Definition of Speed in Sports
What is speed in sports? There are several different terms that are interchangeable, but it is important to be specific so that the athlete and coach understand which specific aspects of sports performance they are training. The definition of speed from a scientific standpoint is simply distance / time, but this is a rather simplistic view of speed. A more accurate definition of speed is this: speed is the ability of an athlete to move as fast as possible, through the optimal range of motion, in a deliberate and intentional manner, in a particular direction. Speed is not just measured on how fast a person is either; there are several components of measurement that give a complete picture of an athlete's speed.
Types of Sports Speed
There are four main components of speed:
- starting speed - Starting speed is the ability of an athlete to go from a stopped or non-moving state to a moving or mobile state. Starting speed is a crucial opponent of sports and is often referred to as the "first step". For many sports, it takes just that one step to blow by your opponent, so it should come as no surprise that training starting speed is very important in sports. The second component of speed is acceleration.
- acceleration - Acceleration is defined as the ability of an athlete to reach maximal speed in the shortest amount of time, under control. The two typical ways to improve acceleration are by improving the athlete's stride length and stride frequency. Stride length is the amount of distance covered by one full stride of an athlete, and stride frequency is how fast an athlete can turn over the limb to produce another stride.
- speed efficiency - Speed efficiency covers both the range of motion of the athlete and the deliberateness of the athlete's movement. A flexible athlete will have improved speed efficiency because the body will be able to move through the optimal range of motion with less drag from a tight muscle. Also, by being flexible, an athlete can utilize the optimal movement patterns that will lead to increased stride length
- speed endurance - Ask this question, is being fast if you can't keep it up? Speed endurance is the ability to maintain top levels of speed while performing repeated bouts of your sports skill without becoming fatigued. Speed endurance is usually dictated by the three energy systems in the body.
Energy Systems in Speed Training
The creatine phosphate, the glycolitic, and the oxidative systems all control different aspects of speed endurance. The CP system will determine speed needed over a 2-3 second period, the glycolitic speed sustainability over a 90 second period, and the oxidative system will determine speed sustainability for durations of time over 2 minutes. These three systems are very different, and training emphasis for each is different based on the sport you play, as sports require different sustained speeds. For instance, a baseball player and a distance runner will have different speed endurance needs.
Final Look at Sports Speed Training
Speed training is a very important component of sports. Many athlete's training hours upon hours just to gain that extra boost or half second of speed. It really is the difference that separates the elite level of athletes from all the rest. There are a multitude of components that dictates an individuals overall speed rating. Each component requires a different type of training to achieve optimal speed gain for an athlete's sport. Hopefully, you have a better grasp of speed and how an integrated approach to speed training should be taken for improvements in your speed.