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Conditioning for Speed and Power Athletes

August 2, 2006 09:44 AM

With so many articles on Speed Training, you would assume that there is plenty of great information available. The problem is that the topic of speed is not being totally covered. There are categories of training that are just not being discussed.

There are so many athletes specializing at a young age, and we are seeing a drop in overall work capacity. This is due to low levels of general strength and conditioning. Everyone wants to be doing pure speed work all the time and nobody seems to be building the proper base needed for your body to be able to handle that force and power. The better your work capacity is the easier it is to recover from your speed workouts so the more speed work that you will be able to handle. Basically, you need to add conditioning and recovery days (tempo days) to become a faster, more powerful athlete.

Tempo Training

Tempo work is low intensity training (60-75% intensity) that has many great benefits for speed/power athletes. This type of training is used as recovery, general strength and conditioning work. Tempo work can help maintain healthy joint and soft tissue strength, provide some aerobic capacity work, is a good recovery workout, is core strengthening, helps with balance/coordination/proprioception and enhances gross motor performance.

Another positive advantage of tempo work is the increased blood flow and capillary density adaptation provided. As you know, increased blood flow (from your increased heart rate) provides heat to the muscles and helps to stimulate hormones to aid in recovery and also to flush out debris in the muscles. The importance of the improved capillary density is that you can maintain that heat to your muscles for a longer period of time. This will help speed/power athletes because they need longer rest periods in between their intervals on intense days of training (speed work, plyos, weight training, etc) due to the stress each rep places on the central nervous system. Remember, you don't get faster from the actual speed work; you get faster from the recovery from the speed work.

Tempo training, as mentioned before, will improve development of your aerobic (work) capacity. As a speed/power athlete, I'm sure you do not want to spend your time out on the road running useless mileage that is placing unneeded stress on your joints. As a speed athlete, you should not be running mileage.

Sample Tempo Running Workout:
(On the grass of a football field)

Run 100 yards (all 100 yards performed at 65%)
Walk along the goal line across the field
Run back 100 yards
Walk along the goal line across the field
Repeat 3 more times

Rest for 3 minutes. Active rest, keep moving and do not sit down.

Run 100 yards
Walk along the goal line across the field
Run back100 yards
Walk along the goal line across the field
Repeat 3 more times

Like all of your workouts, you want to be as efficient as possible and get the most bang for your buck. General strength circuits do just that. Most young athletes lack the general strength it takes to produce the proper force and lack basic work capacity, so we get both of these great benefits from GS work.

General Strength Circuits

General strength circuits are usually bodyweight exercises that involve little or no external loading. The day after a speed/power workout is the ideal time to add a general strength day. A speed/power day places extreme stress to your CNS (central nervous system) and it takes 24-48 hours to recover from it. This is why you can't perform speed/power workouts day after day (well you can, but you would be asking for an injury!). So the GS circuit is used as a recovery workout to help your body recoup and get ready for another speed/power workout the following day. The circuits will increase your heart rate, but are low in intensity enough to have such positive effects on your body restoration abilities.

Sample General Strength Circuit:
(Great for group/team training sessions)

Split squats ? 10 each leg
Jog 50 yards
Rotational push-ups ? 8 each way
Jog 50 yards
Bicycles ? 1x30
Jog 50 yards
Burpees ? 1x10
Jog 50 yards
Military push-ups ? 1x10
Jog 50 yards
Russian twists ? 1x25
Jog 50 yards
Backwards lunges ? 10-each leg
Jog 50 yards
Lateral lunges ? 10 each leg
Jog 50 yards
Reverse crunches ? 1x20
Jog 50 yards
1 Leg squats ? 10 each leg

Rest 3 minutes and repeat circuit.

In under 45 minutes, you just improved your strength, balance, aerobic conditioning, core conditioning, help prevent injuries and worked on mental focus during fatigue all while recovering your body from yesterdays speed workout!

Speed training needs to focus on being efficient in each energy system and modality. Having an incomplete training program is asking for injury or guaranteeing that you will not reach your full speed potential. Remember, you not only want to train harder but work smarter to stay A Step Ahead of your competition.

About The Author
Patrick Beith is a Performance Consultant for Athletes' Acceleration, Inc and has helped develop the Complete Speed Training System.
To learn more about Patrick Beith or for the latest training tips, programs, cutting edge strength and conditioning news, speed training and much more, visit