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Speed Training – how to get quicker

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Towards the end of 2012, I worked with Roger Fabri, one of Australia’s top credentialed sprint coaches, in preparation for a tennis tour I made to Africa. Speed and agility are fundamental in most sports and the typical training involved has exponential benefits to the human body. Everyone should include some form of speed training into their exercise regime.

speed training

Three reasons why you should be sprinting

  1. Fat loss – in a 2010 study, researchers found that just six sprint sessions of six 30sec maximum effort sprints with 4mins rest over two weeks led to a leaner waist by 3cm. Another study in 1994 demonstrated the increased fat loss shown through anaerobic training (eg. sprint training) as compared to steady-state aerobic training (eg. jogging). Participants did either 20 weeks of steady-state aerobic training or 15 weeks of intervals (15 sprints for 30 seconds each). The interval group lost nine times more body fat and 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.
  2. Muscle gain – sprint training preferentially increases the size and strength of the powerful, fast-twitch muscle fibres. It does so through enhancing protein synthesis pathways (in excess of 200%) and increasing anabolic hormones such as testosterone. Women will not experience the same increase in testosterone, but sprints will increase growth hormone, burning fat and building muscle for a stronger and leaner outcome.
  3. Better endurance – repeated sprint intervals performed at high intensity will improve endurance capacity, maximal oxygen uptake, and reduce time to fatigue. The body is required to use energy more efficiently by increasing the amount of glycogen (sugar) stored in the muscle by up 20%. Sprints teach the body to burn fat for fuel, preserving muscle glycogen and thereby prolonging work capacity (endurance).

It is important that you define clearly what it is you want out of speed and agility training. Understand that much of this training is learning to move your body as quickly as possible in a straight line. When does this happen in tennis, for example? You might run 5m maximum in one direction before you have to change again. Even then, you are rarely upright, and most likely scrambling about the court resembling a crab.

There are certainly more specific drills for increasing speed on a tennis court, the soccer field or the ice rink for that matter. I would argue nonetheless, that sprint training serves as valuable “background” training for becoming a quicker runner. It would complement sport specific speed drills extremely well. For those who would not use it specific to a sport, it serves as a very accessible exercise alternative.

Working with Roger, I learnt a lot about the technique and biomechanics of sprinting and was able to apply this knowledge both on the court and in my work as a chiropractor. Even with a basic understanding of sprinting biomechanics, this experience has helped me understand keys areas of the body that must be in working order if one is to run as fast as possible.

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