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A note from Doug Finch:

The following pertains specifically to running.  I feel it can relate to throwing, pitching, anything that requires quickness.  However, I am  personally against adolescents lifting weights!  This includes throwing or pitching weighted balls (click on the link to read a discussion about weighted balls)!





"You say if we sprint fast we will recruit more muscles, this is true (the most recent theory is that this causes the body to build more neural pathways telling the muscles to fire)...DUH!!! And that if we train with more intensity we will race with more intensity (this is not revolutionary)...and that if you train aerobically you will be a better aerobic runner (We all know that)....THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE COMES FROM AND KNOWING IN REALITY, HOW MUCH AND HOW LONG, WHEN and WHO (I'm sorry to tell you there are differences from person to person)."

Herbert Johnson
Head Instructor
Herbert Johnson Track & Field Academy
2304 Sunnyside Ave.
Charleston, S.C. 29403


By Brett Kirksey, MS

It's not fair. Some people are just born fast. After years of studying exercise science, I had to come to grips with the harsh reality that sports performance as well as physique development is primarily determined by your DNA. Just thank mom and dad for your great gift of fast twitch (strength/power/size) fibers or your lack thereof. Does that mean that anyone with genetically unsuitable parents has to give up hope? Not really. Even though genetics is the primary factor for speed development, there are still several other factors which can be altered in order to maximize your speed potential. Technique, reaction time, rate of force development, acceleration, strength, and power are all variables that add up to maximum speed.

Regardless of the sport, being fast is of utmost importance. Obviously, a sprinter like Michael Johnson has to run fast to win. But Michael Jordan also has to run fast to win. Let's not forget Terrell Davis either. Pick the sport, and I'll bet speed plays a major role. How do these people train different than the standard  bodybuilding" routines you will find in most mainstream publications? Think specificity. Specifically, think about using movements in training that most closely resemble running, and performing those movements in a way that places high demands on the appropriate energy system for your sport. Now target your fast twitch muscle fibers, and leave your slow twitch fibers alone!

This is the recipe for speed specificity.

Hitting the stair machine or stationary bike may be a great crosstraining activity, but it will do little or nothing for improving your running speed. If you want to run fast, then run fast. Use the movement that most closely resembles the activity you are trying to enhance. Other activities, like cycling, do not have as great a transfer of training effect to running speed as running itself. In the weightroom, this means getting off the bench and getting into the squat rack. Running is primarily hip extension. Squatting is primarily hip extension. To get even more specific, you can try one-legged squats. The best way to do these is to get a pair of dumbells and perform them like a step-up on a bench. Lunging could also be used as a running specific weight training movement, but tends to be less explosive. To mimic the explosive hip extension of sprinting, try clean pulls from the floor. Throw in some stiff-leg deadlifts for hamstrings and your choice of abdominal work for trunk strength and stability. This is what mechanical specificity is all about.

Metabolic specificity is the next issue we must tackle in order to maximize our speed development workouts. Your body has three energy production systems: the ATP-PC system; the fast glycolytic system; and the oxidative system. The ATP-PC system provides energy rapidly and predominates activities that last less than 10 seconds. The fast glycolytic system begins to provide substantial energy in the 15-sec. to 3-min. range, and the oxidative system begins to provide substantial energy after three minutes of activity. Why should an athlete wishing to develop speed for a sport that contains running bursts lasting less than three minutes (like football, baseball, or basketball) perform traditional "aerobic" training like running three miles? They shouldn't! This goes against metabolic specificity. Train the energy systems which will predominate the activity. If you make the longest play in football, you can only run 100 yards. That should take less than 15 seconds. When building speed endurance, use distances or times in your workout no more than 2-3 times the actual distance or time of your event. When working on maximum speed or acceleration, use distances or times less than or equal to the actual distance or time of your event.

A third way of maximizing your speed potential is to target your fast twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are most affected by high-intensity, short bursts of activity. High-intensity weight training movements as well as repeated short sprints will properly stimulate fast twitch fibers. Equally as important as stimulating the proper fibers is not stimulating slow twitch fibers. These fibers provide no benefit for speed/strength/power athletes. They are primarily activated by low-intensity, long-duration movements like high-repetition weight training and distance running. By performing high repetitions (15 or more) or running for distance, there is the danger of converting fast twitch fibers to slow twitch fibers. And if, by the grace of your parents, you don't have the fast twitch fibers to spare, this a definite way to decrease your speed.


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