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Sports conditioning often requires an athlete to develop speed and agility. Speed training programs help an athlete develop speed by participating in a variety of exercises meant to develop fast twitch muscles and balance. Such speed training programs can revolve around the sprint, while others are more complicated and include plyometric exercises aimed at developing explosiveness. Agility training often goes hand in hand with speed training programs, as athletes participating in ball sports often need both speed and the ability to change directions quickly, navigate over obstacles, and react to changing situations.
Plyometrics is one of the speed training programs that is growing in popularity. It focuses on building explosive power that helps an athlete accelerate and decelerate quickly. A plyometric workout involves a series of jumping exercises as well as exercises that involve explosive movements, often while holding a medicine ball. The jumping motions are often interspersed with held positions; one example of a plyometric exercise is the diagonal jump, in which the athlete will jump forward and to the left and land on the left foot only. He will then hold that position momentarily before bounding forward and to the right, landing on the right foot and holding the position momentarily.
Speed training programs that revolve around sprints are common in team sports such as football or soccer. Sprinting improves speed from a stopped position and also forces the athlete to decelerate quickly, which can be just as important as running quickly. Sprints are often performed in the forward direction, though when combined with agility training, an athlete may sprint forward, stop at a cone, and change direction quickly to continue the sprint. Lateral movements may be incorporated into a sprint workout as well, and ladder exercises are a common addition to lateral workouts.
Perhaps the most common of the speed training programs is interval training. This type of training involves running at top speed, then slowing to a moderate pace for rest, then repeating the process. For group training, a common interval exercise is the Indian sprint, in which all participants run at a moderate pace in a single file line. The last person in line will then sprint to the front of the line at top speed. Once he reaches the front of the line, he will maintain the moderate pace. The new last person in line will repeat the process. The idea is to allow the muscles to recover in between intense sprints so that more sprints can ultimately be completed.