Speed is the most misunderstood of the five basic motor units. It is absolutely essential to movement. Newton’s second law of motion is Force = mass x acceleration. Acceleration is the increase of speed. Without speed there is no movement.
All speed can be developed. Yes, your top end speed is genetically determined. So is your endurance, strength, flexibility and coordination. Each of use have strengths and weaknesses in all five areas. You can develop them all and you will never know your top end of any of the components until you have spent years developing it.
How to Develop Speed
Speed is developed in two ways:
- Mechanical improvement
- Training the correct energy system in the correct way
The formula for speed is very easy: stride length x stride frequency = speed
Stride length is the length of your stride measured in feet and inches. Stride frequency is the number of strides you take per minute. So if your stride is 5′ long and you take 180 strides per minute, your speed is 900′ per minute. If you want to improve speed, you must improve stride length or stride frequency.
Stride length in improved when you push off the ground with more force. This is usually accomplished by getting the knee to swing higher. Increasing leg strength also helps.
Stride frequency is improved by getting the foot on and off the ground quicker. This is best accomplished by getting the heel up and down quicker. Most people have way too slow of a turnover.
Both stride length and stride frequency can be improved with good running mechanics.
The easiest way to see if you need to increasing stride frequency is to count your stride for 1 minute. Count every time your right foot touches the ground. It should be a minimum of 90.
The simplest way to improve it is to repeat the pace multiple times for a shorter time period. For those just starting, just count for 6 seconds. You should be able to do 9 strides in that time. Increase to 15 seconds, you should be at 23 strides. Then do 30 seconds, you should count minimum of 45.
90 per min is a distance pace. You increase the strides for shorter distances. Sprinters are round 150 per min.
The number one mistake is see when people train speed is that they are usually training the wrong energy system. Most of speed comes from the alactic anaerobic system. I will get into the energy systems in detail later. All you need to know is that speed is best developed at 85-100 percent all out intensity for 6 seconds or less with 10 times the recovery. It is short and fast. Most people run for too long at too low of an intensity. You can develop speed at lower speeds and for longer times. When starting out you should go at a lower intensity, but you will never know how fast you are until you can develop the upper end .