Why is Speed Important?
I’m going to start this article with a quote from Rob Panariello
“The greatest athletes on the planet are the ones that can put the most amount of force into the ground in the quickest time frame”
Think about that for a moment, it’s not the strongest athletes but the ones who can demonstrate that strength in the shortest amount of time; it’s the most powerful athletes. Power is defined as the ability to move with great speed or force. This is where speed work comes in, with speed work we are looking to increase your rate of force development (RFD), which simply put is the amount of force you can place into a weight to move it at a greater speed.
When I look at strength programs this is the biggest flaw I see in my opinion, people neglect power. Everyone wants a bigger squat, deadlift, bench but they are only addressing one part of the puzzle.
If you read anything by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell, arguably the strongest gym in the world, he credits a lot of his success to the inclusion of power work or as he calls it dynamic method. Now whether you are a Louie fan or not that’s a pretty big claim and one that is hard to ignore.
Regardless of whether you are a crossfitter, rugby player or tennis player increasing your power output will have a marked improvement on your performance. It will make you more explosive meaning you will tackle harder, hit harder and run faster. Don’t ignore the power of power.
How do I get more powerful
There are a couple of ways you can measure power, either you lift heavier loads at the same speed or you lift submaximal loads faster.
I prefer the latter from a training standpoint, you use submaximal loads at maximum speed, you’re lifting it as fast as humanly possible. It’s all about the intent.
Now it is less about the exercise and more about the intent of said exercise. It should of course be a compound movement, think Olympic lifts, deadlifts, squats, bench press, you can throw med balls etc. it doesn’t really matter but the exercise should be performed with maximum effort.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is due to the neurological demands of speed work it should live at the beginning of your workouts where you are at your freshest.
Sets and reps
Whilst speed work might appear less challenging, due to the lighter loads, the nature of the lift makes them pretty fatiguing.
“It’s more tiring to sprint 100m than to walk 100m”
As we are looking to maintain maximum speed in a given movement we want to keep the reps low, I like 1-3 reps per set. According to V. Zatsiorsky in The Science and Practice of Strength Training you want no few than 6 sets and no more than 90s rest between sets. Now when it comes to total volume, more doesn't mean better. I like no more than 20-25 total reps of speed work be performed in a given workout, this keeps the quality high without enduring too much fatigue.
My personal favourite is 10 sets of 2 reps, going on the minute. The short rest keeps your head in the game and stops you getting distracted
One key thing to remember is that we want to maintain speed through out the sets, we want high quality work here. Once bar speed drops or you feel that its not moving as fast stop and move on. You will only be fatiguing yourself for the work ahead.
When it comes to how much weight to use I like the 60-70% bracket, Louie Simmons talks a lot about the additions of bands and chains and I have no doubt that these have an added benefit but seeing as we are looking to apply as much force as possible into a given movement it isn’t essential.
A Simple wave I have used is:
Week 1: 10x2 @ 60%
Week 2: 9x2 @ 65%
Week 3: 8x2 @ 70%
Week 4: Repeat Wk1
This has worked extremely well for a lot of people I have prescribed it to.
In conclusion, when looking to increase performance, be it on the platform or on the field, increasing power output will help dramatically. By following the simple step outlined above you will see your performance levels sky rocket and your numbers in the gym rise too.
Too quote Star Wars: “May the force be with you”