.7 100 yard HS PR in 1973).

    Based on my personal experience, you are clearly on the right track (no pun intended), and all your other “stuff” is right on, as well.

    Keep up the great work, and don’t let the “inertia thinking” of the “coaching” status quo stand in your way !

  • philip green says:

    This article has inspired me to get off of my “keester” and seek out a D-1 coach in my area whom I can shadow for a couple weeks during their indoor training preparation cycle and see how they have incorporated acceleration, coordination, power, strength training into their routine.

  • godwin says:

    this is good.
    thank you

  • Latif Thomas, Athletes' Acceleration says:

    Greg Allan: No details yet as we’re still working on the curriculum and other ‘administrative’ details. But not to worry, as soon as I have information, I’ll send out an email. But I’ll announce it early as I know people will want to have time to make travel arrangements.

  • Brian says:

    My daughters are developmental track runners and I purchased your CST2 program so I can begin training them. My question is: Being that they are new to track and field, “middle school age”, how should I select their training program being I don’t know if they are short or long sprinters? I don’t want to specialize them at this point, do you have any suggestions on how to proceed with their developement.
    On another note with respects to your three different types of warm up (located in your book) do you suggest I do all three of the drills or spilt them up in practice, thank you for any reply.
    Brian

  • Latif Thomas, Athletes' Acceleration says:

    Brian: Don’t specialize them. Just teach them how to sprint and give them a base of coordination and speed and power (as opposed to endurance training). When they get older, they can specialize based on ability and preference.

    In terms of warmups, I would not do all of them in one day. Do one warm up for each practice depending on the type of work out you’re having the kids do.

  • Britney Matthews says:

    my manager Mr. Hill always telling me I overstride, i dont understand. I broke the under 15 record 0f 12:53 in the 100m last year, but he keep telling me about newtons law and a-run please shed some light on the matter

  • Brian says:

    Hey thanks for the reply to my question. I have another question for you, how can I determine my athletes percentage rate?
    Thanks man,
    Brian

  • Latif Thomas, Athletes' Acceleration says:

    Brian: multiply their fastest time at that distance x 100 and divide by the percent you want them to run. so a 26.0 200m @ 75% = 2600 divided by 75

  • austrian87 says:

    OMG much bullshit here i mean.

    The most important word in sprinting is SPEED!!!!!

    The 2nd most important word is POWER !

    The 3rd and 4th most important words are “right training”

  • Thomas says:

    Dear Latif, as owner (customer from the Netherlands) of CST, since I couple of years, the speed drills like A-March, A-drills etc. as taught on the videos are excellent warm ups for achilles tendons too. However, although it appears that your programs gear a little more toward (high) school athletes, how about masters athletes. I have a very urgent question, because this topic I have never seen covered by any program, like yours, or Barry Ross’ or alike: What should you do for calves/achilles strength work? What do you do if any of your athletes gets injured. I have already done so much, like Alfredsons Heavy load eccentric. And I think my calves strength is decent, being able to eccentric load with additional 70kg, single leg. Or, 150kg standing calf raises. And I never have swollen tendons, because I stop, when it starts to hurt. But nowadays I can not even make it to simple 10m or 20m accelerations. Please help!!! Thank you very much in advance. Thomas

  • Owen says:

    So, coordination is key, but what are the best ways to train it?

  • Agreed! And it is all so simple. Yes, I can look at my sprinters and see that they are the most coordinated (and sometimes the biggest “slackers”). Thanks for this simple post.

  • bob says:

    Yes, I agree with Owen, what is the best way to teach coordination? What are the best drills? I have a 12 yr old boy that consistantly has foot-strike behind his hip and I’m trying to get him to raise his knees and toes upward when he strides. Any suggestions?

  • Chuck S says:

    I’d like to hear how the post-collegiate progressed.

  • Coach B says:

    Latif,

    I’ve been coaching for 15 years and have many tapes and books been to USATF coaching clinics and not one of them really explained the preseason thru championship season microcycle training like ‘Building the Perfect 100m Sprinter’by Marc Mangiacotti. I quickly implemented these into my training program. These are a must have if you are serious about your athletes and program.

    Thanks

    Coach B
    Buffalo, NY

  • Dustan Everman says:

    I’d be interested in how many athletes austrian87 has developed. It is easy to be in a D-I program (or similar situation) where 100 or 150 athletes show up and you run the heck out of them until the “cream rises to the top” and you have 15 or 20 good performing athletes left. That’s not coaching — that’s TRAINING, which is not the same thing. I’ve listened to those “the-reason-I’m-not-successful-is because I never get any talent” coaches for the most of the 50 years I’ve been coaching. And not much will change, either, if they are so dismissive of the great results of coaches like Latif or Marc.

  • Werner(SouthAfrica) says:

    One realizes the lack of coordination when you see the kids do drills, A-march, A-skip, etc. When you slow it down they struggle to get one leg in front of the other. This is one way to identify the “real” sprinters. Even the younger kids that are natural sprinters have better coordination then the older athletes. So, my advice is to conduct a full drill session every week. And remember to start slow and only progress when the athlete has “mastered” it at that pace. It takes years to get it right, so be patient.

  • Griff says:

    great clinic in marlboro this year, thanks for the info and tell Marc, Griff from said hello

  • Steve says:

    Hey Latif:

    The “older” guy here from the IYCA Summit. Love your stuff (ought to, since I have all of it!). I would like to echo Owen’s question: “what are the best ways to train coordination?” From your article you write (very well, BTW): “…strength (coordination training under resistance), endurance (coordination training under event specific time constraints), speed (coordination training to express highest force in the least amount of time and resulting in optimal displacement) and mobility (coordination training to dynamically express forces through desired/required ranges of motion…” From your series of definitions would you train one attribute at a time or can two or more be trained concurrently? I know that is a big question and is worthy of several posts, but an application example would be helpful. Would you offer a shadow program for an “old fart?” Thanks! Steve

  • Awesome. I have just turned age 70 and want to win gold at the NZ national championships this coming season. ( Oct-Mar ) I am going to train by running 500m x 4 on Mondays. 250m x 6 on Wednedays and 100m x 8 on Fridays. I hope to run the 100M 200m and 400m in competition. I am a new, naive and fresh competitor. I will keep you posted. What aree the THREE most important factors I need to include in my training programme?

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