1. Too Much Fancy Footwork; Not Enough Strength Training
If I had a dime for every time a parent has told me their kid needs to work on their “foot speed”…
Here’s the thing:
Fast feet does not equal speed, and can often times be a hindrance to speed development. The key to being faster and more agile is putting force into the ground.The more force an athlete can produce the faster they’re going to be.
This cannot be achieved with all of the fancy ladder drills you see all over the internet and social media. Sure, these drills may have their time and place, but developing speed is not one of them. You can have quick feet all you want, but if you don’t go anywhere does it really matter?
The truth is that your legs are far more important than your feet. The real answer for developing speed is strength training both bilaterally and unilaterally, specifically the glutes and hamstrings. By increasing an athlete’s strength and power you will increase their ability to produce force.
If an athlete is weak it is going to be very difficult to develop speed no matter how many speed drills and ladder drills are performed. Just having a kid go out and run more can often times be the least effective way to accomplish the goal.
You are going to see a lot more results by learning to Deadlift, Squat, Hip Thrust, RDL, Lunge, etc. These big bang for your buck exercises are going to develop the posterior chain and increase an athlete’s ability to produce force.
2. Training the wrong Energy System
Humans’ muscle fiber types can be broken down into 2 main types: Type I (Slow Twitch) and Type II (fast Twitch).
Type I is what our body uses when we are training aerobically. They fire more slowly than Type II, but are able to go a lot longer without fatiguing because they contain more ATP (energy).
Type I muscle fibers are obviously very important for endurance athletes so aerobic training should be a big part of their training program; For developing speed, not so much.
Speed and Power athletes should be doing a majority of their training anaerobically. Our anaerobic system will use our fast twitch muscle fibers (Type IIa & Type IIb). These types of muscles excel at producing quick powerful bursts of speed, but will fatigue much faster because they contain less ATP.
It is important to remember when training a speed and power athlete, such as a baseball player or sprinter, to give them adequate rest times to allow for their Type II muscle fibers to replenish themselves. My rule of thumb is a minute rest for every 10 yards that an athlete sprints.
So if I have my baseball guys running 60’s I will give them roughly 6 minutes rest in between sprints.
No doubt, being a well-conditioned athlete is important, but conditioning and speed training are not one in the same. An athlete’s conditioning should reflect the sport that they play.
By running a power athlete into the ground in the name of conditioning and mental toughness you are more than likely doing them more harm than good.
Baechle, T. R., Earle, R. W., & National Strength & Conditioning Association (U.S.). (2000). . Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics.
Cressey, E. (2010, November 2). The Truth About “Quick Feet” and Agility Ladder Drills. Retrieved April 14, 2017, from http://ericcressey.com/truth-about-quick-feet-agility-ladder-drills