Game speed is all about getting the job done when it matters most. A good old fashioned, blue-collar approach is to build speed endurance, a performance attribute that outlasts pure speed.
Your opponents may be fast out of the gate, but speed endurance allows you to outrun them in the last leg of a race or the final quarter of a game.
Peak speed endurance ensures that your muscles fire and produce maximum force, resulting in optimum speed levels from the moment the clock starts until the final seconds tick off on the scoreboard.
Even if your sprint form is flawless (efficient stride length and frequency), or you have exceptional reactive abilities, poor speed endurance negatively impacts your mechanics. According to Tom Kanavy, Minnesota Vikings strength and conditioning coach, "If [athletes] fatigue late in the game, often times they compromise proper body position and running mechanics, causing their movements to be inefficient."
To enhance speed endurance, be "consistently inconsistent with your speed training," says performance expert Danny Arnold. For example, training for pure speed is best done at the beginning of a workout, because your body is fresh and your muscles can fire on all cylinders. This is great if you're preparing to run the 40-Yard Dash, but it doesn't accurately simulate game conditions.
Think about it. Except for the opening minutes of a game, your body experiences some level of fatigue. Arnold says, "If you want to duplicate what actually happens in a game, you need to fatigue the speed muscles—hamstrings, glutes and quads— before your speed training. If you're not fatiguing those muscles before sprinting when you train, you're fooling yourself into thinking that you can explode in a game."
To run faster and longer during games, use the following drills to train your speed muscles in a pre-fatigued state.
Mini Squat and Sprint
- Holding plate against chest, perform 10 Mini Squats
- Drop plate on ground and explode into sprint for specified distance
- Rest for 60 seconds; repeat for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 5x5 yards; 5x10 yards; 5x15 yards
Coaching Points: Use 25- to 45-pound plate // Don't fully lower at bottom or extend at top of Squat // Drop plate with caution // Use proper sprint mechanics
- Set up 40- x 20-yard rectangle with four cones
- Beginning at first cone, sprint diagonally to opposite corner
- Stop, turn and walk 20 yards to next cone
- Stop, turn and sprint diagonally to opposite corner
- Continue sprinting and walking for specified sprints
Reps: 12-24 total sprints
Coaching Point: Use proper sprint mechanics
- Assume sport-specific start position with partner standing five yards in front
- Sprint full speed forward, stopping in front of partner
- Jog back to start position and immediately perform next rep
- Repeat for specified reps, with partner increasing distance by five yards after each rep (up to 25 yards)
Sets/Reps/Rest: 5x5 with 30 seconds rest
Coaching Points: Explode out of start position // Drop hips to stop // Have partner alternate distances for final sets
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock