Science of Speed

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The Science of Speed Training

 

The Science of Speed Training - NOTES


A review of literature by Kavamori and Haff strongly suggests that maximal mechanical power has been thought to occur at a resistance of 30% of maximum isometric strength or 30-45% of 1RM Cronin J, Sleivert G. Challenges in Understanding the Influence of Maximal Power Training on Improving Athletic Performance, Sports Med. 2005; 35(3): 213-34. Cronin agrees that specificity of training and the research bias suggests that velocity of training should best maximise mechanical power output (Pmax) and be as close to the athletic performance movement velocity as possible.

However, some debate still exists as to exactly what the maximum training load is, particularly as training status may also vary this load between individuals. If Pmax is key then Pmax needs to be determined for every individual, muscle groups involved and their own training programme set accordingly. Setting a blanket percentage of 1RM will not suffice and Practitioners should develop ways of providing useful training information based on an individuals needs and not on a blanket philosophy.

However, research also suggests that Pmax may be transient so this needs to be re-assessed and adjusted accordingly. It is part of my philosophy that I try and design an effective ‘measuring tool’ specifically to accomplish this. An accelerometer based unit may be the answer. I am looking at what is currently on the market to achieve this eg the Myotest etc Meylan, Cesar1; Malatesta, Davide2, Effects of In-Season Plyometric Training Within Soccer Practice on Explosive Actions of Young Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Dec2009, Vol 23, pp2605-2613.

 


 


The Science of Speed Training in Action - NOTES- Baker D, Nance S, and Moore, M. The load that maximises the average mechanical power output jump squats in power trained athletes. J Strength and Cond Res, 15: 92-97, 2001 ‘Loads between 47% and 63% of 1RM were shown to best produce results for maximising power output’ Wilson, GJ, Newton RU, Murphy AJ, and Humphries, BJ. The optimal training load for the development of dynamic athletic performance, Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1993, 25(11), 1279-86. ‘Athletic performance depicted by a number of tests including 30m sprint test were best improved by training methods that maximised mechanical power’ - Naoki Kavamori and G. Gregory Haff, The Optimal Training Load for the Development of Muscular Power, J Strength and Cond Res 2004 Aug; 18(3): 675-84.

These researchers compared and contrasted heavy load training with light load training studies on one commonly measured measure of functional athletic performance: Heavy Resistance Training showed an increase in jump height of 7%, whereas Light Resistance Training showed studies indicating an increase in jump height of between 15-21%. In summary, the majority of researchers support the use of explosive type resistance training to improve muscular power and dynamic athletic performance .At baseline and after training, explosive actions were assessed with the following 6 tests: 10-meter sprint, agility test, 3 vertical jump tests (squat jump [SJ], countermovement jump [CMJ], contact test [CT] and multiple 5 bounds test [MB5]).

Plyometric training was associated with significant decreases in 10-m sprint time (−2.1%)and agility test time (−9.6%) and significant increases in jump height for the CMJ (+7.9%)and CT (+10.9%)’ - This study was with soccer players around the age of 13 showing that even at this age, plyometric training can be used very effectively even during the season to improve many movements and activities crucial to soccer performance.

 


Seed of Speed Bibliography

The question of which load is best used in resistance training to maximize muscular power has long been discussed in the literature. Hansen and Cronin  state that given that power is the product of force and velocity, training at a heavy load will increase force output and training at a light load, increase velocity (in other words, specificity of training rules !). Much of the research suggests that perhaps ‘the load that maximizes mechanical power output should be used’ as this would provide the answer to the load vs velocity question in athletic training.

Many studies ask this question: here are a few:

Baker D, Nance S, and Moore, M. The load that maximises the average mechanical power output jump squats in power trained athletes. J Strength and Cond Res, 15: 92-97, 2001

‘Loads between 47% and 63% of 1RM were shown to best produce results for maximising power output’   

Wilson, GJ, Newton RU, Murphy AJ, and Humphries, BJ. The optimal training load for the development of dynamic athletic performance, Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1993, 25(11), 1279-86.

‘Athletic performance depicted by a number of tests including 30m sprint test were best improved by training methods that maximised mechanical power’  see here

Naoki Kavamori and G. Gregory Haff, The Optimal Training Load for the Development of Muscular Power, J Strength and Cond Res 2004 Aug; 18(3): 675-84.

These researchers compared and contrasted heavy load training with light load training studies on one commonly measured measure of functional athletic performance:

Heavy Resistance Training showed an increase in jump height of 7%, whereas Light Resistance Training showed studies indicating an increase in jump height of between 15-21%. In summary, the majority of researchers support the use of explosive type resistance training to improve muscular power and dynamic athletic performance

A review of literature by Kavamori and Haff strongly suggests that maximal mechanical power has been thought to occur at a resistance of 30% of maximum isometric strength or 30-45% of 1RM see here

These studies and many more suggest that maximising mechanical power or power output (if this is deemed relevant to sporting athleticism – which it widely is) appear to be relatively low in terms of percentage of 1RM. Again, specificity of training would suggest this for a high velocity sport such as football. From a physiotherapists point of view, I’d suggest that training weightlifters or athletes that have lifting weights ‘routinely’ at their core have good reason to lift ‘heavy weights’ and would benefit from neuromuscular factors such as rate coding and synchronization due to ‘repetition’. Such athletes require a higher level of force/strength simply to participate in their respective sports. Using heavy weights appears to be ‘un-necessary’ and possibly ‘less effective’ in developing functional power for athletic performance and where ‘routine’ exposure to heavy weights is not part of the daily training regime, could in theory lead to injury due to less adaptation to these neuromuscular factors.

However, the answer is really not simple even if we look at lighter weights and maximising power output.

Cronin J, Sleivert G. Challenges in Understanding the Influence of Maximal Power Training on Improving Athletic Performance, Sports Med. 2005; 35(3): 213-34.

Cronin agrees that specificity of training and the research bias suggests that velocity of training should best maximise mechanical power output (Pmax) and be as close to the athletic performance movement velocity as possible. However, some debate still exists as to exactly what the maximum training load is, particularly as training status may also vary this load between individuals. If Pmax is key then Pmax needs to be determined for every individual, muscle groups involved and their own training programme set accordingly. Setting a blanket percentage of 1RM will not suffice and Practitioners should develop ways of providing useful training information based on an individuals needs and not on a blanket philosophy. However, research also suggests that Pmax may be transient so this needs to be re-assessed and adjusted accordingly. see here

I know you asked the question regarding developing something to accomplish this ie develop a measuring tool to effectively measure maximal power output. This would need to be done in conjunction with a Sports Design Engineer I would guessed maybe based on an accelerometer. We need to look on the market and see what is currently there and what it actually measures eg the Myotest etc

Meylan, Cesar1; Malatesta, Davide2, Effects of In-Season Plyometric Training Within Soccer Practice on Explosive Actions of Young Players, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Dec2009, Vol 23, pp2605-2613.

At baseline and after training, explosive actions were assessed with the following 6 tests: 10-meter sprint, agility test, 3 vertical jump tests (squat jump [SJ], counter movement jump [CMJ], contact test [CT] and multiple 5 bounds test [MB5]). Plyometric training was associated with significant decreases in 10-m sprint time (−2.1%)and agility test time (−9.6%) and significant increases in jump height for the CMJ (+7.9%)and CT (+10.9%)’

This study was with soccer players around the age of 13 showing that even at this age, plyometric training can be used very effectively even during the season to improve many movements and activities crucial to soccer performance.

I’m a big fan of plyometric training in football. Everything done in football tends to be plyometric in nature, from jumping to cutting. This study suggests that sizeable gains can be made even with the younger athlete. The ‘art to this’ is in exercise prescription ie training load ! Again, as you know progression is the key to all training.

Olympic lifting as part of a training routine is very much to the fore in many sports and for good reason. As a physiotherapist, I love to see ‘multi-joint exercises taking place as once more, on a football pitch, when do players ever move a single joint ? We know that very commonly biarticular muscles are damaged during athletic performance and no sport suffers more than football for this. Rectus femoris, hamstrings, gastrocnemius (3 of the most commonly injured muscles in football) all cross two joints (biarticular) and hence training these muscles to synchronize movement and containment of power across multiple joints, for me, is vital.

Olympic Lifting:

Very few studies have looked specifically at Olympic lifts and loads to maximise power output. What is believed is that Olympic Lifts are known to produce the some of the highest average human power outputs of all exercises. See below:

Haff, G.G., A. Whitley, and J.A. Potteiger. A Brief Review: Explosive exercises and sports performance. Strength Cond. J. 23: 13-20. 2001.
Even less have looked at the load required to maximise mechanical power.

Haff, G.G., M. Stone, H.S. O’Bryant, E. Harman, C. Dinan, R. Johnson, and K-H. Han. Force-time dependent characteristics of dynamic and isometric muscle actions. J. Strength Cond Res. 11:269-272. 1997.

These researchers investigated power output during mid-thigh pull at 80%, 90% and 100% of 1RM and found increasing power output as the load was decreased from 100 to 80%. However they failed to use lighter loads and DID NOT reach the peak of the power-load curve. This obviously suggests that this particular exercise has a maximal power output at less than 80%. Future research is obviously required. Again, as a physiotherapist, multi joint exercises are key and finding the optimal blend between injury prevention and power output for ‘sporting movements’ is what all practitioners should be aiming for.

Baker et al (see above) 2001, also suggests that it may be that competitive lifters attain their highest power output at different (higher) percentage of 1RM than other competitive athletes using weightlifting as part of their training regime eg sprinters, football players etc.
Olympic lifting appears to tick all the boxes in the literature for developing athletic power hence it’s widespread use in a myriad of sports. Good research is sparse however but for me, again, speed and quality of movement would best serve the football player. Multi joint movements and exercises can all provide a serious injury potential with poor technique.

Training Exercises:

It may sound incredibly simple but i feel that sometimes this is overlooked.

Stone, M., S. Plisk, and D. Collins. Training Principles: Evaluation of modes and methods of resistance training-A coaching perspective. Sports Biomech. 1:79-2002.

These authors suggest that the degree of transfer of training effects is high when the training exercise is mechanically specific or similar to the actual performance. Therefore, select exercises that as closely mimic those your are training for in terms of force and power, RFD, velocity of movement, movement pattern, type of muscle activation, ROM and duration of movement.

This suggests for football multi joint, explosive high velocity and where possible multi planar movements

Resistance Training and Sprint Speed

Although as we both agree, acceleration and ability to change direction is the key to athleticism in soccer performance and not ‘sprint speed’ per se many studies have looked at the area of training loads and sprint performance.

Keir Hansen and John Cronin, Training Loads for the Development of Lower Body Muscular Power During Squatting Movements, Strength and Conditioning Journal review the literature on this question.

They suggested that much of the literature suggests that heavy training load training can actually increase (worsen) 5m and 10m acceleration times and hence be counter productive to power and speed related sports tasks. See below

Delecluse, C. Influence of strength training on sprint running performance. Current findings and implications for training. Sports Med 24: 147-156, 1997.

Delecluse et. al. Influence of high resistance and high velocity training on sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27: 1203-1209, 1995.

Jones et al. The effects of varying resistance training loads on intermediate and high velocity specific adaptations. J Strength Cond Res 15: 349-356, 2001.

McBride et al. The effect of heavy vs light load jump squats on the development of strength, power and speed. J Strength Cond Res 16: 75-82, 2002.

Brown LE and Whitehurst M. The effect of short term isokinetic training force and rate of velocity development. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 17(1): 88-94. 2003

When we look at specificity of training and the transference of training principles I don’t find it so unusual that these findings stack up this way. High velocity low load movements would most ‘mimic’ acceleration.  In other words those training heavy gained the greatest increases in strength but did not improve speed. Those training explosively with light weights produced the greatest improvements in movement velocity.

Also I am researching the following ideals:

The Relative of Importance of developing horizontal vs vertical force production in Athletic Performance. It appears that as velocity of movement increases then the relative contribution of horizontal force production increases. However, the importance of the vertical component is the dominant component in speed production.

This is important when designing programmes looking to develop both the vertical and horizontal components of power to enhance speed. Particularly so when the Weyand et al. Study (which is seen as a watershed in the literature relating to speed production) suggests that an increase in the vertical force production was the predominant mechanism used by runners to attain faster top velocities.

This is an area I will research further over the coming weeks as it is key point in the literature. Research suggests strongly that the major determinants of velocity are the forces applied to the ground and the time of foot-ground contact ie greater application of ground forces during briefer contact periods.

This brings into play another area of research and that is ground contact times. I have some very interesting studies on this but suffice to say for now that minimum ground contact times (specificity of training for speed and agility) should be the aim of training drills e.g. Plyometric.

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