Research Proves How Faster Sprinters Use Strength For Speed

SMU Sprint Research

Research from the world’s leading sport scientists proves that faster sprinters need strength for speed. They are able to apply more force to the ground than slower runners. Studies from institutions including Harvard University and SMU’s Locomotor Performance Laboratory have shown how these forces are the difference between faster and slower sprinters.

They’ve proven that if you want to maximize your speed, you need to apply big forces to the ground quickly. This is one aspect of strength that includes two different types of strength.

The Velocity Speed Formula has 4 main components and two of those are BIG FORCE and SMALL TIME. Now researchers have confirmed that these 2 components of the Speed Formula are a big difference between faster and slower sprinters.

RELATED: Learn Velocity’s Proven BIG 4 Speed Formula

Biomechanics of Sprinting

Sprinting has been studied for decades. However, most of this was done using video to analyze how sprinters moved. Using video gives you a picture of the kinematics. This is how we measure and describe motion through body position, joint angles and movement velocity.

This kinematic research has given us a lot of useful information. Still, there is another component to the biomechanics that hasn’t been looked at much, and that’s the kinetics.

These are the forces that are used to create that motion and body position. It’s a lot harder because you need a track full of force plates and moving cameras or a specialized research treadmill. Yet, it’s critical to understand the needs of strength for speed.

Kinetics of Speed – Force

To propel your body forward, and to keep you upright, your leg has to produce a lot of force into the ground on each step. That’s what builds your momentum during acceleration phases and keeps it going during your full speed sprinting.

You create that big force, by first getting your leg up into the right position on each stride. Picture a sprinter with their front thigh up high, about parallel with the ground. Then you use the explosive strength in your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings to generate power and drive your foot down into the ground.

“The top sprinters have developed a wind-up and delivery mechanism to augment impact forces. Other runners do not do so.” Ken Clark, a researcher in the SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory

https://blog.smu.edu/research/2017/01/30/new-study-connects-running-motion-to-ground-force-provides-patterns-for-any-runner/

Driving the leg down and back into the ground is going to create a big impact on each step. The peak force during that ground contact is gong to be 4-5 times bodyweight when sprinting. Now imagine a 200lbs athlete, that’s 800-1000 lbs. on a single leg, each step.

Kinetics of Speed – Time

Your linear speed dictates why the big force you generated has to be applied in a small time. The faster you sprint, the faster you need to apply that big force.

Think about it. As you sprint faster, your body is moving over the ground with greater velocity. You’re moving faster over that part of the ground under your foot. The faster you sprint; the less time your foot is in contact with the ground. That’s just simple physics.

When your foot hits the ground, it’s driving down with a lot of power. There’s only 90-130 milliseconds of time to get all that force into the ground.

To realize how fast that is take out your phone. Open the stopwatch. Try to hit “start”, then “stop” as fast as you can.
What did you get?

Most people will get between 00.12 and 00.15. Some may beat that. This should give you some perspective; it is a small time to apply that force of 4-5 times bodyweight.

Strength For Speed and Stiffness

Now let’s combine that big force with the small time. This is the hard part, and where some athletes fail. You need the explosive strength to get the leg attacking down at the ground as hard as possible.

And you need the reactive strength and kinetic chain “stiffness” to not collapse on contact. Only when you have the reactive strength to provide the stiffness can you fully benefits from those big forces of the leg swing. This is a key part of understanding strength for speed.

Your ankle, knee or hip all have to stay “stiff” enough to apply the force of 4-5 times bodyweight and not bend or absorb it. If they cushion it like a shock absorber, some of the force is wasted.

This doesn’t mean stiff as in lack of flexibility. It means that the muscles and tendons in your lower body can hit the ground and deliver all your power without stretching or relaxing.

The Bouncing Ball Analogy

An analogy to help visualize this is to picture 2 bouncing balls. One is a bouncy, superball made of a “stiff” rubber. The other is a beach ball, soft and compliant. Throw them down with as much force as possible. Which one bounces higher off the ground?

The stiffer superball bounces higher. Why? Because it stores elastic energy and applies the force back into the ground. The beach ball absorbs some of the force and doesn’t have the elastic energy to rebound.

That superball is like reactive strength. Your muscles and tendons don’t relax and absorb the force. They store elastic energy and use it to help you go faster.

“We found that the fastest athletes all do the same thing to apply the greater forces needed to attain faster speeds. They cock the knee high before driving the foot into the ground, while maintaining a stiff ankle. These actions elevate ground forces by stopping the lower leg abruptly upon impact.” Peter Weyand, director of the Locomotor Performance Lab

https://blog.smu.edu/research/2017/01/30/new-study-connects-running-motion-to-ground-force-provides-patterns-for-any-runner/

Sprinting Fast Requires Strength

The research on faster sprinters shows why you need strength for speed. And we are not just talking about weight on a barbell.

To generate a big force with your lower leg you will need explosive strength. To apply it you need reactive strength for stiffness. The good news is that research has also shown that getting stronger generally correlates with getting faster.

You can develop these specific strength qualities by working in the weightroom using traditional and Olympic lifts. You do it using plyometrics properly. Especially single leg plyometrics with an emphasis on reactive strength.

You create that stiffness building core and hip stability to transmit and control those forces. And most importantly, you develop it by sprinting with good mechanics.

We know you need strength for speed. The Velocity Speed Formula is built on science and proven in sport. The research is starting to catch up and show why it works and can help you get faster.

TO LEARN MORE: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

Selected References

  • Faster top running speeds are achieved with greater ground forces not more rapid leg movements Weyand, et. al , J Appl Physiol 89: 1991–1999, 2000.
  • Are running speeds maximized with simple-spring stance mechanics?Kenneth P. Clark, Peter G. Weyand, Journal of Applied Physiology Published 31 July 2014
  • Relationships Between Ground Reaction Impulse and Sprint Acceleration Performance in Team Sport Athletes, Kawamori, et. al, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27(3), April 2012
  • Increases in lower-body strength transfer positively to sprint performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis, Seitz, et. al., Sports Med. 2014 Dec;44(12):1693-702
  • New study connects running motion to ground force, provides patterns for any runner. SMU Research Blog, January 30, 2017. https://blog.smu.edu/research/2017/01/30/new-study-connects-running-motion-to-ground-force-provides-patterns-for-any-runner/

Youth Speed Training Tips: Technical + Applied Drills

Tips for training speed in youth athletes
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  However, it’s much more than just drills.  How different drills are combined affects learning.  For youth speed training to carry over to the game you need to learn this tip in the video.

Velocity Speed Formula

Combining technical and applied drills is an important part of youth speed training.  It’s one way we make sure athletes can apply the speed in the game.  This is just one part of the Velocity Speed System.  It’s built on the science of biomechanics and motor learning.  Learn more about the Velocity Speed Formula

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Optimal Range of Motion

Speed training drills: optimal range of motion
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the OPTIMAL RANGE OF MOTION

The range of motion your limbs and joints travel through while sprinting is a Goldilocks scenario; not too big, not too small, but just right.

If the limbs are traveling through too big a range of motion you may be wasting time and energy.

If the range is too small, you wont generate the power you need.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Optimal range of motion is developed by acquiring good motion through stretching and mobility work combined with dynamic mobility drills.  Below we have a few of the speed training drills that help athletes develop the optimal range of motion for sprinting.

Kneeling Arm Action Drill

This drill to reinforce arm action has been around for a long time.  The reason; it still helps athlete work on understanding the arm swing range of motion while running.  One of the keys is that you want athletes using this drill to feel good spinal alignment with relaxed shoulders and neck.

Use this drill through various speeds, push faster until form, coordination or body position start to suffer.  Then back the speed down and regain the form.  Make sure the motion is from the shoulder.  No “karate-chop” actions at the elbows.

Fast Leg Drill

There are many useful variations of the Fast Leg speed drill and multiple benefits.  The one we are focusing on here is the range of motion.  Specifically the range of motion when the leg recovers from behind the body and the thigh lifts in front.  The higher the thigh lift, the more power the drive down and back can be.

This drill breaks up the sprinting motion so athletes can focus on the technical aspects.  As always, great core posture is important.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Proper Direction

Speed Training Drill for Proper Direction
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force in the Proper Direction

Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity.  Efficient and effective movement requires not just the right amount of force, but applied in the right direction.

Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way.  When the structures of joints, muscles and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your PROPER DIRECTION qualities.  These drills are designed to reinforce and help the athlete self-regulate the direction they apply force to the ground.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Harness Resisted Sprints for Acceleration

To accelerate an athlete need to apply more force horizontally.  Thats how they increase their movement velocity. This drill reinforces horizontal force application.

The harness allows additional horizontal force to be applied to the athlete. Using a belt, it’s applied near the center of mass to be more biomechanically correct.  As the athlete feels that added force, they will tend to automatically apply force in a more horizontal direction

 

Wall Drills

This is a classic speed training drill that has survived the test of time.

Trying to drive the legs backward and push into the wall reinforces the horizontal force direction for acceleration.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

It’s very effective but has a problem; it get boring quickly.  So make sure you use it as a prep or reinforcement drill.  Don’t do it for a long time.  It’s also bets used in quick contrast with a drill where the athlete gets to apply that force moving and reinforce the proper direction.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to help athletes ability to apply force in the proper direction. These drills reinforce basics physics so athletes can accelerate faster.

RELATED: Velocity Coaches Favorite Speed Drills

3 Biggest Myths about Soccer Speed

soccer speed

When comes to developing soccer speed in players, we all know why it’s important. Speed wins games.

Coaches want it, players respect it, and spectators cheer for it. Unfortunately, speed training for soccer is often misunderstood.  In years of working with everything from AYSO to National teams, here are the 3 biggest myths we hear about soccer specific speed.

1. Only speed with the ball matters

Of course being quick with the ball in your possession is going to be a huge part of soccer.  That’s skill.  That’s the point.  However, if you don’t recognize what happens without the ball, you’re missing most of the game.

First of, most of the time players don’t have the ball.  Just do the math; 90 minute game, 20 field players, if they had it equal time (which of course they don’t) that’s 4.4 minutes or 5% of the time. So even if you’re a player who gets a lot more possession, you’re going to spend the majority of time without the ball.

Then you have to think about how you get the ball.  Beating an opponent to it and creating an open space with a run both can require speed.

Finally, while moves in small tight spaces, may require more quickness form you, if you’re moving in open space, you cant moving any faster with the ball than your body can go.  Your sprinting speed is your limit.

Bottom line, if you want to be a fast player, develop your speed. Period.

2. Fast players are born that way

Decades ago many coaches would say “you cant teach speed” like there was a simple genetic lottery to have it or not.  Not true.

Not it is true you need some genetic qualities to have world class, 100m gold medal speed.  If you didn’t have the right grandparents, all the training in the world might not get you there.

However speed is a complex motor skill that involves both motor control and force production capabilities.  Both of those can be taught and improved through good coaching and training.  Sped is a skill and can be taught.

If you want to get an advantage over the competition at every level, than you need to maximize your speed.  That means training the movement skills and the force production abilities.

3. Running sprints will make players fast

Too often coaches, players and parents think they are doing speed training.  After all, the players are running as fast as they can doing those sprints at practice.

While running at full effort is an important part of developing speed, its not a winning formula.

The formula to improve speed is The Big 4.  The four factors you can train and teach to improve.  They are;

  1. Generating a big force to propel the body
  2. Applying that force in a very small ground contact time
  3. Applying the force in the Proper Direction
  4. Moving the body through an Optimal Range of Motion

These can all be taught using advanced motor control and neuro-developmental techniques along with proper functional strength training and mobility development

RELATED: See How Velocity Simplifies the Biomechanics of Speed

Do You Want To Be Faster?

If you’ve fallen into one of these traps, you’re not alone.  The good news is that you can get an edge on the competition by breaking free and  taking control of how fast you will be out on the soccer field. To learn more about speed training check out The Ultimate Guide To Speed Training.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Small Time

plyometric drills for speed
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Apply Force Faster for Speed

Below we share 2 useful drills that help you develop your SMALL TIME qualities.  In essence, these are plyometric drills.  Drills where you have a ground contact that stretched your muscles, followed quickly by a contraction of those same muscles.

One of the benefits of this type of plyometric action is that parts of your muscles act like springs.  When you land they compress.  When you push they spring back and help you.

This is what we term Reactive Strength and is key for any athlete that wants to be fast.

RELATED: Sport Specific Types of Strength

Hurdle Hop Speed Training Drills

Hurdle hops are a very popular drill for speed training with good reason; they are effective.  The key is to do them well.

When your goal is to develop your reactive abilities, you need to focus on getting off the ground quick.  At the same time, you need to apply force.  Make sure you try to really project your body high into the air on each.  The speed is on the ground contact, not the movement forward.

Jump Rope Double-Unders

This is a time tested classic for foot speed.  It’s hardly new, but it works.  It should be a fundamental piece of every youth speed training program.  It’s basically a plyometric drill for speed.

To project your center of mass in the air high enough for the rope to go around twice, you need to apply a big enough force.

If you don’t want to get smacked with the rope, you need to apply that force quickly.

Double-unders are what we call a “self-limiting drill’.  This means that you really can’t perform it with bad technique.  Maybe you can get a few in without doing it well, but to string them together you need good form.  You will be in the proper body position, have the right range of motion and have a small time on the ground.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop an athletes ability to apply force quickly. They are great plyometric drills that work.   Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll see the results transfer to game speed.

Velocity Speed Training Drills: Big Force

speed training drills
The Velocity Speed Formula (read more about it hereuses proven speed training drills to make athletes faster.  Whether its elite speed training or youth speed training, the Formula always has the same 4 parts;
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion

Getting Stronger for Speed

These 2 important drills help you to develop BIG FORCE qualities.  Although these are not weight room drills, strength training for speed development is important.  To be fast, athletes need to train in the weight room and do it properly.

You need to develop some of the specific strength qualities in these drills to improve your speed.  They are very specific to building strength for speed.  They are proven speed training drills that build specific strength and have a high carryover from training to application.

MORE FOR YOU:  The Science of Strength For Speed

Box Blast Exercise

The Box Blast is a speed training drill that lets you focus on maximum power.  The basic alignment of the limbs and torso is similar to the acceleration phase of sprinting.  Most importantly, the muscle motion is a piston-like action which we observe the acceleration phase.

Heavy Sled Runs

This is another greater drill that is highly specific to strength for speed.  Speed training drills like this need to be executed with great form and body alignment.

Velocity Speed Formula

Both of these are important speed training drills to develop the force production capabilities of athletes.  Execute them explosively and with great body position to be effective. If you perform them well and often, you’ll the results transfer to game speed.

WANT TO GET FASTER: The Ulitmate Guide To Speed Training

Velocity Speed Formula: Big Force

Strength training for speed

Velocity Big 4 Speed Formula
The Speed Formula is the science of speed biomechanics simplified.

Understanding strength training for speed is important for coaches and athletes.  Previously I’ve covered why the Big 4 is such an effective “formula” for speed (read it here). It’s how we analyze movement, teach and come up with drills and programs. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary. The formula is:

  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
Let’s delve deeper and take a look at the first element; Big Force. It has driven why and how we incorporate certain drills and resistance exercises. It is basic Newtonian physics; you push the ground one way and it pushes you the opposite direction.

How Much Strength Do You Need?

It’s a good question. How much strength do you really need?
 
Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue. Sprinter’s have way more muscle mass. This doesn’t mean you need to just be bigger or become a powerlifter. But biomechanics research does tell us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
 
You need to produce a Big Force. The strength you need is developed by:
  • sprinting fast,
  • using specific sprint and plyometric drills,
  • and getting in the weight room.

What Is Strength?

For an athlete, strength means a lot more than just how much weight you can lift. There are 6 different strength qualities we train. Focusing on specific strength qualities is how we improve speed.
 
Strength is how much you can lift, right?
 
Nope.
 
How much you can lift is a great expression of some strength or power qualities. As an Olympic weightlifting coach, I’ve helped athletes go from starting the sport to be on the US National team. I love the strength and power (Strength x Speed) expressed through weightlifting.
 
Then there’s powerlifting. Squat, deadlift, bench. Many of the coaches on our staff have been competitive powerlifters as well as my friends. These feats of strength are really impressive and it’s a great expression of Max Strength.
 
Neither is the definition of strength though. They are just great examples of 2 of our 6 specific qualities. Going in-depth is beyond the scope of this writing but here are our 6 types of strength:
  1. Maximum Strength: think powerlifting and even sub max weights. It’s about force and speed is not important.
  2. Eccentric Strength: Think shock absorbers and brakes. When you land, stop, cut, etc… your muscles contract while lengthening. This is an eccentric strength action.
  3. Power (Strength-Speed): Moving fast against a larger load. Think weightlifting or football lineman pushing each other.
  4. Power (Speed- Strength): Moving fast against a light load. Throwing a baseball, jumping, throwing a punch. Moving it fast matters.
  5. Rate of Force Development: How fast you can turn on the muscles. Think of a drag racer analogy. It’s how fast they can go from 0 to speed that matters.
  6. Reactive Strength: Combine a fast & short eccentric stretch, immediately followed by RFD and you have reactive. This is the springy quick step you see in fast footwork.

What Type of Strength Do You Need?

If there are different types of strength, which help you apply a BIG FORCE into the ground? Which will help you get faster?
 
The answer lies in part on what you are trying to improve. The answer may be different if we are talking about acceleration compared to maximum velocity sprinting. And those may be different than a change of direction.

Acceleration

This is the phase where you are starting and gaining speed. During this phase, the mechanics lead to slightly longer ground contact times. This added time in contact with the ground lets you build up force to push harder. You still have only between 200 – 400 milliseconds, so Max Strength will help, but Speed-Strength is key.
 
This phase is also characterized by large horizontal and vertical forces. This means that when training strength, you need strength exercises for both pushing backward and down. A good dose of weight room basics like lunges, power cleans help. Combined with vertical and horizontal plyometrics, along with sled work, the results get better.

Maximum Velocity Mechanics

During this phase, you are upright and moving fast. Your foot needs to hit the ground with high forces but it’s not there for long. Elite sprinters are in contact less than 100 milliseconds. You need Max Strength enough to handle the high loads 1.5 – 2.5 times body weight on each leg. You also need to be able to absorb the impact and reapply force quickly. That’s Reactive Strength.
 
Since you’ve already accelerated, in this phase the forces are mostly vertical. They keep you from falling into the ground. Therefore, weight and plyometric exercises like squats, reactive hurdle jumps, and even jump rope double-unders all contribute.

Change of Direction

When changing direction, the type of strength can depend on how sharp of a cut you make. One situation is a major change of direction where you slow down and re-accelerate. This requires a lot of Eccentric Strength and Strength-Speed. On the other hand, if it’s a quick cut without slowing down or a big range of motion, then it’s more about Reactive Strength and Speed-Strength.
 
Both these are going to benefit from a mix of weight room and plyometrics. The weight room will include strength exercises and Olympic lifts for power. The plyometrics are going to need to focus on developing horizontal and lateral forces.

Technical Sprint Drills for Strength Development

There is a big misunderstanding of technical speed drills. Most people see a technical drill and naturally believe it’s to develop technique. It makes sense after all, but there is so much more.
 
Many “technique” drills in speed training are just as important to developing Big Force as the weight room. By refining an athlete’s technique, they become more efficient with the strength they have. They learn to apply it better.
 
Often many speed drills are really a plyometric exercise themselves. They require putting a lot of force into the ground, in the proper direction. They are in fact the most speed specific form of strength training there is.

Strength Training for Speed

Having good technique and good power output is key to being fast. It’s not an either/or situation, it’s an AND sitution. You need technique AND strength. In every athlete’s development, they go through stages. Sometimes their technique gets ahead of their strength, and vice versa. Make sure you stay on track by developing both and working with a knowledgeable coach who can determine if you need one or the other more.

Big 4 Speed Formula Infographic

Velocity Speed Formula

Velocity’s Speed Formula is proven to get results for athletes at all levels of sport.  Developed by World Famous Track Coach Loren Seagrave, it’s used in elite sports around the world to make sure athletes get faster.

While it appears simple, it’s based on complex biomechanics and motor control theory.  By improving these 4 elements, you can improve your speed too.

To go more in depth and learn more check out: Velocity’s Big 4 Speed Formula

Velocity Big 4 Speed Formula

Check out these drills that work on “Big Force”.

Velocity’s Big 4 Speed Formula

Velocity Speed Formula

World-renowned track coach Loren Seagrave was teaching me his system of training some of the world’s most elite speed athletes. Over 50 track medalists at World and Olympic events.

And this was it? “That’s too simple,” I thought.
 
I was a coach who was working with elite and professional athletes in the weight room and on the field. With a graduate education in biomechanics and motor control, and undergrad education in engineering. I just thought; The Big 4 was simplistic.
 
Fortunately, I kept looking at it, applying it and learning. I was wrong. It wasn’t simplistic, it was in fact incredibly complex and elegant underneath. Yes, The Big 4 was simple, and the best tool to organize speed training I have ever seen.
 
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The Components of Speed

To coach movement effectively, you need to understand the movements’ biomechanics. You need to understand motor control. You need to understand the types of movement occurring in the sport.
 
It takes years (decades) to truly gain this knowledge.
 
How to analyze a movement, the athlete’s movement skill, and then determine what training methods and drills will improve performance. That’s a lot.
 
The Big 4 are basically the “formula” for speed. No advanced degree in physics or neuroscience necessary.
 
  • Big Force
  • Small Time
  • Proper Direction
  • Optimal Range of Motion
That’s what we coach. This formula has all of the complexity underneath, but it‘s simple to apply and understand. It can also save you decades and help you achieve better results with your athletes. That’s why I use it.
 
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ~ Albert Einstein
 

Big Force

You have to apply force to the ground to go somewhere. The faster you want to go the more force you have to apply. Observing the difference in muscular development between a sprinter and a marathoner should give you a clue.
 
This doesn’t mean you need to be just bigger or become a powerlifter. However, biomechanics research tells us very large forces have to be applied by the athlete to move fast.
 
The Big Force you need is developed by sprinting fast, using specific sprint and plyometric drills, and getting in the weight room. There are 6 different strength qualities we train. For speed, focusing on Max strength, Strength-speed, and Speed-strength are key.

Small Time

In sports, speed counts. So applying that force in a small time, while in contact with the ground, is critical. You don’t often see the opponent saying, “sure, take all the time you need to generate that force, I’ll wait.”
 
Yes, you need a Big Force, but you have to apply it to the ground in a (very) small time. This requires the right strength and motor control qualities.
 
We develop those through technique drills that reinforce a small ground contact time. Through plyometrics and strength training which develop Rate of Force Development and Reactive strength.

Proper Direction

Force is a vector which means it has a direction as well as quantity. Efficient and effective movement requires more than just the right amount of force. That force has to be applied in the right direction.
 
Proper direction is achieved through the right motor pattern (technique) and the stability of the body to apply it that way. When the structures of joints, muscles, and tendons aren’t up to the task, we have what we call “energy leaks.”
 
The motor control to create Proper Direction is developed through technical drills. These drills teach athletes to move optimally.
 
The stability to transfer those Big Forces comes through specific training drills. It also comes from getting stronger with resistance training. Finally, it’s also enhanced in our functional strength components.

Optimal Range of Motion

Goldilocks had it right, not too much, not too little, but just right. We need an optimal range of motion in our joints, muscles, and tendons. In some movements, we need a large range of motions, and in others, we need smaller. The key is that the athlete can move without restriction or compensations.
 
Many of our technical exercises and dynamic warm-up drills develop this range of motion. In addition, we use mobility work. Things such as self-myofascial (foam rollers, balls, etc..) in conjunction with stretching techniques. Sometimes it may include working with a tissue specialist.

Training “Game Speed” Big 4

One of the strengths of this “formula” is that it doesn’t just apply to the track or linear speed. It applies to all aspects of multi-directional speed and agility as well. That’s what puts it above so many speed training systems that are only designed for running straight.
 
There are lots of ways this becomes useful in training. From analyzing our athletes’ movement to selecting training methods, it acts as a guide. In a group setting it allows us to improve different parts of the formula for individuals using the same or similar drill.
 
Same drill, different focus.
 
Different focus, different training effect.
 
That’s why the Big4 is such a powerful tool for individualized training. Even in a group setting.
 

Training Programs

Often athletes come in to get faster and when we introduce them to the weight room or stretching, they may ask “Why? I want speed training.”
 
I get it. It’s common sense, to get faster just do sprint training. Although it appears logical, it’s NOT the most effective and efficient method.
 
The Big 4 explains why:
 
We have different components to our overall program to comprehensively develop each of the Big4. Yes, the “speed training” component can be used to address all four components of the speed formula. However, we can achieve better results and faster results by adding other things.
 
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” ~ Bruce Lee
 

Simple vs. Simplistic

I once thought it was too simplistic to train something as complex as human movement using a formula like the Big4. It isn’t simplistic, it’s simple. Underneath this clear, concise training method is the incredible complexity of biomechanics and motor control. Organizing it into this 4 piece formula and removing the confusion on so many aspects of speed training, is the genius of the Big4.
 
Thanks Coach Seagrave.
Want to learn more about speed training?  Check out The Ultimate Guide to Speed Training.