Insights on Speed Training
Although some players from days past were gifted,against today’s top teams they would mostly likely struggle to keep up especially when it comes to speed. Advances in nutrition and sports medicine today have most certainly contributed to improved team performance but another factor is the speed of players today.
The majority of sprints in Gaelic Games shorter than 20 meters and it’s not always the fastest player who wins the ball when we take deceleration into account.
A big difference between “field” and track sprinting is running mechanics. For the majority of a track race an athlete is in an upright posture,which does not lend itself to maximum acceleration on the pitch. Another factor is that in track racing the athlete begins from a dead stop, whereas in Gaelic Games most sprints start when we are already moving.
With the above taken into consideration here are some points you can use to advantage when working with players on their speed training.
1. Weak muscles are slow muscles
Being stronger may not necessarily make you faster, but being weak will definitely make you slower!!!
Scientifically speaking, this refers to the relationship between speed and muscle mass.
What muscle mass does is it allows a player to apply greater force into the ground therefore potentially increase their speed.
While muscle mass in the legs is an advantage when it comes to sprinting, upper body strength is also important. Acceleration starts in the upper body. Regular strength training in the upper body and the abdominals helps counter torque generated from the lower body and in turn leads to a more stable posture when sprinting to the ball when the opposition is hanging off your back!
2. Strength is important when it comes to increasing acceleration
Weightlifters normally use heavy weights for lower reps. Using light weights for as many as 15 reps per set, which many coaches have been seen to have their players do, is not ideal at all. As a general guide, to train for strength players should keep there reps between 2 and 6 with particular attention being put on technique to reduce potential of injury. NEVER LOAD BAD TECHNIQUE…
3. When strength training for speed you should be focusing on single and double leg exercises
For a GAA player being able to run fast in a straight line is all well and good but being able to change direction at speed is probably more important due to the chaotic nature of our games. When a player makes a change in direction they shift most of their body weight onto one leg for a split second and then have to deal with the forces produced during that movement. Without having enough single leg strength it takes longer for you to stabilize the body and change direction.
One issue with single leg exercises is balance requirement. Because of this less resistance can be used and this can reduce the strength training effect. For this reason its best to use a combination of single leg exercises, such as split squats, and double-leg exercises, especially the king…. squats!!!
4. Strong calves can improve your speed
If you have weak calves this may impair the ability of your legs to apply force to the ground. In gaelic games acceleration,deceleration and change of direction movements are so much a part of the game that calf strength is essential.
It is extremely important to work the soleus and upper calf (gastrocnemius) to maintain structural balance. Using full range of motion helps to improve flexibility which is an important but neglected aspect of calf training.
5. Plyometrics and Olympic lifting movements make players faster
Olympic lifts and plyos are a great way to teach your body how to move faster. They do however require good coaching in order for players to perform them safely along with a decent program to ensure desired results. Players MUST have proper instruction and supervision before performing Olympic lifting and plyometric training.
6. A common weakness which will slow you down
When players are assessed a common problem found is that they have a weakness in the vastus medialis oblique (the muscle shaped like a teardrop on the inner side of the lower thigh). A weak VMO will impair knee joint stability and the ability to stop, move laterally, and change direction.
7. Leaner players are generally faster
To be as fast as you can be a you need to be as lean as you can be !!!. Coaches can demonstrate this by asking a player to run with and then without a weight vest. With just 5 kg on-board a player will most definitely run slower. Research has shown that using weighted vests is NOT a great way to improve velocity. Push sleds are far better for shorter sprints such as 20m as they require the athlete to apply more force to the ground.
8. Too much aerobic work can make fast-twitch muscles slow
For a GAA player the maximum contribution of the aerobic energy system is 20-30% with goalkeepers being around 5-10% on a tough day. One problem with doing alot of aerobic training is that it compromises strength and can cause fast-twitch muscle fibers to behave like slow-twitch muscle fibers. This is not what we want.
Just how fast a GAA Player can move depends on a few factors (including genetics) but every player can improve their speed if they train in a smart fashion.
Hopefully these tips will help you to improve your speed training going into nest years season.