When it comes to improving an athlete’s speed, many trainers just stick to their preferred methods. Maybe they have a bunch of go-to speed and agility drills. Others may mostly use strength training with their athletes. For another, it may be technical track drills.
All of these can be effective and have a place in building better athletes.
However, having just one training solution for every athlete will fail many. It leaves many poorly served because, after the foundation, every athlete doesn’t have the exact same needs.
Coaches, athletes, and parents are often confused about whether they need more speed training or more weight room time. Unfortunately, too many trainers skip the actual analysis to find what’s really needed.
To help understand why we need deeper analysis, let’s look at auto racing. I can go out to the race track and do time trials. I can see how fast we can finish a lap, what the top speed is, or how fast we can accelerate.
These are all performance measures.
We’re measuring the performance of both the car and driver.
The car has to produce engine torque, grip the surface of the track, and steer effectively.
Additionally, the driver needs the skill to properly utilize those capabilities. Without those skills, he can’t optimize the performance.
Those performance measures of time, distance, and velocity can give us insight into opportunities to improve. However, they don’t specifically tell us how to improve.
First of all, they were measures of the combined systems of the car and driver.
The times alone can’t tell us if the driver or the car is the limiting factor.
Going further, if it was the car, we still don’t know which components of the system need improvement.
Performance Testing in Sports
In sports, we do very similar things. We test athletes on how fast they can sprint or do an agility drill. We see how high they can jump or throw an object. It is just like timing the car on the race track.
It requires the driver (like the athlete’s motor control system) to use the race car’s physical performance capabilities (like the athlete’s body) to perform the test well.
Performance testing can help us set goals, see where we can improve, and give us feedback if our training programs are successful.
However, it doesn’t necessarily tell us HOW to improve.
So what do you do when you want to improve that speed on the race track? Do you jump straight in and upgrade the engine, or maybe the transmission? Maybe change the tires or the cooling system? Maybe you fire the driver and hire a new one.
Any of those may help. But without looking deeper and performing diagnostic tests, you may be wasting time and money on the wrong factor.
If we have a great car, but a poor driver, we won’t get much better by upgrading the engine torque. The driver isn’t good enough to use the existing power on the track right now. Improving the engine and power won’t change that.
On the flip side, the best driver in the world cant take a honda civic and win a professional race. The car just doesn’t have adequate mechanical capabilities to keep up.
In sports, we have to consider whether an athlete needs to improve their speed by upgrading their physical capabilities or their motor control. Coaches do this by analyzing techniques and seeing if they have the basic strength & power qualities needed.
If one of these is the clear limiting factor, then they know where to spend time and energy.
Looking Under the Hood
If a race team wants to win they don’t stop at how the car performed on the track. The crew takes it into the garage, looks under the hood, and does diagnostics.
It is not enough to only know WHAT the car can do in terms of power or efficiency. They need to analyze HOW its being accomplished.
That’s what we do when we use Strength Diagnosis with an athlete. We are going beyond the performance tests by looking under the hood at their strength and power capabilities.
After all, there are very different types of strength needed to improve linear sprinting, change of direction, or jumping height. Even within a sprint, different types of strength influence initial acceleration versus maximum velocity sprinting.
The Velocity Strength Signature is a method developed over 20+ years to identify sport-specific strength qualities. By measuring the kinetics in 5 different movements, we can quantify all six types of athletic strength.
An athlete’s unique profile across these six types of strength is what we call a Strength Signature. Just like your written signature, it is unique.
It also tells us a lot about how we can help you improve through training. By considering your specific goals, and evaluating your Strength Signature, coaches can help you target the right type of strength.
Then you can continue to train hard, but now you’re doing it smarter.
Whether it’s a race car on the track or an athlete in the gym, performance testing shows us what’s possible and how we are doing.
However, in both cases, performance testing doesn’t necessarily tell us why we are performing that way or how to improve it.
So with our race car, we look under the hood and diagnose the limitations of the car.
With athletes, we look under the hood with Strength Diagnosis to find out what types of sport-specific strength they need to improve and stay healthy.