Maximal Velocity Can Improve Acceleration
Stretching the field and getting faster from point A to point B are obvious positives. At first I was fixated on how fast one can go from 0 to15 meters as the Holy Grail since most sports are not about running 60m in a straight line. Watching athletes with superior maximal speeds reflects their efficient acceleration qualities and demonstrates how plays longer than ten steps can become dangerous. While events with longer amounts of linear speed are less common, since they are precious shouldn’t we make them count?
Coaching Summary: Maximal speed is the destination of acceleration. While most sports events may not commonly involve top speed, acceleration becomes more efficient with global coordination development.
Repeat Sprint Ability and Total Output Capacity
There are countless articles and ideas about the best way to develop repeat sprint ability (RSA), and some tests are better than others. RSA testing requires an all-out burst of speed to see how fatigue decays one’s maximal abilities. My opinion is that with enough training and general performance testing, a specific RSA test may not be needed with all players in team sports. As many coaches state, get fast first and then worry about staying there later.
Coordinated sprinting at maximal velocities at the cellular level has yet to be researched yet. Substrate utilization may not be sensitive enough to detect small reductions in speed from neuromuscular adaptations, but that may not be needed. As technology improves, sensors will be able to track speed outputs and analysts can see the relationship between those with great acceleration and great top speed and those with great acceleration but lesser top speed.
General endurance over a game and season is similar to RSA. RSA is a measurement or quality, but most coaches look at conditioning as a physiological quality, and speed and power as a biomechanical summary. Both options are wrong. Building an aerobic engine is a part of fitness, and running mechanics and percentage of speed reserve can extend in games that last for more than an hour. Two simple conclusions: It’s easier to hold a lower percentage of one’s maximal ability, and more efficient running is better than inefficient running. Better runners with the same fitness level aerobically are just more efficient at a skill that is highly innate but still coachable.
Coaching Summary: Submaximal velocities are improved by increasing the absolute abilities of speed. Endurance and speed should not be seen as mutually exclusive but rather a winning combination in team fitness.
Injury Prevention Benefits from Maximal Velocity Training
As “peak anti-fragile” starts to fade to new trends in training theory, the classic principle of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” returns to popularity. Very few hamstring injuries occur at early speed, specifically initial acceleration. Most occur during upright running at very high speeds. So while maximal speed is not going to happen right away, the mechanics of upright running begin happening in the early steps and that demand must be resolved by preparation.
Three primary variables exist with specific sprinting for reducing injuries using maximal velocity sprints.
Prerequisites and Preparation—Maximal sprinting without being in shape is a recipe for disaster. One shouldn’t jump into a sprinting program on day one, but waiting for months is equally bad as it removes a quality that eventually needs to be challenged. Solid lifting and some light plyometrics—along with a sound running program—should be enough to transition into speed training.